Saturday, December 10, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 9 - My food Community

If I had to sit down and list all the amazing food people I have met either on-line or here in Austin, this post would go on forever. The food community in Austin has been my saving grace on more occasions then I can shake a stick at. This unique community of people has opened their arms and embraced me and my passion for exploring cultures and food on a daily basis. I have formed some amazing friendships with these people. I am humbled every time I reach out to them with questions or ask them to help in a cause because they don't hesitate to respond. You know when you meet people that just "get" your passion? Well, that is it in a nutshell for me - from the very first food blogger potluck that I attended a couple of summers ago to the anniversary food swap I went to last night. I have to say I am more than blessed by this community. Thanks to Facebook, I have also met cookbook writers and food fanatics and enjoyed conversations with them about food and cultures without ever meeting them face-to-face. Food people are creative, loving, inspirational and generally amazing! A person who has a true passion for food will not keep their secrets bottled up. They want to share with you and encourage you to be as passionate about food as they are. It's more than just feeding your body, it's about feeding your soul too. Whenever I get a new cookbook, the first thing I do is go straight to the forward because I want to know as much as I can about the author. It's the same way when I meet a food blogger, chef, or even that terrific home cook that lives across the street. They all share the same passion for exploring food and I am forever grateful for that. So next time you are invited to someone's house for dinner and they serve this amazing dish, don't just say "Wow! This is delish!" Instread, take a moment and ask about the dish and how they got the recipe because chances are you will probably walk away with a new recipe, the spark of passion to recreate it yourself, and a little more gratitude in your stomach I'm jus' sayin'!

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating."
~ Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti

"We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are."
~ Adelle Davis

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
~ Virginia Woolf

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."
~ Harriet Van Horne

Thursday, December 8, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 8 - My Brothers

Today, maybe because I was thinking of family or perhaps feeling a little homesick, I was thinking of my two brothers. Both of my brothers, one older and one younger, are unique. We always had a running joke in our family about whether or not "I was the rose between two thorns" or "the thorn between two roses." I'm sure more of the latter as I was quite a pistol to them growing up. We were not what you would call super close when we were little. I'm pretty sure that if you asked my brothers they would tell you in their own words what an absolute pain I was. With that said and knowing that we could fight like cats and dogs, if anyone else ever tried to mess with one of us the other two would ALWAYS have each others back.

My older brother Kevin is an accomplished designer and owns his own construction business. He has my Dad's gift with design and an eye for artistic home improvement. I remember when he built me a real "Barbie dream house" (4 stories high) out of leftover bits and pieces of stuff from my Dad's construction sites. He and my little brother even hand carved Barbie beds with intricate design on the headboards for me. I'm not lying when I say that I had the coolest Barbie house on the block. The year our Aunt from Texas sent my brothers an Erector Set was the best. They created spin art machines with that set as well as roller coasters and all kinds of robotic creatures.

My little brother Kirk (who coincidently likes to be referred to as my "younger" brother instead of "little" brother) leans more towards my Mom's side of the family. He, too, is equally talented. Always an artist at heart, he has been drawing and painting and creating fantastic pieces of art since he first learned how to hold a pencil. It's no surprise that he now owns his own graphic design company and though his talent pays the bills, and his work is mostly computer generated, his creativity still comes from the soul. One thing that binds us together is our work ethic and our passion to our individual families. It was our Daddy who taught us to always do a good day's work and always try to do better tomorrow than you did today. Writing this makes me realize that I don't tell them enough how important they are too me. How much I admire them as fathers and providers for their families. They both love their wives and children with such passion and they also know how to laugh (which, as I think I remember telling you a few days ago, is a real gift). Yep, my wonderful brothers mean the world to me and even if I don't tell them frequently, I hope they know in their own hearts just how thankful I am to have them as my very own thorns... err.. I mean roses. i'm jus' sayin'!

"To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."
~ Clara Ortega

30 Days of Gratitude Day 7 - My Hands

When I think about it, I realize I take many things for granted. One of them is the ability to use my hands. The other night I looked at my mother's hands and saw how arthritis has slowly crept up and taken over her hands. She is a pianist and has relied on her hands to "pay the bills" and entertain people her whole life. It got me thinking how incredible my hands are. They are useful in the kitchen. With them I am able to bake and cook beautiful gifts from the heart. When I need to fix something or create a craft project, they are the first to help me get it done. When I garden my hands help me get up close with the earth. In the hotter than Hades Texas summers, my hands can wipe the sweat off my forehead while simutanously swatting a mosquito. I can hold the hands of my loved ones and create a sense of security. I can take up a pen and write my intermost secrets in my journal. I need only to look at a special gift as a reminder of the special place hands hold to me. One year when I was teaching, my room parent created a beautiful piece of art that hangs in my house. She was able to get handprints of all my students and collage them in such a creative way while using these words.

