The Top 10 Reasons I’m Vegetarian

10987704_716252525158783_1671453570492868853_nSo I’ve been vegetarian now for about four years. In these four years, one thing I have found is that people feel the need to apologize to me: They apologize for eating meat in front of me; they apologize for asking why I don’t eat meat; they even apologize to me for being vegetarian, as if it’s some terminal disease I’ll never recover from.

I’m here to say that 1). I am in no way offended when people eat meat in front of me, 2). I am happy to give you my reasons for being a vegetarian, and 3). being vegetarian is not something to be ashamed of – it is simply a life choice that I have made, and I’m sticking to it.

The last two states I’ve lived in are not the most friendly toward vegetarians. I mean, Iowa is the primary pig-producing state in the nation, and Wyoming is Wyoming, the Wild West which homes more cows than people. Vegetarians are like foreigners here – in fact, since I’ve moved to Dayton I have yet to meet another one. That being said, I’d like to illustrate to all you lovely people that vegetarians are just normal people. We’re not aliens or monsters or terminally ill. We simply like veggies a lot.

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So without further ado I give you the Top 10 Reasons I’m Vegetarian.

1. I don’t like meat. This is the main reason I am vegetarian. A lot of people find this hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s a texture and taste thing – it just isn’t something I care to consume. Before I was vegetarian, the only type of meat I really ate was the processed variety – lunch meat, pepperoni, sausage, etc., which are all high in sodium and fat and have essentially no nutritional value. And even then I didn’t enjoy eating it all that much – it was more a convenience thing than anything. It was what was being served, so I ate it.

2. Plant-based diets are heart-healthy. It is much easier to control your saturated fat and cholesterol intake when you are eating a plant-based diet. In America, heart-disease is the leading cause of death and obesity is rampant. Because vegetarians swap out high-fat and high-cholesterol foods for foods high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients (beans, fruits, fresh vegetables), the risk for cardiovascular disease goes significantly down. Furthermore, since I don’t eat meat, my main source for fats are the heart-healthy, unsaturated kinds, such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts.

3. Plant-based diets are good for your digestive system. Without giving you too much information, I can tell you that since being a vegetarian my digestive system in general has become much more healthy and regular. It’s called fiber, people, and it’s a good thing.

4. I feel more energized after I eat a lot of fresh veggies are fruit. Many fresh fruits and veggies are filled with antioxidants and complex carbohydrates, which improves brain function and enhances energy. Furthermore, the absence of artery-clogging saturated fats from animal products allows your bloodstream to get the maximum amount of oxygen it requires, leaving you more energized.

5. It’s easier to eat healthy at parties or get-togethers as a vegetarian. Let’s face it: social time in our culture revolves around food. Most of this food is ultra-unhealthy, like pepperoni pizza or hot wings or popcorn shrimp. Party food is simply not for people who are trying to be health-conscious. If you’re a vegetarian, most of the bad stuff is already off the table, which 1) gives you a great excuse to say no to it, and 2) leaves room for better (read: healthy) food.

6. Being vegetarian has made me a better cook. I already mentioned before that Iowa and Wyoming are not states that embrace vegetarianism to the fullest. That being said, going out to eat at a restaurant isn’t really an enjoyable thing for me anymore because there is hardly anything I can eat on the menu. This isn’t because I’m picky – it’s because our world is obsessed with meat. Since becoming vegetarian I have learned how to cook delicious meals that are healthy – better than anything I could get at most restaurants. Even Grant enjoys the vegetarian dishes I make for dinner (don’t worry, I still feed him plenty of meat).

7. Being vegetarian has expanded my horizons when it comes to food and has forced me to try new things. Before I was vegetarian I liked trying new foods, but I had my limits. For instance, some childhood experiences scarred me against certain foods (brussel sprouts, spaghetti squash, etc), and I didn’t even think about eating them as I got older because I assumed they were disgusting. Now that I know how to cook experimentally and love all things plant-based, I’ve retried these foods I was prejudiced against and  can now list them as favorites.

8. I like animals. I’m not a PETA person by any means, but I’ve seen, up close and personal, the cows that turn into burgers…and that just makes me really sad. Have you ever looked into a cow’s big brown eyes? I’m not saying it’s evil to eat them or anything (after all, God did put animals on this planet for a purpose) but I figure why eat them when I can eat other, less-animate things instead?

