Carrie Allen – Coffee Love…and morning rituals

Aerial view of various coffee

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My love of coffee is epic – the aroma, the flavor and warmth all create an intoxicating experience.  Admittedly,  I cannot face the morning without a strong cup of coffee, so I relish the fact that my loving husband brings me a steaming mug every morning in bed.  I can smell the coffee as I wake and I pause in gratitude and luxuriate in the first few sips.  Drinking a good cup of coffee is an indulgent experience for me, a part of my morning ritual.

Aerial view of hot coffee

Image by rawpixel.com

Morning rituals are important.  Your morning sets the tone for day and it’s too easy to jump out of bed and run straight into your day without mindfulness and intention, allowing stress and anxiety to creep in with racing lists and thoughts running through your head.

Previously I’ve talked about connections, finding quiet moments and finding delight in simple pleasures. Creating a morning ritual helps with all of these things and actually helps push you towards achieving your goals, however big or small.

One of my new morning rituals is reviewing my FLOW planner, which my dear friend Mia Moran recently published.  It helps you get your thoughts out of your head and create space for you to design and define the life you want, from big life goals down to seasonal goals, to monthly and even weekly.  I love it.

Other ideas for morning rituals are journaling, meditating, exercise, stretching and yoga.  The idea is to have purposeful, quiet time with yourself.  If you treat yourself well, you are more present, loving and quite frankly fun for everyone else in your life. I know adding in extra things into your already busy schedule sounds hard… but waking up a little bit earlier and spending some quality time with yourself makes everything else easier.

“The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies.”  Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Connections…

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Today I have spent the better part of the day reflecting, reflecting on my family, my friends, my unconditional love for my children, my deep love for my husband (my soul mate and best friend), reflecting on nature, relationships, on stillness… on quiet…. and on connections.

As I slowed my mind down, attempting to transcend the clutter of my racing thoughts, I realized how beautiful the friendships I have are, and how we all must disconnect in order to fully connect with others.  Disconnect the cell phones, the emails, the screens and all the other daily inputs consuming our focus and thoughts.

Today I stood outside in the wilderness of Vermont, alone, and listened to the stillness.  At first I only heard quiet…but as my mind adjusted to this slower rhythm I started to hear the cadence and patter of the snow falling off the trees from last night’s dusting, the rustle of leaves in the soft breeze, a far off call of a bird.  I took many deep breaths and filled my lungs with the cold, crisp air and closed my eyes. I felt joy in being alive.

Life goes by in the blink of an eye.  Our busy lives and full schedules make it slip by even faster.  It’s too short to not slow down and find connections.  Connect with nature. Connect with your children. Connect with your family.  Connect as a family.  There is a difference there.

Connect with yourself. Think about what makes you happy.  What fills you with excitement and passion. What do you like?  Spend less time worrying and more time being grateful for those who love you and all of life’s goodness.  Look at what is right in front of you with fresh eyes as if you are seeing them for the first time.

So again…get off the devices.  Slow down and look your children, friends, loved ones in the eye and listen.  Ask them how their day was and really listen.  Nothing is more important and precious in life than loving and being loved.  Without connections life is hollow, lonely and empty.  Don’t waste what you have.  Choose to be happy, to be at peace.  If you look for the good, you’ll find it.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Todd Maul – Cocktail menus need a bartender

 

“Cocktails are mostly little drinks made up from people’s screwy ideas of what tastes good or sounds better. They’re usually originated during the middle stages of a beautiful glow or to create an impression of sophistication. Among the hundreds of cocktails, ingredients comparatively few have weathered the years and are ordered repeatedly everywhere… Most cocktails, whatever the name, are just slight variations of a few good standard recipes…” Trader Vic 1948

(Trader Vic created the Mai Tai)

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A Cocktail menu, can be daunting- but why? A cocktail menu should be a leaping off point that breaks the ice between you and the person behind the bar.

Yes, a cocktail menu functionally is a printed document handed to everyone and serves the purpose of being the fastest way to convey the most information to everyone who enters the establishment. However, it is not a stand-alone document. The Menu serves as a baseline for communication. The cocktail menu theoretically is much more. It is the conduit to getting the drink you “want”. How? It does two distinct things.

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Katie Byrum, Bartender AT THE UP & UP | COLE SALADINO/THRILLIST

First, it gives the guest an insight into the skill set of the bar and an idea of what products the bar carries. It is a marker, not to what is, but what is possible. Secondly, but far more importantly it is a talking point- it allows the guest to open a dialogue with the bartender about “what you like”

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Nick Bennett, Head Bartender at Porchlight

It should be clear, from the cocktail menu, what style of drink the bar likes to make and what “classics” they are riffing. This is where the bartender comes in… It is the bar’s responsibility to tell you, to the extent you want to know, (nobody goes to a bar for a lecture) the philosophy behind the cocktail menu and the whys of the drink list.

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In the end the bar should want to give you the drink you want, not the drink they want to sell you. This seems like a silly turn of phrase, but this statement strikes at the core of what it means to be bartender. Bartending is a restaurant’s front line in hospitality. Being a proper bartender demands the skill of reading people and understanding what the guest wants. It is assessing the experience they are looking to have and exceeding their expectations. The cocktail menu is the first tool, to engage with the guest.

