Thursday, December 29, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 30 - My Lifetime Partner

Yeah! (insert jazz hands here, I did it!) I pulled off 30 days in a row of blog posts. I know for some this is nothing and you may be shaking your heads and rolling your eyes. But for me, this is HUGE! Taking time everyday to find a topic, write a thoughtful post, take/find appropriate photos, and get it posted before midnight was quite a feat. Which leads me to what the hardest part of this whole project (adventure!) was for me. Everyday that I wrote a post stating what I was grateful for, I had to strategically figure out a way to not include my wonderful husband, for everyday he gives me reasons to be grateful. **Disclaimer Alert **This is where it's about to get super sticky sweet and mushy so you have my permission to bail now if your not into that kind of stuff.

24 years ago tonight, I kissed this sweet, geeky, long-haired friend of mine at a New Years Eve party. He was my drinking buddy back then and my go-to guy friend on who's shoulder I could cry on about my other boyfriends or hang out and have fun with when I was bored. (I know, sounds kind of mean and selfish, right) It was, in fact, that kiss that changed my life forever. The moment I kissed him, he went from being that "guy friend" to something more. Something, at the time, I had no idea I would appreciate until the years and the stories unfolded. If you know us, then you know that I am not talking smack when I say he is my best friend. He is all those funny love stories rolled up in a cheesy taco. That whole "he completes me" stuff, he is that, too, but for reasons that are different to me. When he vowed to take care of me through sickness and health I don't think he knew exactly what he was getting into. We started our family as a surprise after being told my chances for pregnancy were slim. In fact, we were only married a few months when we found out I was expecting - so much for the first year get to know each other! He jumped into fatherhood with the typical excitement, fear and determination to be a great Dad and he has succeeded far beyond those goals. At one point in our marriage, I asked him if we could take my Grandmother in to live with us (thinking it would be short term). Many other young men (rightfully so) would have said that was too much of a burden, but not this guy. He said yes without hesitation and that short term plan became 3 1/2 years of taking care of her. He is gentle but not to be mistaken as a pushover for he is one of the strongest men I know. He supports each of us in this family with our goals, desires, and crazy ideas. He has never raised his voice to me ONCE! Do you know anyone like that? Believe me, I am not an easy person to live with at times and I have given him more than enough reasons to shake his head and want to run for the hills, however, he continues to love me daily with no conditions.

At this point he is probably smiling because here is the part a lot of people don't know. He is also my editor. Yep, every single blog post that I write, he does a check on to make sure my spelling and punctuation is legit. (Hey Hun feel free to add any thoughts in here because the cats out of the bag now and they know you're my editor.) Editor's note: thanks for the extended shout-out, but just because I'm "editing" doesn't mean I'm not making mistakes too... and for the record, I think you're giving me far too much credit... jus' sayin'!

When I took on this project I had to seriously ask him if he could be there every night to edit and put those cute little frames around all those photos (something I vow to learn in 2012). As you guessed it, he said "of course I will" and "you can do this Hun." Gosh, I could not get mad at this guy if I tried, not to mention that I absolutely never get tired of looking into his eyes (oops, sorry! Got side tracked just thinking about him). He works from home - I can't tell you how many times I get asked "doesn't it drive you crazy with him being home all the time?" They are shocked when I say "I love it!" He is upstairs in his own world and never bothers me with my daily duties, yet on the flip side, if J or I need to talk to him about something urgent he stops whatever he is doing and gives us that time. I'm sure as he is reading this, he is wanting to wish he could delete 90% of this because he is humble like that and truly doesn't believe it's true. He is quiet and observes, he does not put people down, he is sarcastic and fun with his closest friends and family members. He will not be the guy that stands out with the bold obnoxious laugh at a party but he is that guy that loves to have a good time and loves hanging out with friends. He sees our roles as equal, but is always a gentleman. He is respected in his workplace, with his friends, and within our family. He is an accidental writer, a tequila lover, a gardener, and a great listener. Most of all, on those days where I am going completely stir crazy, he can always, always make me laugh! And yes, to end this yucky, sticky sweet stuff, 24 years later we do actually finish each other's thoughts, and I am forever grateful to have a partner in life that I can do that with... I'm jus' sayin'!

30 Days of Gratitude Day 29 - The Grateful Heart Project

As I come to the end of my 30 days of gratitude posts, I am taking stock in what being a part of this project has meant to me. To be sure, it has made me stop and appreciate some of the little things that I may normally take for granted and for that, tonight I am thankful for not only being a part of this project, but also for two specific people.