9. Animal confinements are filthy and inhumane. Let me reiterate that I am not a PETA person; however, I am against factory farming. I have driven past a hog confinement. For MILES I could not breathe because the stench was so bad. And that’s what people are putting in their bodies. The same goes for chicken confinements and cow confinements. They stuff thousands of animals into windowless sheds, without room to run or graze or be free; in large hog confinements up to hundreds can die in just one day. Animal confinements are disease ridden, but they are this country’s biggest supplier of meat.

10. Lastly and most importantly, I love how I feel when my body is getting the nutrients it needs. For me, it is simply much easier to get these nutrients without meat, and after four years of being vegetarian I don’t know how I could go back to being a carnivore.

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For more resources on vegetarianism, read these articles:

DIY Notebook Paper Gift Pouches For Small Gifts

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Cute packaging for small gifts is really easy to come by, and doesn’t require the purchase of special materials. In fact, it’s as easy as a piece of notebook paper, a sewing machine, and some string.

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I don’t know about you, but Grant and I have a ton of notebook paper left over from our college days. We don’t really have much of a use for it anymore, so it’s just been taking up space in our already over-crowded desk. You can make gift packages using this same method with any type of paper, really – scrapbook paper, craft paper, newspaper, etc. But I like the idea of using notebook paper for a couple of reasons: 1). It saves space in my desk. 2). There’s something whimsical and nostalgic about a wrapping a gift in notebook paper. It makes me think of my school days, and I kinda like that.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • notebook paper (one sheet per small gift)
  • scissors
  • washi tape or small brads
  • string
  • sewing machine

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First, fold the paper in half, and make a mark for where you want to trim it down. You’ll want a little bit of seam allowance for sewing, and also a little bit of space once your gift is in the package. If it is too tight, you’ll risk tearing your paper. For a guide, mark where you plan on sewing. (I normally just eyeball it, but do whatever feels most comfortable to you.)

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Now it’s time for the sewing. Sew along the lines you marked. After you are finished with this, trim the extra thread and edges.

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There are many different ways of dealing with the flap of your pouch to make it unique. One way is cutting a pattern on the top of the paper and folding it down once, securing the sides of the pouch with washi tap so the pattern is visible.

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Another way is folding the flap over and over and pinning it down with two brads on the edges of the pouch. This is my favorite way of securing the pouch closed.

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Yet another way is folding the flap down once, and then simply placing washi tape down to secure it.

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And I of course always like to adorn my pouches with ribbon or string and a homemade tag (using one of these awesome Uchida paper punches). It’s fun to get creative with gift packaging! There are a plethora of customizations you could do to make your gift really stand out in its packaging. If you try your hand at this packaging DIY, don’t forget to instagram it and tag @peelsandposies!

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Click here for the Gone with the Wind bookmark pictured above, available in my Etsy shop. And my marvelous Peels and Posies stamp is from Paper Sushi on Etsy.

Lemon Dream Energy Bites

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I’m going to admit something to you guys: I am sort of…totally obsessed with energy bites. Like, I can’t stop making them. Ever since my first foray into these marvelous ball-shaped bites of deliciousness with my Peanut Butter Spinach Energy Bites I have not been able to stop making them. So it’s been like four weeks straight of energy bites. But whatever, they’re delicious and nutritious, so I don’t feel bad about it.

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These Lemon Dream Energy Bites are my favorite to date. I love lemon things, and these bites are tangy and wonderful. I rolled them in sugar-free desiccated coconut, but this is totally optional. I really love the additional sweetness it gives to the bites. And it makes them look kinda pretty too.

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Lemon Dream Energy Bites

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups granola
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
Lemon zest of one lemon
Sugar-free desiccated coconut (to roll bites in)

METHOD:

1. Place oats, salt, chia, protein powder, and flour into a large bowl. Stir until combined.

2. In a microwaveable bowl, place coconut oil and honey and microwave for 15 to 30 seconds until the mixture is thin and easy to stir. Add lemon juice to mixture, stir, and pour over oat mixture.

3. Stir until well combined. If too dry, add water one tablespoon at a time. If too wet, add flour one teaspoon at a time.

4. Using tablespoon to measure, roll oat mixture into balls. Roll each ball into the desiccated coconut. Chill until ready to eat.

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15 Books That Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again

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Lately, I’ve been frustrated with adulthood and all the responsibilities that come with it. With taxes due soon and my deplorable business record-keeping for the last year, I have had a couple of breakdowns recently. Not to mention all the other adult things: house hunting in a part of the country where houses are really expensive, broken dryers and laundry that needs washing, job drama (Grant’s job, not mine – one of the benefits of being my own boss), etc etc etc. Bleh. It seems like all the stuff comes at the same time, and in these moments all I really want to do is curl up on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee, and forget about adulthood. Let me be a kid again.