"I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make it a better place
With my own two hands
Make it a kinder place
With my own two hands"

It's funny... I know that we don't really see how much we use something until that ability is gone. Maybe that is why I am loving this 30 Days of Gratitude so much – sometimes it's not the material things I have gratitude for but rather the everyday useful things. I'm jus' sayin'!

"We hold in our hands, the most precious gift of all: Freedom. The freedom to express our art. Our love. The freedom to be who we want to be. We are not going to give that freedom away and no one shall take it from us!"
~ Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Cicely, 1992

"Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain."
~ Carl Jung

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 6 - My Computer

Yep, without my computer I would not have the ability to creatively store my thoughts in writing and share them with all of you. I would not have access to the internet that allows me to explore the world and reach out to family members that live far away. My computer is my morning "newspaper". While drinking my coffee I check my email, my Pinterest boards, my Facebook pages and my Twitter feed. When I am in a hurry to find a recipe, I am forever grateful for "google" so that the recipe is literely at my finger tips. A quick phone number or map to a place yep you got it right there on the screen ready to print. I worked for years on an old hand-me-down computer of my husband's that had the keys all worn out and might have needed duct tape if I had tried to travel with it. Still, I was blessed to have it. A year ago he surprised me with my very own, brand new laptop and I am forever loving it. Would my life still be blessed with out it? Absolutely! But I love all the extra blessings having one gives me. I'm jus' sayin'!

"Computers are magnificent tools for the realization of our dreams, but no machine can replace the human spark of spirit, compassion, love, and understanding."
~ Louis Gerstner

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."
~ Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 5 - Coffee

I'm thankful for coffee because of the memories attached to it. I have great memories of watching my Dad make his pot of coffee every morning and pour it into his silver thermos before leaving for work. I can still hear him telling me how "Coffee is the fuel that starts his engine." I laugh about that now because I really thought he was only speaking about waking up. He would take a thermos of coffee to work with him and then at night or on the weekends, when the pot was empty, I would make him a cup of instant coffee. I distinctly remember him showing me how to make the perfect "instant cup". "Not too much and not too little and you have to know the size of your cup," he would say. In the two years before he passed, he came over to my house every morning for his "morning cup" and we would talk about what was on the plan for the day. I have no doubt that he drank his first cup of the day at home with my Mom but it always made me feel special that I was included as part of his morning ritual. I still miss him everyday and especially our "coffee talks".

When I was younger and had my first child I would jump at any chance to run over to my girlfriend's house. She always had freshly brewed coffee and while our kiddos played we would enjoy some much needed "adult conversation". Thank you Karen! I'm not sure I ever told you how important those coffee times were. My husband was never a coffee drinker and I'm not sure when it was that I converted him. I am very thankful that he shares in my morning coffee now. I am also thankful when he preps the coffee the night before. I know this sounds silly but one of the sweetest pleasures of being on vacation is when I get to have someone else pour me a cup of coffee. Now that there are coffee houses on every corner, it is almost too easy to have those cups by yourself. I also know that there is a bunch of concern about how coffee effects one's health, ranging from it being a death drug to having a cup a day keeping the doctor away. As much as I would hate to, I know if I ever had to I could quit drinking it in a minute. Until then, every time I lift that steaming cup to my mouth I am not only inhaling the sweet aromas of Juan Valdez, but I am also taking in sweet memories as well. I'm jus' sayin'!

"But I love New York. I used to set my alarm clock when I was there, and get up at 4am and get a coffee, just because I could."
~ Gail Porter

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."
~ T. S. Eliot

How to brew the perfect cup of coffee!

Monday, December 5, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 4 - Laughter

Laughter and a sense of humor. My parents handed it down to me and I am super grateful that I have it. It is a proven fact that laughter will fight stress, lower blood pressure and increase energy levels, so why in the world would you not want to go for one of those deep belly laughs? Laughter and humor has gotten me through some of the most awkward of situations. It continues to be my husband's go-to medicine when I start to stress over ridiculous situations I have no control over. I have seen some of the most angry individuals shattered in the midst of laughter. So tell a silly joke, crack a silly face and just roll with it If anything, it will make others curious! i'm jus' sayin'!

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
~ Mark Twain

“A laugh is a smile that bursts.”
~ Mary H. Waldrip

"A sense of humor... is needed armor. Joy in one's heart and some laughter on one's lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life."
~Hugh Sidey

Sunday, December 4, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 3 - My Kiddos

This should be an obvious choice - My Kiddos! Yep, I am always grateful for these creative individuals. They make me laugh, drive me nuts, constantly leave me in a state of wonder and always, always make me grateful to be their mom. I always feel like they were two of my three greatest gifts from God... i'm jus' sayin'!

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love.
~ Mildred B. Vermont

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.
~ Rajneesh

If you have a mom, there is nowhere you are likely to go where a prayer has not already been.
~ Robert Brault