Christmas Baking

December 10th, 2016

Have you started your Christmas baking yet? Since baking is my business and I’ve been blessed with an abundance of holiday orders; I officially started today. I spent most of the day working on 6 batches of my famous Fleur de Sel caramels, and from there went on to make two batches of gingerbread dough. *When wanting to double a recipe- measure it out and mix separately as with baking doubling doesn’t always work effectively.* From there- I mixed the dry ingredients for some cupcakes I’ll be baking up tomorrow for an order on Monday- Chocolate orange. You can’t go wrong with that flavor now can you?

Later this week I’ll be making dog treats for some very lucky canines, plus more cookies, more caramels and a few cakes. Then I’ll try to squeeze in a little personal baking to share with people I love, which I hope (fingers crossed) to include divinity and pralines- something we always had at Christmas when I was growing up.

What is your ‘must have’ on your holiday table.

Early Christmas for Someone

December 10th, 2016

This morning while I was out walking the dog, I noticed a box out by the bulk trash for a martin parlor guitar. I couldn’t help but smile, as I knew immediately that it meant our neighbor (who is in a band and whom I’ve mentioned here before), must have received one for Christmas as a gift. I suspect that if that’s the case we will be hearing the contents of said box this weekend sometime.. unless he actually put it under the tree, which is doubtful. I know his band is supposed to be playing at a local Christmas festival tonight, so maybe he’s there testing it out now. Either way, I’m looking forward to hearing the sound. His passion for music never dissapoints.

The Stockings Were Hung

November 29th, 2016

Santa is coming!    How many of you had your Christmas trees up before Thanksgiving?   As much as I would have liked to, we still haven’t decided what type of tree we will have.    The fact that it will be a real Christmas tree is a no-brainer for us, but will we go for the larger one, or a smaller one Santa that will fit on a table top?  That remains to be seen.    If I had to choose today, it would definitely be a smaller version, simply because it is easier, not to mention it doesn’t take up too much space, plus I don’t have to be concerned with JJ and Mister M. having a ‘cat fight’ under the tree.   Decisions, decisions!

Much more important than the tree is the people we will be spending our Christmas with.     That is also still in the works, with plans unfolding, but I’m looking forward to having a time of fun and festivities with friends, whom I’ve adopted as my family here.

What about your favorite holiday traditions? Do you have any?    I’d love to hear about them.    When I was growing up we would always go look at Christmas lights.  My brother and I would be in our pj’s early and off we would go as a family- in the car to drive through areas and look at the Christmas lights on display.  To this day- it’s still one of my favorite traditions.    I actually think that this year we’ll also be doing it with friends here.   Something else exciting to look forward to.

What do you look forward to during the holiday season?

 

Tis the Season

November 29th, 2016

I spent the afternoon at my hair stylists today and we exchanged stories of what kind of gifts were were giving this coming hoiday season. She has two musicians in her family- one quite well known and the other, someone with a lot of diverse talent and someone I’ve predicted will continue to grow in popularity and shine bright. Because their family is so large, they always draw names, and she said this year she and her husband got the two musician’s names. She said a little asking around and she was able to find the right gift for both of them by looking at guitar center instruments and just to make sure the surprise isn’t spoiled by her sometimes stubborn teenage son, she had them shipped to her sister’s home where they will be safe from all prying eyes.

What about you? How did you do your holiday shopping this year? Are you done, or in the midst of it all?

Happy Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!    I hope that you are all enjoying time with those you love and cherish, taking time to soak up the memories in the making,  plus to put some focus on the reason behind this day-   being grateful, coming together and choosing peace.

This year is a bit bittersweet for me as I’m not home with my family and friends for the holiday.   It’s the blessing and also the downside of having two places to call home, but I miss being there today.    My parents are having dinner at my brothers new home for the first time.   It’s one of those first that I am missing out on, but it isn’t possible or even realistic to be everywhere I ‘want’ to be.    Marcel is working tonight, which means I’ll be curling up with some of my favorite television shows on Hulu.

Tomorrow, I’ll roast a pumpkin and get things in order for Sunday’s festivites.   I’ll mix up the butter rolls so they can sit in the fridge overnight and I can roll them the morning of the festivities.    There will only be a few of us, but I have no doubt in my mind that this Friendsgiving will be a great one.

 

Enjoy your family or friend time.

The Missing Pieces

November 21st, 2016

As a storm rages outside-   minimal hurricane force winds, rain and the occasional hail –  I’m tucked away comfortably behind the laptop, a very content Mister Mistoffelees beside me.    For quite some time now, I’ve had this ebb and flow of feeling discombobulated.   I ‘feel’ good-  but I seem to have this consistent inability to land on any one thought for a very long period of time, before my head races off to something else.

Something has been not exactly right- but I haven’t been able to piece together what is keeping my thought process so busy.    I don’t watch the news, haven’t for years.  I am not using Facebook at the moment outside of my business page, but what could it be?