So I bring to you fifteen books/book series that are perfect for forgetting all your gross adult responsibilities for a little while and sailing back into that carefree time of youth. Even though these are “kid” books technically, they each explore universal themes that can be applied no matter what age you are. Adults should make more of a habit of reading about kids – it helps bring that spark back into life. There’s nothing wrong with a little magic.

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1. The Beginning of Everything by  Robyn Schneider. I am currently reading this book, so I cannot speak for the book as a whole, but it is really great to disappear into so far. It tells the tale of Ezra, a high school senior who went from being a popular athlete to a nobody after a crippling accident left him unable to play tennis and alienated from his old crowd. It’s a raw look into the intricacies of social groups as linked to human emotion, personal tragedies and how you let them define you, and young love.

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2. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. This should be read over and over again. As soon as Lucy, Edmond, Susan, and Peter crawl through the wardrobe I am transported. Narnia is, I think, my favorite fictional world because it combines good, evil, fantastical, and realistic in such an uplifting and frankly beautiful way that it’s unforgettable.

3. 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. Did you know 101 Dalmatians is not just a movie? Not many people do, but I am thrilled to say that this book is just as charming as the Disney feature film. Dodie Smith knows her way around the English language and created characters that are incredibly lifelike – even though they are dogs.

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4. The Light Princess by George MacDonald. This novella is a light and humorous take on a fairy tale with a poignant ending. The story centers around a princess who has had her gravity stolen from her by a witch, in turn making her a silly heroine with no grounding in reality. The way this character gains her footing in the world is charming and ultimately very meaningful.

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5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. Perhaps you remember my book review of this a while back. Let me reiterate how wonderful of a story this is. The misadventures of Ratty, Mole, Toad, and Badger are entertaining and engaging – perfect for an evening getaway. Not to mention, Graham’s use of language is lovely.

6. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. With the recent hullabaloo about Go Set a Watchmen I’ve been thinking a lot about To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, but Scout Finch lives on in my heart – she is such the picture of young innocence, and the relationship she has with her father is so endearing it’s impossible to forget. This books holds what remains to this day my favorite quote: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” Need I say more?

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7. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. Obviously. The best books written in our generation. Harry Potter, the boy wizard, is magical but surprisingly easy to connect to (even for us muggles). Though it might seem like a bunch of people in a school for witchcraft and wizardry would be hard to relate to, the story is more about human relationship than magic. This series covers it all, from losing ones parents to making the right choices when it comes to friendships. Because it spans the seven years that Harry is in school, you get such a perfect picture of growing up, even if his life is a bit unconventional.

8. The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Here’s another story about magic kids, but rather more mature in nature. The story takes place in “college” of sorts, and the characters experience anything that normal college students would experience – all while being put through a rigorous education in sorcery. These books are like a combination of Harry Potter and Narnia, except with older kids. Who couldn’t love that?

9. Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Okay, so I have to admit that I did not like The Hunger Games when I first read it. I thought the writing was a bit bland and contrived, so I decided to put the series down after the first installment. However, after watching the second movie which put me in an absolute frenzy of turmoiled confusion, I just had to read the last two books – which were much better than the first. I was totally taken in by the story – if not the greatest writing on the planet, the story at least is thrilling and transporting.

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10. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. This story is about a churlish child who learns to love life with the help of a friend and a beautiful garden. It is one of those stories that should be read every year, around springtime.

11. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. One autumn night, a dark carnival comes and grips the town in shadow. Two young boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, experience terror and thrill alike as they fight to save their town from evil. I don’t think Ray Bradbury is capable of writing a bad story, and this is one of my favorites.

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12. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. A timid young hobbit ventures out of his comfortable hobbit hole to encounter trolls, a dragon, and a number of other adventures. This is a lighter and easier read than The Lord of the Rings – better for a quick escape into fantasy. 

13. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Cliche, I know. Everyone and their dog has read this book, but it is a really easy look into the hard life of a teen struggling with cancer. There’s everything in this book: adventure, hardship, love, loss. All the feels.

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14. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. Pick up a Nancy Drew book and join the amateur detective in her search for truth and justice. These books are what made me love books. They will always be close to my heart.

15. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Another story about special kids in a special school, this story is about younger kids who have incredible talents. At this school they are taught how to solve puzzles and their ultimate test is to go on a secret mission. A fun read.

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These are truly some of my favorite books in the world, and I have read a lot of books. The older I get, the more captivated I am, it seems, with the stories of younger people. It’s as if my innermost self longs for those bygone times, where worries were few but adventures high.

