Vacation Planning

January 28th, 2016

I love to travel- not only the actual being in a space, but also doing the research that leads up to the actual travel and the experience. Truth is, I find the planning to be equally as exciting. Learning about new places, new ‘must see’ things, places not to miss when eating out, local customs, cultures and the list goes on.

When I travel somewhere new, I take a lot of notes, plus I make a lot of lists. I plan routes- plus I’ve learned, (after a stressful encounter where our Tom Tom forgot where it was while we were on our way to Austria), that it’s best to print out routes of the path- as a back-up-plan. I’ll admit that I’ve since given “Tom Tom” the proverbial kick to the curb and now use Google Map App exclusively. When I’m out of my area- I pay the little extra for the data plan that allows me to continue to use Google Maps, plus a quick search to find things in the area I happen to be in- like cheap gasoline, and food!

We’ve now entered that time of travel planning again. This time, since we’re going ‘home’ to visit family my travel agenda is a little less jam packed with planning the best things to see and the best way to get there, but more of quality time spent with people I love. What IS a huge part of the planning, though, is the flights. Despite the insanely low prices of a barrel of oil- the prices of air travel are NOT reflecting the change. I’ve been looking for close to a year and finally found great prices on the dates and schedules that we wanted.

Now that it’s done- all we have to do is kick back and enjoy when the time comes. I, for one, can’t wait.

Simply Salads- Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa and Baby Kale

January 25th, 2016

IMG_9851Over the weekend I was thrilled to find the baby kale that I love so much back in stock at my local market.     It’s one of my favorite greens, and the plus being that they’re so healthy.   A win-win situation any way you slice it.

Not too long ago I also happened to be perusing Pinterest and I came across a kale and butternut squash combo which sounded delicious.    I happened to have some butternut squash that I’d picked up at a local farm towards the end of the year, and Saturday I sliced it in half, discarded the seeds and roasted it in the oven until it was done.

In the meantime- I whipped up some quinoa to cook, but thought a touch of cinnamon in the water that I was going to cook them in would be a great combination beside the butternut squash.    (Boy was I ever right on that one.)

For the salad-  I added two handfuls of baby kale, a handful of arugula, about a half cup of quinoa (you could add as much or as little as you’d like),   some cubed, roasted butternut squash.      I toasted some pumpkin seeds, sprinkled them on top-  and added a slice of roasted turkey breast I’d cooked in the crockpot.  I also added a handful of dried cranberries.    The dressing wasn’t really a ‘dressing’ per say-  but a drizzle of Vanini Osvoldo Olive Oil that I picked up when I was in Lenno, Italy this past fall,   plus a drizzle of champagne vinegar and cranberry balsamic.   I added crushed black pepper to taste.

 

It was easy to prepare, and really out of this world good, plus filling AND healthy.      I was celebrating the fact that I actually have leftovers, because it’s the best salad I’ve had in a while.

 

What’s your favorite salad?

Closed- Left No Forwarding Address

January 25th, 2016

Over the weekend I was talking to a friend who is on the search for a specific instrument for her son. She’s new to our town, and asked if I knew of any stores that sell instruments. I could think of a couple that ‘used’ to be in the area- but a quick Google search proved them to be closed. Since I hadn’t needed one and they aren’t in areas that I visit often, I hadn’t even realized they’d closed. The two of us were able to find some online, and hopefully she’ll be able to find what she’s searching for there.

Oh to be musically inclined. That’s one talent, I haven’t been able to develop, but if I were to choose, I’d definitely want to play the drums. What about you?

Listening

January 15th, 2016

I’ve been buzzing along at a good pace-   checking things off my to do list left and right, plus finding myself in a better and better groove with a regular exercise routine.  In fact, I’ve resurrected my FitBit and I’ve been doing pretty good at hitting my stride of 10,000 steps (on the days that I don’t forget to put it on, or when the cat doesn’t bat it under the coffee table, sending me into a two-day frenzy to find it).     It feels good.  I’ve been eating much better, and that combined with the exercise feels great.

A couple of days though, I woke up to find that I hadn’t slept well the night before, and I didn’t feel ‘good’ at all.    It didn’t take me long to realize why-  the good ole’ peri-menopausal-show-up-whenever-you-feel-like-it ‘flow’ had showed up.   I know this may be too much information for some of you, but it’s the realities of womanhood.