First, thank you to Jote of the Bless Her Heart blog. She is the local blogger behind "The Grateful Heart Project". This little adventure seems to have taken off and gotten lots of other local bloggers inspired enough to take part in writing about something they were grateful for everyday for 30 days. I'd recommend visiting her site to see the blogroll of wonderful writers taking part. When I had first heard of the project through the AFBA, I was skeptical, but only because the thought of posting everyday for 30 days during one of the busiest times of the year was borderline insane for me. Then, one of my new and quite lovely food blogger friends talked me into it. So second, thank you to Maggie of the From Maggie's Farm blog for helping me see that this project was doable. In my humble opinion, she is the queen of combining different themes into her daily posts and was a true inspiration. Check out her wonderful blog post and see for yourself how talented she really is.

For the project itself, I first thought I would tackle it by jotting down a list of themes or ideas that I was thankful for. Somehow, that list got shuffled away on my desk and probably eventually ended up in the trash. No worries though, as that was something I am also grateful for. Without that list, I was able (forced?) to think daily about my gratitude and write what came to me in the moment. Being that I generally blog about food, my second concern was "Do I write about food that I am grateful for?" Or, "How will I be able to incorporate food into the things I am grateful for?" How about photos? I have never posted without including photos. Clearly, I was making this far more difficult than I think Jote had originally intended. I realize I do that more often than not, making things harder on myself instead of just breathing more, being a little more flexible, and taking a more relaxed approach. So that's what I started doing - breathing more and letting the things that I was thankful for just happen. Looking back now, I know that I learned some valuable lessons with this project. Yes, It is possible to post everyday. Yes, it is OK not to expect your readers to read every post. It's just as important for me to write what I feel and get it out there without worrying if anyone is actually reading it. Yes, it's ok to not write about food all the time. And most importantly, how cool was it that I, along with a handful of others, were taking time out everyday to really think about what we are thankful for... I'm jus' sayin'!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

30 Days Of Gratitude Day 28 - Mom's Help

I know I've already used a "ghost writer" on Day 22 but tonight, can I just be honest? I am so very exhausted and, frankly, the only thing I can be grateful for at this very minute would be my fluffy pillow.

At dinner tonight I was talking to my Mom and telling her how tired I was when I thought to myself "Why not ask her to write a post?" She is one of my biggest fans and she actually has poetry that has been published. This would make the "30 Days" project a three-generation thing since I had my daughter write last week and now my Mom tonight. I am honored to have her write (and happy that she is bailing me out so that I don't miss a day). So without further adieu, I would like to introduce my mom, Marlene... Enjoy! Who knows, maybe she might like this and I can give her a future gig doing a "Mondays with Marlene" column... I'm jus' sayin'!

Grateful for The Elderly & Music

As I am getting older myself, I have found how important it is for the elderly to enjoy good piano music and singing! I am in several retirement homes every week and others once a month. To see the joy on their faces as we start to sing or play is such a blessing to me! I have about two dozen singers at the Heritage in Austin with many disabilities from arthritis to dementia, and yet they know all the words to the familiar songs. One lady doesn't even know what page we are on, but if it's a song she knows her eyes light up and a certain radiance comes from her being! I'm convinced music keeps us young! We did caroling in the hallways last week and everyone said it was so much FUN! Of course, we had to rumble along slowly to allow for their walkers. But once in place they sang with gusto! People came out or their apartments and either joined in or clapped lustily when we were through. We give a concert about every 6 weeks and will be working on Love Songs next. We'll have to include "You Make Me Feel So Young!" More and more people are moving into this age group, and I am so grateful God has me able to entertain and work with them!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 27 - Catching Up

I bet you thought I was referring to catching up with housework, yard work, that pile of laundry, or re-organizing the Christmas decorations, right? Although those are all wonderful things to catch up on (insert sarcasm here) that's not what I'm grateful for tonight. Rather, I am grateful for the chance to catch up with a friend I have not seen in awhile. A sweet friend of mine came over this morning. This is a friend that I used to see a lot of, especially when she lived with us for a short time, but with her busy job and our sometimes chaotic schedules we don't get to hang out as often.