As stated by Trader Vic, most drinks are going to be a simple riff on a classic cocktail.  But a guest should not be herded into buying a drink on the menu, they should be led to a place of collaboration. The end product should be the result of idea sharing, on flavor, notes, spirits and even mood. The bartender should be using the menu as a beacon, to help you find your drink.

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Todd Maul co-founded Cafe ArtScience in Cambridge, MA and is an amazing mixologist who has revolutionized the way we see cocktails.

Stefan Barton – Notebook

At one point, when there were too many things to keep track of, I started to carry a notebook with me at all times: A kind of external, analog and, as I first thought, static second brain.

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Barton, Stefan. Observations of the three-eyed. Drawing.

In there (I am at least at book # 10 now) is an unruly mixture of dates, appointments, locations, lists, contacts, errants, links, random thoughts, acute ideas, etc.

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Barton, Stefan.  I should not have said anything. Drawing

This mess of words, numbers and other symbols experiences a treatment of crossing-outs, underlinings, grouping, linking (with arrows of a multitude of shapes) alterations, additions, subtractions, disintegration, annihilations (with wild force or with nice-looking spirals).

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Barton, Stefan.  Untitled. Drawing.

A current page is alive and morphing. It may become a rudimentary picture, with balance (or imbalance), impromptu composition, with it’s own energy and surprises out of nowhere, unintentional, emerging, self-organizing.

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Barton, Stefan. Garbler. Drawing.

In these erratic arrangements I may find new forms and connections I can work into the chaos.  Letters, words, scribbles and scrawls, lines and arrows become parts of figures, faces – literally embodiments. Eyes form spontaneously, placing themselves, looking back at me in concert with a variety of lively facial expressions, with pleas or disdain, with personality and maybe fate.

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Barton, Stefan. Prototypes. Drawing.

In the book my personal notes become a chaos-generator. And the resulting disorder I can turn into an aesthetic problem, and, if inspired, a solution in the process. Some of the images (and note, the book is not a sketch-book) are silly, some seem profound, some I turn extern into full-grown paintings.

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Barton, Stefan. Glint. Drawing.

The unplanned images cannot possibly be completely coincidental. They are based on meaningful thoughts, information, and the processing thereof manifesting through pen and pencil. It appears that they are more than the sum of their parts, even if they might in fact be less, depending on the value of the initial momentary notes, any resulting revelations, and finally on the quality of the emerging picture, on which I might have spent a good amount of time.

Barton, Stefan. Nicht Nichts (Not Nothing – as you can see these two word are almost identical in German, unfortunately not in English, but not a drama… ;-)).

The unwitting and somewhat automatic (when on the phone for example) playing with letters and numeration make me realize which lines and forms and circumstances I am drawn to.

Barton, Stefan. Random Number Service. Drawings.

Recently these preferences find their way into other, ‘higher’ forms of artistic expression like intentional drawings and, as mentioned, paintings. In fact, words have found their way into my newer paintings precisely because of the action that takes place in the note-book. The words are not there to be read, they are just part of the artistic language. A layer of intrigue, mysterious and uncomplete messages perhaps.

Barton, Stefan. At the very End of Infinity. Drawings.

For me an empty page or canvas is not an inspiration for artistic work – chaos is.

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Stefan Barton resides in a village near Hamburg, Germany, but he spent 20 Years in the US (San Francisco and Boston Area). He works on paintings, drawings and printmaking. To see more of his images contact Stefan (stefan.bartongmail.com ) visit  http://clex-werk.blogspot.de/  or look at a book:

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Carrie Allen – Carnivals, Cars and Chili

We are inherently social beings.  Our lives are shaped by our ability to cooperate and coexist with those around us. The power of community is our greatest saving grace in the face of meaninglessness and destruction. I have no words for the horrific events that took place in Las Vegas this week. My heart aches for the victims and their families.  With this post, I want to focus on communities and events that bring us together. For society to renew, individuals must constantly focus on self-renewal.

Self-renewal requires you to cultivate your capacity for renewal by doing new and different things. We can too easily become complacent with our lives and settle into a rigid structure of sameness.

As we mature we progressively narrow the scope and variety of our lives. Of all the interests we might pursue, we settle on a few. Of all the people with whom we might associate, we select a small number. We become caught in a web of fixed relationships. We develop set ways of doing things.

Doing new things shakes us out of our apathy. This is why when you travel you regain an attentiveness that heightens every experience. Use your weekends to explore and engage and try new things…even if you feel like staying home.  Push yourself.  It’s worth it. In the warmer months seek out things like carnivals, antique car shows and, yes, chili cook offs.

This summer my kids pushed me to go to the En Ka Street Fair in Winchester, MA.  I was at first resistant but I am so glad we went. There was something thrilling in being one amongst the crowd, everyone just relaxing and having fun.

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Traveling carnivals are fun to explore and are a good example of temporal experiences set up to bring people together.  The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 was the catalyst for traveling carnivals, rides, food (maybe not fried dough back then…), games of chance, thrills and more.