Needless to say, since I struggled with major cramps, I took to bed with a hot water bottle and have listened to what my body needed, and that was to take care of myself.    At first I groaned at the idea of not getting my steps in, but rather than doing that, I embraced it for being what it is and let it go. Today was much of the same, and I’m ok with that.     I did some coloring, something that brings me great joy, plus I started watching a new show on Netflix.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I’ll spend it in the company of a good friend sharing some fun and inspiration with others.

Pressing Pause

January 15th, 2016

I’ve been spending the past few days lounging as I’ve been a little under the weather, so I’ve had some extra time to peruse different websites and also spend more time checking Facebook updates. It’s something I enjoy, but I don’t always have the the time while getting my other work done. I took some time to get details over some music I’d heard over the weekend, and took the ‘free time’ to do those little things that I often don’t get done.

Tomorrow- a new day and the weekend is here, which means fun in the making. What about you?

Making it Happen

January 6th, 2016

At the beginning of the year- I choose a phrase or word to encapsulate what I want my year to be- this year, I decided on “Make it Happen”. It embodies many projects that I’ve had in the works for quite some time, plus adding a few new things to the mix, in addition to an overall thought process of making things happen, because getting things done is up to us-

I created a short list of things I’d like to make happen this year- I also sent myself a real card over the mail- The front of the card says “Make it happen” and inside- I wrote a note to myself, along with a list of items I’d like to be ‘more of’ this year.

I personally believe that we are on a continued journey of learning and growing, and in order to do my very best in living in the moment, that also means making a few changes as I learn. After all, Maya Angelou says it best- “When you know better, you do better.”

What is something you want to “Make Happen” this year?

Simple Comforts- Spaghetti Squash with Black Truffle Oil

January 5th, 2016

IMG_9552Yesterday I remembered that I still had two spaghetti squash that I’d picked up a while back, but still hadn’t cooked.  I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with it, but I knew since I was feeling a little under the weather, that it would be something simple.

I started with roasting the squash-  which was as easy as turning the oven on to 350- cutting the spaghetti squash in half-   removing the seeds from the middle, leaving on the fleshy squash behind.    I turned it flesh side up in a roasting dish-   added a little garlic and into the oven it went.     I’d love to be able to tell you that I timed the exact process, but I’d be lying.   I did check it after about 40 minutes-   decided it could use a little more time-  and left it in 20 or so more minutes, again checking it with a fork for its ‘shredability’.   Once I felt it was the doneness that I wanted (ovens vary- so check to see what works best for you and your oven), I proceeded to use a fork and shred it out of the skin into a bowl.

I added some garlic, chives, a little chipotle chili powder, a touch of salt-  then shredded approximately 1/4 up Asagio cheese on top that I brought back from our trip to Italy-     I drizzled the top with about a 1/2 teaspoon of my latest flavor obsession-   Black Truffle infused olive oil and a few chopped walnut halves for the crunch.

It was simple, but the flavor was out of this world.    Black truffle anything takes everything to the next flavor level of decadence.    Lucky for me, I have the other half of the squash left, so leftovers are the order of the day.   You won’t hear me complaining.    This is a delicious and healthy comfort-food meal and with our cold weather- it’s perfect.

 

Cozy Winter Getaway

January 5th, 2016

I was thinking the other day about how great it would be to spend some of the winter curled up in a cabin somewhere- no telephone, a warm fire, soup bubbling on the stove. I can almost picture it in my mind, and brings about feelings of pure bliss. I’ve also wondered why we haven’t taken the time to check out the Cozy Winters Reviews so that we could maybe make this ultimate relaxation vacation happen.

What about you? What’s your ultimate relaxation vacation to get away from it all in the winter?

On the Eve of the New Year

December 31st, 2015

On the heels of the new year- I find myself thinking and reflecting on the year that has passed.     It has been one of loss and heartache for people I love dearly, but through it all love has prevailed-  family and friendship above all-    Resilience and the beauty of the human spirit shines through.

It has also been one of many wonderful adventures-  with family and friends.   The trip to Italy with my parents and Marcel- one of the high points-  Experiencing Lake Como, the people, the culture and everything in between was pure bliss-    To be able to share that with three of the people I love most in the world leaves me so grateful.

