Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Inspiration

il 570xN.152241851 Goddess Allsorts: The Christmas Eve Edition
I just found this painting online and it made my heart sing! I just love it! The amazing artist is Lori Portka. Here are a couple more of her colorful happy paintings. I hope you smile too.
love is coming home to you
il 570xN.196387928 Goddess Allsorts: The Christmas Eve Edition
Shine your light,

Thoughts, Reflections & Winter on Wordle

Hi Friends, I found the coolest website called wordle. It takes a blog or post and makes a word collage. I used mine and this is what it made.
Seeing these words made me embrace this winter season.
A season for going within, reflecting on life. What is working? What can be improved? It's OK to slow down, curl up on the couch with a fluffy blanket, read a book, take a nap, rest, rejuvenate, reflect, refresh. Embrace life.

Wordle - Winter: "Wordle: Winter"
(click on the picture for a clear image)
If you are still reading this, I will share that we had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed the magic through our kids' eyes. The week leading up to Christmas was difficult. We had a death in my husband's family. My husband then came down with a fever of 104 and was in bed for two days. He's well now but we are still feeling emotions about our loss. A fight we lost many years ago due to the disease of alcoholism. The loving intervention did not work but our counselor told us we should move on with our lives and find peace and happiness. Those words he gave us were a gift. We did move on to find peace and happiness in life, have four beautiful children, and a  warm and nurturing home. We did our best and that's all we could do. We could not save her. We hope she is a peace now.
Looking forward to new beginnings in 2011. I hope you are too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

There's a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons - That oppresses, like the Heft of Cathedral Tunes.
Emily Dickinson

Today is Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year due to the sun's tilt. Tomorrow the days will begin to have more daylight. I have always felt a strong pull and fascination to the winter and summer solstice dates. From the beginning of time we humans have celebrated these changing of the seasons of darkness and light with many celebrations. Christmas "Christ's Mass" is on December 25th which is Winter Solstice on the Roman or Julian calendar. Ancient Sweden's Winter Solstice is Lucia, Feast of St. Lucy. The Germanic "Yule" is celebrated with midwinter feasts and gift giving. The celebrations around the world are vast and abundant. Today I will light a candle and celebrate this new season in nature.
A Time for Change
I envision and prepare for new beginnings. As winter makes its arrival, I notice changes on display in nature--leaves gone from the trees, birds flying south and the temperature turning cold. As we leave one season of our lives and transition to another, we may feel a sense of loss. Yet just as the trees use winter to prepare internally for eventual springtime, I know that a quiet time of reflection allows me to envision and prepare for new beginnings in my life.
I cannot hold on to the life that was, but I can fully live the life that is, right now. By embracing the present moment, I find peace in the midst of change. I find hope remembering that in due time, in the right season, my own spring--my rebirth--will burst forth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter has arrived!

Beautiful Owl
Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
~Bill Morgan, Jr.

Winter has definitely arrived here the the great Midwest. My husband and I have stacked wood and fired up the wood burning stove. The kids have been enjoying the powdery snow for sledding and snowboading fun. Here are some weekend photos I snapped to capture the winter fun.
Indy in action!
Fireball pulling Scout with dog Betty following

Blaze's mini snowman creation

Snowdog Buck

The racing trio

Fireball pulling Scout uphill

Warming up with popcorn and Battleship

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Comfort Food: Baked Ziti

Hi Friends - Here is a dish that my family gets excited about every time I make it. It's so easy and is extreme comfort food. Make this with a salad and crusty bread and I promise you will have smiles galore!
Here is what you need and it only takes 15 minutes to put together:

1 (16 ounce) package ziti pasta or any tubular pasta of your choice
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 pound shredded Italian Five Cheese Blend (Mozzarella is fine too)
1 egg, beaten
1 (32 ounce) jar marinara sauce of your choice
1 pound cooked and drained ground beef , sausage or turkey (optional - I use it because I have 4 growing kids)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook and drain ground meat and add jar of marinara sauce. (Meat is optional)
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, don't overcook. Drain, rinse and set aside in bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, shredded cheese (set one cup aside), & egg.
4. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish and spoon in 1 cup of marinara sauce, layer with half of ziti and then half of cheese mixture. Repeat and top with remaining spaghetti sauce.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, remove and top with remaining shredded cheese and bake for 10-15 more minutes or until bubbly.