I have daily contact with my parents, regular contact with most of my favorite people-   yet, while I feel content in many areas of my life-  I still feel as though my head is a constant spinning of thoughts and ideas that never seem to come to a standstill.

Then, a few days ago it hit me.  A dear friend mentioned a few struggles she was having, and another friend suggested she ‘write it out’.   I immediately chimed in at how helpful it is for me-   and how ‘writing it out’ had helped me through numerous obstacles in life.  I even suggested she check out 750 words if she wanted to have a purging of emotions without anyone reading it outside of her.      That had been particularly helpful to me years ago when I went through a very difficult struggle dealing with the expectations of a few others.

It didn’t hit me at that moment, but as I was having a cup of tea yesterday-   I realized the one thing that I wasn’t doing now that I’d done for as long a I could remember-   I’d stopped writing.

I have always loved writing for as long as I can remember.    Long before computer days,  I would write my deepest thoughts in my diary.  Long before all the constant distractions of the digital world.   Before blogs were a ‘thing’-  I had a blog.    It was back in 2003-2004 when it first came to be.   It was a wonderful outlet to share about my life, and at the same time-   connect with others who were also doing the same thing.     In that time- some of us formed friendships that I still have to this day.

The missing pieces- have been that I’m not ‘writing it out’.     The good-  The bad- the ugly- the beautiful.    Foodie ideas, photography ideas, life ideas-   how to be a better me ideas-   and the list goes on.     SO much has been spinning in my head-   bouncing from one list to another- as one gets checked off- always five more things waiting to jump on a list.

The missing pieces–  writing it out..      As Glenda the Good Witch once said to Dorothy-   You’ve had the power all along ..  and so have I.

I am excited to see where this new realization takes me.  My head feels lighter already!

On Choosing Love

November 20th, 2016

If you have regular contact with me in my everyday life-  then you know that I decided to take a break from Facebook, outside of my business page obligations.    I deleted the app from my phone, the one place where I spent wasted the most time reading and connecting with people.   Leading up to the election, I had a love / hate relationship with Facebook.  More accurately, I had a love/ hate relationship with the thoughts that would swirl in my head after reading various Facebook posts from people I care about, many of which I have loved and admired for a majority of my life.    It’s not Facebook’s fault, nor is it anyone else’s fault how “I” react to the things I see, but I also knew when I was having emotional reactions to so many things I was reading, from people who really don’t know better-  I knew it was time to take a step away.

When I say they don’t know better, I don’t mean they are in any way, shape or form ignorant, uneducated or simple minded.   Nothing could be further from the truth.   At the same time, so many people seem to be drinking the fear Kool-Aid these days, and had forgotten how to give and show love and compassion to anyone who didn’t fit their ‘norm’ that I went into a deep sadness.    In fact, typing this brings tears to my eyes.

There are a LOT of things I see in life that I don’t agree with, but my opinions are based on how I view the world and how I believe.   Does it mean because I don’t agree that it’s ‘wrong’?   No, not at all.  It means it’s different.      I try to shine love in all that I do, to walk the talk, but because I’m human, I also sometimes fall short.    I dust myself off-  forgive myself and move forward.

You know what I struggle with the most?   The fact that so many of us have become judge, jury and executioner over the choices of others.    We don’t have to agree to show respect.   We can agree to disagree and respect each others choices and move on.

I remember when I was in Junior High learning about how as a society the more we are exposed to-  the more it becomes the ‘norm’ and the less it matters because we become desensitized to those ‘things’.   At the time-  I remember understanding it, but having never experienced that desensitization first hand, I didn’t ‘get it’.    Now, 30+ years later, I more than get it.

I hear so much about how people are sick of being ‘politically correct’, as if that is somehow a free pass to treat people with disrespect and lack of compassion (see desensitized above).     I’m not big on labels, because I feel as though you it’s an effort to decide who or what something or someone is based on something small, and we are much more complex human beings than a label.  We grow, we change, we learn (hopefully).    I don’t use PC at all, because it isn’t being PC-  it’s being respectful of others.    Yes, I know that people seem to get offended about everything these days-  and I really have no idea why.

So much could be accomplished if we all chose to do one thing that I’m pretty sure we would all agree on.    Live your life by the golden rule:   Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.     Sounds simple doesn’t it?    Why do we complicate it so much?

Want to grow beyond the four walls of your comfort zone?  Spend time in the company of someone who has had a very different life than you.   You don’t have to ‘get it’, because you won’t.  It’s not possible to understand what someone else has gone through when you haven’t had similar experiences, but what you can do is show them compassion.   You can see them, you can love them, you can offer them dignity and respect.    Most everyone is doing the best that they can with the tools they have at that moment.

It doesn’t mean it will look anything like the life tools you have-   after all, your life has been different and therefore you see things through a different lens.   Even when someone is being angry, nasty, disrespectful-    it’s coming from a place of fear, insecurity, pain.   It isn’t about ‘us’- as much as we’d like to think it was.    It’s about so much more.     Rather than standing in judgment-   we should all try to stand in love-   in compassion- and in understanding that even though we may have no idea what the person has faced and is facing-   that we can still love and respect them where they are.  Not encouraging bad behavior, not being reactive, but standing in love, being love.