Yesterday I finished Brene Brown’s book-  Rising Strong.   I read it in two days, and it came at the perfect time.   Ironically, I had started it during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, read the first chapter, and while I loved it-  knew that I was too distracted with ‘life’ to fully take the time to soak it in.    My intent was to grab a chapter here and there as time allowed, but what actually happened was much better.    I put the book on the coffee table and there it sat until Christmas had passed and all of my orders and work had been completed for the year.   One afternoon this week I took advantage of the sunshine and mild temps, made myself a cup of Chai tea and spent most of the afternoon reading.    I read half of the book in one afternoon, and yesterday I finished the other half.

I read every page- no, more accurately I soaked up each and every page as though I were a sponge soaking up spilled liquid.  I used my pen to highlight passages that really spoke to me (and there were many)!

It’s a rare day that I order a physical book these days,  choosing to save space and trees by ordering most everything for the Kindle.   This book was an exception, as I wanted to be able to pick it up and reference my favorite parts- and the notes I wrote within the margins.        This book was HUGE for me in terms of putting into perspective what I’d already been learning over the course of the year-   and I’m grateful.

Saturday, I’ll be spending the day in a city I’ve never explored with a few dear friends.   I’m looking forward to the time with them, plus seeing and experiencing something new.

I should arrive home to a couple of things (outside of the fur babies, JJ and Mister M- and Marcel)   1- Elizabeth  Gilberts new book Big Magic (which will be my next read)   2-  The card I sent myself with a list of the 25 things I want more of in my life for the new year.   I write them down, but I love mail- and I loved the idea of receiving that gift- and being able to put it away- and at the end of the year pull it out and review it!

Time to enjoy some time with my favorite guy- but I leave you with these last words for 2015:

 

Do more than belong: participate. – Do more than care: help.
Do more than believe: practice. – Do more than be fair: be kind.
Do more than forgive: forget. – Do more than dream: work.
~William Arthur Ward

 

 

Creating Joy in the Little Things

December 5th, 2015

AmstelveenYou ever have one of those days where it seems like in all things that you do- that you’re cultivating joy?

Yesterday was one of those days for me.    I spent the day in the company of some amazing friends.   We didn’t have ‘big’ plans-  our focus was spending some quality time together and to go on a few foodie quests to look for some specific products we’d had our eyes on.

A couple of those items was at a specialty market which had a stall of beautiful foodie products from France.   Mustards, sausages, jams, oils, vinegars, and butter-  oh the butter (that’s a post of a different flavor- and worth of a post all it’s own).       So we walked amongst the fresh fish, breads, cheeses, fruits and vegetables until we happened upon the treasure we were searching for.   Little did we know at the time just how MUCH of a treasure it would turn out to be.

We found the things we wanted-  talked to the wonderful French woman.  When we were done shopping- she pointed towards a lone wooden table sitting 30 feet away.     “Go, sit.”, she says.   “I want to make you a French pancake.”

We were all a bit perplexed, as it seemed to come from no where-  and I think she sensed our apprehension and being unsure what to do, because before we could do anything but look at each other in uncertainty she began talking again,  “Go, sit!   I’ll come to you and bring you a fresh pancake to enjoy. I’ll make them and bring them to you-   They are on me.    Please.”

So we did as we were asked, and sat!   She came to the table offering us toppings of sugar-   cinnamon-sugar-  caramel or cheese, which isn’t very French, and we could all see from the expression on her fact that she was hoping we wouldn’t desecrate her beloved French crepe with cheese.     Thankfully we all choose either sugar or cinnamon sugar.    Off she went with a huge smile on her face.

Less than ten minutes later, she returned with freshly made crepes.  One for each of us.    As you can see they look divine.   I assure you they tasted better than they look.

Combine that with our holiday drinks from Starbucks and it was the perfect light lunch.

We thanked her profusely and her smile was beautiful and genuine-    We were so grateful and filled with joy from such a  small gesture.

From there the day continued to get better- and ended over a lot of girl-talk and homemade soup.   Pure comfort and joy.

Yesterday reminded me that we can find joy in our daily lives, all we have to do is keep our eyes open and embrace the moments.    You never know — you could find yourself right in the middle of one of your favorite moments of the year-  so pay attention.

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