Every May in Sandpoint, ID there is a Lost in 50’s Car Show and Street Party.  This past May was their 32nd annual event, which is impressive in and of itself.  Krister, my love, attended and took these luscious photos. The downtown streets were lined with beautiful vintage cars, musical acts, street dances and more.

People bring their antique cars from far and wide, even Canada, to participate.  You can feel the sense of pride in sharing their restorations, which sparks many conversations.

In June, stretched out across City Beach in Sandpoint, ID with a back drop of blue skies, big mountains and boats on Lake Pend Oreille, cooks from across the region set up their tents and chili with the hope of taking home the top prizes for their recipes and a chance to compete for the World Chili Cookoff in Nevada. (Who knew there was such a thing?) The community comes together for tasty chili while enjoying the camaraderie and competition.

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I have a robust commitment to hope.  Happiness is not something we find.  It’s something we make. We need each other. Friendship and love dissolve misunderstanding, force fresh perspectives, alter judgements and break down barriers.  Explore, try new things, connect with people. Be open to loving and being loved.  Magic is something you make.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Cry, heart, but do not break

To be human is to know pain.  During times of loss and personal crisis, we are thrown into chaos and can often tumble into despair, misery, bitterness, anger and angst.  Whether it be physical or emotional pain, we all have dark hours. In those darkest hours, it feels like you are so completely alone and you lose hope.  I know, I’ve been there.  Yet to be human is also to be resilient.  We do heal.  Things get better.  It just takes time.   Albert Camus asserted that “there is no love of life without despair of life.”

Everyone has his or her own path for grieving, for mending…for coping.  For those I know hurting now, try to slow down and find solace in quiet moments, simple things.  Focus on the senses. The way a breeze feels on your skin.  The taste of a treat.  The texture of a fabric. A soft touch. Smell. Breathe. Taste. Just be.   Staying present and intimate with the moment, requires mastering maitri, the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness toward oneself, that most difficult art of self-compassion.

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When my brother Robbie passed away in 2001, it was a horrifically dark time.  In my attempt at trying to find order, to cope, I chose to paint a portrait of him, painted from a small wallet-sized senior high school photo of his. I still have it today, it’s scratched and worn, but Robbie’s spirit shines through.

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I painted through my tears. I painted and painted, reworking it over and over.  My intention was to paint a portrait of my brother for my father as a gift, to help him heal.   I spent many months with the painting.  I realized much later that my colors were skewed.  His vibrancy does not come through.  I think my sadness shrouds the painting still.

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Robbie’s birthday was July 29.  He is always with me but these last few weeks even more so. I honor him with this post. This entire blog is a tribute to him. I miss him every day.  His passion and zeal for life and adventure touched so many.

The day after he died in March 2001 his close friend wrote a poem for him.  I close now by sharing it with you here.

Jilted
To Robbie, March 23, 2001

I loved a man who danced with Life;
He’d twirl her in his arms
Until she dropped exhaustedly-
Too heavy with his charms.
I used to look on jealously,
And wonder if he knew
How quickly I’d replace her
If he’d only ask me to,

Because I feel I wouldn’t tire,
But last into the night.
I’d take his turns and twists and dips
With all my strength and might.
We’d cha-cha, tango, maquerena
Till the dawn broke in,
And once we thought we’d had enough,
We’d jitterbug again.

Unconstant Life, you drew him in
Until you recognized
How much he needed loving you,
How much of you he prized.
So whimsically you threw him off,
Refusing one more dance
To one with whom I’d dance forever
Given half a chance.

Love, Kathryn Dunnington

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Steven Duede – “Home is Where…”

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

In these images of very small model houses I’m teasing at the notion that the house is a home. That our homes are a part of us in an organic way. Looking at these ‘homes’ in miniature, of plastic, from sky view, in isolation I feel as if in some way, the viewer is an observer into something that is artificial in the way we might see what a home really is or can be.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

These miniature homes, rescued from an old toy box, dusty, slightly damaged, a bit out of focus enhances the abstract synthetic nature of these images. I feel they also reflect a theme of home as something commercial, as something artificial, that is isolating.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

These images devoid of lawns, actual people, surrounding neighborhoods, sentimentality, might remind us that the sense of home is not in the structure in which we reside at all. Home is where the heart is?

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

Furthermore, given that I mention that these images lack sentimentality; for me these subjects, but not necessarily the photographs themselves, have a sentimental slant. Many years ago, I endured severe illness in childhood that left me with permanent injury. I was ‘home’ bound for the better part of a year when I should have been in middle school. During that time in isolation, in recovery, my parents gave me N scale model train kits so that I might have something creative to participate in.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

These little houses I constructed from these kits. They might have been therapeutic at the time. I’m not sure. I think they just might be now when I look at them through that long lens of time and experience.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

In developing this project I’ve been not only considering my own experience in detachment but cannot help but wonder where so many of our hearts reside.

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Duede, Steven.  Untitled, 2017.  Photograph.

 

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Steven Duede is a fine art photographer, artist, designer and arts administrator living in Belmont, MA.

These and other works can be found at http://www.stevenduede.com