Today she spent the whole day here at the house. You might think we would take the opportunity and go to lunch, go shopping, or even get manicures but no, we did something even better. We sat around doing nothing but catch up on each other's lives. We enjoyed leftover Christmas prime rib made into sandwiches for lunch, Manhattan cocktails in the afternoon, and delicious BBQ for dinner. We laughed at life and enjoyed watching a great documentary. I am so very grateful that our schedules allowed us this day because catching up with good friends beats catching up on the laundry anyday... I'm jus' sayin'!

"Yes’m, old friends is always best, ‘less you can catch a new one that’s fit to make an old one out of."
~ Sarah Orne Jewett

"To keep a new friend, never break with the old."
~ Russian Proverb

"Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend — or a meaningful day."
~ Dalai Lama


2 oz Bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes of aromatic bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 2-3 ice cubes. Stir gently with a cocktail spoon. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry. (We also included a blood orange twist)

Monday, December 26, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 26 - Useful Gifts

It's just amazing what a little light can do. My wonderful husband has been a huge supporter in all the crazy things I've tried over the years. Whether jumping out of an airplane, glass blowing, or starting a hundred craft ideas only to keep finding out that crafting is really not my specialty. Every time I come to him with a new idea or desire he listens to me and asks me questions and then next thing I know he is figuring out a way to get me started.

One thing I do love and have always tried to learn more about is food. Whether it's cooking, prepping, catering or teaching, I love all aspects of it. A few years ago after working on a television set, I told my husband that I thought I wanted to try taking my food styling skills to a higher level. That meant getting a new DLSR camera and I fully expected him to say "Hun, we just can't afford that right now." Luckily for me, this conversation took place right before receiving our tax refund as well as his annual company bonus. He must have felt I was worth investing some money in a good camera because we bought one not long after. Since then, I have taken more photos than I had in my entire lifetime, trying to learn what works and what doesn't while trying to get the picture I wanted. Without any photography classes - something I still need to invest in - I have fumbled my way through and gotten a couple great shots along the way. More importantly, I feel confident that my photos are getting better and not worse.

One thing that I have started to get tired of is having to wait to take my photos during the day because taking them outside is the only way I can really ensure good lighting. This is where my gratitude comes in. As part of being a huge supporter of my ambitions and ALWAYS pushing me to do better, my husband also tries to get me the tools needed to do the job right. For Christmas this last week, he got me a soft-box lighting kit and some lens filters. Now I can start working on my shots indoors while waiting to take that photography class. And if it's dark and rainy outside or super late at night, well, now I don't have to worry about waiting for that morning light... i'm jus' sayin'!

And if you don't believe me, the photos below are ones I just took and while I still have a lot to learn, I can already see the difference. The photos on the top are without the soft-box and filters and the ones on the bottom are with them...

"Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art."
~ Ambrose Bierce

"You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it."
~ Author Unknown

"The camera can photograph thought."
~ Dirk Bogarde

Sunday, December 25, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 25 - Leftovers

I don't know about you but I am blessed to have not only a fridge full of leftovers but also a ton of cookies, candy, and assorted breads from neighbors that should last me well beyond the New Year. I'm estimating that I won't have to go to the grocer once this week and that's including produce. I know some folks are not big on leftovers but I have a different approach. I really enjoy remaking them into new dishes. I just look at those leftovers and pretend they are in a picnic basket on "Chopped" and start pulling things together. This is a trick I use because my husband was never a big fan of leftovers, so I'm always up for a challenge and making them into a different dish is fun. This week is a "catch-up" and relaxing week before school and work start up in the New Year. So having a fridge full of leftovers will be a welcome addition to menu planning and a blessing to our food bill... I'm jus' sayin'!

"Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart."
~ Thomas Fuller

"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found."
~ Calvin Trillin

"My favorite time of day is to get up and eat leftovers from dinner, especially spicy food."
~ David Byrne

Here's my list of some leftovers...

Prime Rib
Potatoes au gratin
Yorkshire Puddings
Apple Salad
Brussel Sprouts
Apple Sauce
Creme Brulee
Shrimp Scampi

Here are some of the dishes I'm making using the above...

Mini Wellingtons using prime rib, mushrooms, paté and some puff-pastry from the freezer.
Mini-gingerbread trifles using the ginger loaf and creme brulee with some candied tangerines.
Spicy shrimp chowder for lunch using potatoes, leeks and shrimp.
Granola parfaits for breakfast, layering apple salad and granola in mason jars.
Apple french toast bake using cut up Yorkshire puddings, eggs, vanilla sugar and applesauce, baked in a casserole.

Take the left-over challenge in your fridge and see what you can come up with and let me know.