What books make you feel like a kid again?

Find me on Feast+West today!

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Today, I’m over at Feast+West with 34 fantastic reasons for you to visit my homeland, Sheridan and the Bighorn Mountains. The series is called Hidden Gems Travel Guides, and Sheridan County, Wyoming fits that description perfectly. From wildlife abounding to gorgeous mountain vistas, my home is a place worth visiting and I am happy to be sharing some of it’s best qualities with you. Click here for the entire article!

Here’s a sneak peek:

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Simple Spring Wall Hanging Tutorial

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As I predicted, the weather has turned sour once more. It’s certainly not as cold as it could be, but it is cold. *Tears* I just must have a little spring in my house, though, so I decided to make a fresh and flowery wall hanging, consisting of simply a branch, some mountain pinecones, a few fake flowers, and twine. It’s a DIY that takes only a few minutes, and adds a lot of cheer to a winter immeshed home!

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In the summer when the wildflowers are blooming, I want to make a similar wall hanging to this one, but with real flowers instead of the fake ones. For now, however, this one suffices – I love how easy it was to make and that I didn’t have to go to the store to get any materials (the flowers were leftover from a bouquet of fake flowers I used in a different project).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a medium to large sized branch, depending on how big you want your wall hanging to be.
  • cotton twine cut into 5 (or more) 24″ pieces
  • Fake flowers, cut from the bouquet leaving a small length of stem
  • 3 pinecones (or any other end adornment you can think of)

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First, tie your first piece of string to the end of the branch. Double knot it so it doesn’t slip. Next, begin tying your flowers to the string, knotting at the base of the stem.

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Wrap the end of the string around the pinecone so that it will not come loose (about four or five times). Now simply repeat the entire process for the remaining length of the stick, leaving an appropriately sized gap between each garland strand. Trim off any excess string.

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And that’s it!

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I can’t believe how cute this wall hanging turned out. What makes this project fun is that the wall hanging will look completely different depending on what type and color of flower you use. It is so easily customizable that it could fit into any home!

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If you try your hand at this DIY, post a picture of it on instagram and tag @peelsandposies!

 

Creamy Carrot Soup and Garden Dreams

IMG_0400The weather in Dayton for the last couple weeks has been almost cruelly wonderful. I mean, it’s the middle of February and I’ve been outside in shorts on multiple occasions. I’ve had laundry on the clothesline to dry. I’ve been on bike rides and hikes. I’ve even wandered around my backyard aimlessly, blissfully, merely because it was too nice to be inside. All this gorgeous weather has got me thinking of spring and dreaming of gardens, but I know it’s only a short reprieve and that winter will be back eventually. I do thank Wyoming, though, for this lovely gift.

I can’t wait to plant my garden this spring. I recently found out that Dayton has community garden plots you can rent for $15 a season. It’s convenient (and better than doing it in our own yard) because there is a huge fence surrounding it to keep out the deer. Since we have hordes of deer in our yard every day, a garden vegetable would be feeding the wildlife more than Grant and me. I might plant them their own little garden for snacking though. ;P

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So far for my garden I am planning on tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, and possibly parsnips. I haven’t quite decided yet, but I am suuuuuper excited to get started. I’ll be doing some research in the meantime on good Wyoming vegetables, and investing in some indoor plants as well (especially for when winter comes back!)

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To tide myself over until garden-time, it’ll have to suffice to eat some of my delicious Creamy Carrot Soup, which is basically like a garden in a bowl. It has carrots and sweet potato and some hearty spices like curry and ginger. Sooooo good, and I imagine it’d be a thousand times better even with homegrown veggies. Enjoy!

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Creamy Carrot Soup

INGREDIENTS:

4 large carrots, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger, or to taste
1/2 tsp curry powder, or to taste
6 cups water
Salt to taste
A touch of milk

METHOD:

1. Sautee onions, ginger, and curry powder in olive oil until onions are soft and translucent.

2. Place onions, vegetables, and water in a dutch oven or soup pot and place heat on high until boiling. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer until veggies are soft. Add salt to taste.

3. When vegetables are very soft, let soup cool. Puree in food processor until smooth, and add a touch of milk. Right before serving, heat soup just to boiling.

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Happy Valentine’s Day and 14 Things I Appreciate About My Husband

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Well, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. In high school I proclaimed animosity toward this holiday. Everything was so pink and red and lovey-dovey, and of course I had no one to direct this sort of mushiness at, so I hated everything instead. I was a bit of an antagonist.