I wonder how different the world would be if we let go of fear of what is different than us-   and embraced love, acceptance, forgiveness?

My challenge to myself this coming holiday season, and also to you-  is to give more love.  Not to those who receive it daily, but to those you have to make the extra effort to love.    See what happens.  I’d love to hear about it.

 

Meal Planning- Thanksgiving

November 15th, 2016

It’s hard for me to believe that since I last posted here, a majority of the leaves have given us a beautiful show of color and fallen to the ground, leaving barren (yet beautiful in their own right), trees.

As I type this-  the greyness and drizzle of rain has settled into the day.   The view from where I sit, I can see several naked trees swaying to-and-fro to the rhythm of the wind.

Some years I’m unable to spend the holidays with my parents, but on those years we usually do something with friends.    This year-we’re having a small celebration with friends the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I’ve been browsing recipes of something ‘new’ to make.

While browsing, I came across this recipe from Southern Living for Easy Butter Rolls & I’ve decided to make them as one of my contributions.

It makes me smile to think that it was a few short years ago that the idea of making bread in any sort of fashion would be highly intimidating for me, but in that time, I’ve learned a great deal from several inspiring people.

Our gathering will only be five adults and two children, but the idea of spending time together with people who bring joy to my heart, makes me smile.  I’ve offered to bake the turkey, a small ham, now these rolls, plus I’ll whip up a dessert of some sort, and make an Autumn salad of some sort.    A good healthy balance of ‘real’ foods,  shared with friends.

I’m grateful to be able to do that.

What about you?  How will you spend your Thanksgiving?

…Another Sunday, Another Fall Dinner Al Fresco

October 23rd, 2016

I was reading last weeks post and realized that I had dinner outside last Sunday.   I had forgotten about doing that, and wouldn’t you know-  today is another gorgeous day, with another dinner outside.    The temperatures  have dropped a little since then, but it didn’t matter, because I took a huge bowl of Kale, Lentil and Sausage soup outside and ate while watching the sun set.

I don’t know how to describe how I feel this time of the year-   but it’s pure bliss.    Ironically, magical things have been happening, which has added to the joy of the season.

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, whipping up some cookie dough for a cookie order I have this week.   Since Royal icing cookies are a little bit of a process, plus I like the flavor of cookie dough after it has a chance to marry the flavors, I’ll bake them tomorrow, then decorate them on Tuesday. I am looking forward to it.

I also made two batches of the famed Southern Charm Cupcakes Fleur de Sel Caramels, that will be sent to some great people later in the week.

What about you?  How are you kicking off your week?

Sunday Salads & Sunshine

October 16th, 2016

It is no secret that I love all seasons, but if I was asked to choose an all time favorite, I believe it would be fall. Granted, if you ask me in the Spring, my response may be Spring, or if you asked me in Summer, and so on. I am a lover of all seasons for the uniqueness and their individuality, but there is something about Fall or Autumn, depending on what you prefer.

Often in Neverland, the weather this time of the year isn’t pleasant. Truth is, it bothers many people, but not me. It is like everything else- it has it’s plus and min points, but we have to take things as they come. Fortunately, the weather has been amazing. Sure, we’ve had a few grey days, but on the whole, thus far it’s amazing. This morning- despite the crispness to the air that only Fall brings, summer also decided to show up and give us yet another kiss. It is although she wasn’t quite finished with us yet for this year, so it’s a beautiful 64 degrees, blue skies with not a cloud to be seen.

img_0404I put on my running shoes, grabbed JJ and went out for a long walk. Truth is, I could still be walking if Marcel hadn’t had other ideas, or if JJ wouldn’t have given out, or my stomach hadn’t started grumbling, reminding me that I wasn’t hungry when I woke up this morning and hadn’t eaten.

Despite having a few projects I needed to do inside, I knew that I couldn’t spend anymore time inside than necessary as those days will come soon enough. Right now, we’ve been given one of those rare Autumn days where it’s pure weather perfection and I plan to enjoy it to the fullest. My rumbling stomach took me to the kitchen where I whipped up a Fall salad, filled with delicious seasonal gems, such as pomegranates, beets, pear, avocado, almonds, plus I sliced some fresh chevre I picked up at a market and crusted it with almond flour- then slowly let it toast in the pan, creating a delicious nutty crust and a delciously warm cheesy center. I topped the salad with a mixture of champagne and cranberry balsamic, plus a little Vanini Osvoldo EVOO that I picked up last fall in Lenno, Italy. Not only was the salad flavorful, being able to eat it Al Fresco this time of the year was a huge bonus.

Even now as I type this- I’m sitting outside. I can’t bring myself to stay inside. I did dinner preps, grabbed the laptop, a cappuccino and a glass of water and here I sit- feeling the kiss of the wind in my hair, the sunshine on my shoulders,, and a wink from summer letting me know she is never far away.

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