At Grace High School, every Valentine’s Day we could sign up to send our friends/crushes/people-we-were-trying-to-impress either candy or carnations, a dollar a pop, and then at the beginning of every class period little cupids of love (student council members) would deliver said candy or carnations to the people who received them, with a little note from the giver. I used to fume in my seat as the “popular” kids got like a hundred per class; I would get maybe three or four the entire day. It just seemed so stupid, and that combined with the rest of it just put me in a bad mood.

I’ll admit that the candy/carnation thing still seems rather questionable to me, but now that I have love in my life, I no longer hate Valentine’s Day. I try to show love for my husband every day of the year, but Valentine’s Day just gives me an extra excuse to buy him a new shirt or make him a really elaborate chocolate cake. I love him SO much, and I love that there is a holiday devoted to celebrating this!

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I know Valentine’s Day can be hard if you are single, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be a useless holiday if you are “alone” – because, well, you are not alone. There are tons of people in your life who love you – your family, your friends. Do something special for them on Valentine’s Day to show them how much you appreciate that they are in your life; doing things for others will ALWAYS lift your spirits.

So in honor of February 14th, I have decided to make a list of 14 things I appreciate about my husband. I could say 14 things I love about him, but let’s be honest – love is a rather vague, abstract word in our culture. I love my husband, but I also love bananas. So….Appreciation is defined as “the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.” Ready go:

  1. I appreciate that he will eat anything I make, even if it is a weird, experimental vegetarian dish.
  2. I appreciate that he works out with me whenever I suggest it.
  3. I appreciate that he give me back rubs without me even asking.
  4. I appreciate that he makes the bed every morning, even though before we got married he didn’t know what making a bed was (slight exaggeration).
  5. I appreciate that he smells every candle I shove in his face when we are in the candle section of Wal-Mart or Bath and Body Works (and that could be, like, a hundred candles).
  6. I appreciate that he listens when I go into long (probably boring) monologues about books I’m reading or Etsy stuff.
  7. I appreciate that he has never doubted my decision to work from home and pursue my dreams.
  8. I appreciate that he has never said a bad thing about my book obsession, even when we had to pack them all up and move them across the country.
  9. I appreciate that he supports me when I want to get MORE books (even though you’d probably think we’re both crazy if you saw how many books we have).
  10. I appreciate that he knows me well enough to show me videos of cute animals when I’m down in the dumps.
  11. I appreciate that he works incredibly hard to support us.
  12. I appreciate that he does things with me that he wouldn’t have done before we were together, like play tennis and rollerblade and rummage around antique shops.
  13. I appreciate that he takes care of the mice we’ve caught in mouse traps so I don’t have to look at their sad little limp feet.
  14. I appreciate that he chose to love me and marry me, and that he is a man of God so I never have to worry about him not loving me.

That was surprisingly easy – let your loved ones know how much you appreciate them tomorrow. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Read This: Selected Poems by EE Cummings

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I don’t read much poetry – fiction is my genre of choice most of the time – but sometimes I get in this poetry mood during which nothing will satisfy me but a juicy, thought-evoking poem. When I get in these moods I almost always reach for Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings.

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E.E Cummings was an innovative 20th century poet who was known for his experimentation with form and syntax, which helped create a very unique and memorable personal style. His poems are precise and often blunt, with sharp imagery and grammatical oddities (such as using words like “if,” “am,” and “because” as nouns).

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While I like most of his poetry (he published A LOT in his life), his love poems and nature poems are among my favorite. The way he plays around with words and images are irresistible – it’s like the poem grabs hold of your heart and won’t let go for a few minutes. Probably his most famous poem is “i carry your heart with me”:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

My personal favorite of his poems, however, is this one:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

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Many people have issue with reading poetry, so here are some tips I’ve learned over the years to help really appreciate poems as I am reading them:

  1. Don’t read it like a novel. If you pick up Selected Poems by E.E. Cummings, choose one or two poems to really focus on.
  2. Read the poem a couple of times straight through. Try to get a sense of the overall theme.
  3. Read it again, this time stopping at the end of each line. Think about your favorite images in the line, favorite words, and try to figure out what the line may signify.
  4. When you’ve finished going through each line, skim it one more time and then simply think about it.

Maybe this seems like too much work for a casual reading, but it is simply a different process than novel-reading; if you want to get the most out of poetry, it is the best way to do it. I love reading E.E. Cummings poems because no word is squandered – you can find meaning in every pronoun, comma, and missing space.

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i will wade out
till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers
I will take the sun in my mouth
and leap into the ripe air
Alive
with closed eyes
to dash against darkness