Baked Ziti, salad with creamy balsamic dressing, and a glass of Chianti.
Note: This is a huge crowd pleaser. I have made two pans for larger groups. One pan I make a little spicier with a fancier Marinara sauce or added crushed red pepper. I always make the basic recipe for kids. You can also add spinach, mushrooms, or roasted veggies. Make it your own!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Simple Gifts of Love & Gratitude

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.

Kahlil Gibran

This morning as  I piled the kids in the car we saw the most amazing sunrise. I ran back in the house to grab my camera and snapped a few photos of nature's brilliance.

I returned home and pulled the Jeep up to the house as my husband was leaving for work and told him to take it since it was nice and warmed up with a full tank of gas. Three minutes later he called me and told me to go outside and look at the sunrise. I smiled and told him I had already seen it and taken photos.

This was a gift to me this morning. It made me happy to think that we both took time to give simple gifts of love to each other - a warm car, the beauty of a winter sunrise, a phone call. For this I am most grateful.

In the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, let's make sure to remember what's most important, making others feel loved and appreciated.
I challenge you to do something everyday until Christmas to make someone's day better. Let me know what you did and what happened.
Shine your light,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grilled Turkey, Cranberry & Brie

I'm already into the cranberries! After dashing around all morning getting the groceries for Thanksgiving here at the ranch, I came home so hungry. At Trader Joe's I bought a tub of cranberry/orange relish that I was going to add to a pot of fresh cranberries I will soon make. I also bought a wedge of creamy French Brie as part of a cheese plate to start things with on Thursday.

I just couldn't resist. I have a thing for turkey and cranberry sandwiches. My T & C recipe post from last year is here. Today I wanted something warm and melty. This is what was created. It was just what I hoped for and worth another trip to the store.

Grilled Turkey, Cranberry, & Brie:
Good Bread, buttered
Pulled Turkey (chicken works too)
Brie Cheese
Cranberry Relish - I used Trader Joe's
Crunchy Iceberg Lettuce or Watercress

On a warm buttered griddle, panini maker, or pan place buttered bread. Add cheese on both pieces. Top with turkey, cranberry relish, and crisp greens. After bread is toasty put two pieces together and toast until cheese is gooey.
Slice and enjoy!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My new yoga project

When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live." - Greg Anderson

This week I was asked to lead a yoga session at a downtown business conference with a theme of *Revive*Reinvent*Renergize!

They needed a Bio of me and a website. This made me get my creative juices flowing and this is what I created.

I am excited to share my passion for yoga and develop more ways to communicate my enthusiasm. Saying "yes" to this conference was really stepping outside my comfort zone. I will report how it goes on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ear Piercing Extravaganza

Mimi & Girls at The Piercing Pagoda
My daughter has been asking to get her hears pierced for a long time. She turned seven this week so I decided it was time.
I was nine and thought I had to wait too long. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was 1979 and my mom drove me in the cherry red & wood paneled station wagon to a store called Ayr-Way (now Target). It was a thrilling experience to sit in the special chair and feeling the sting of the staple-gun contraption piercing the gold balls in my ears.  My little sister watched in awe as well.

Fast forward to 2010. My daughter and I drive an hour to a fancy mega-mall to meet my mom, my sister and her seven year old daughter. Our daughters are so very close and love to experience life together.

My mom arrived first to scout out our options. We were thinking Claire's Boutique was the place but it was crowded with only one teenage girl working. In front of Claire's, my mom discovered The Piercing Pagoda where you buy the earrings and get piercing for free. It was clean, quiet and a sweet woman was working there. The girls picked out sparkling flowers with gold posts.

My daughter "Phoebe Fireball" went first. My mom, sister, and I hovered like mother hens making sure the dots were in the center of her lobes. I held one hand and "Sweet Lee-Lee" held the other. "Click" went the piercing gun and Phoebe's eyes got wide with shock and pain as she fought back tears to be brave and strong. We cheered. Click went the other sparkling purple flower. It was done. She was thrilled and gazed proudly at her red lobes that sparkled.

Lee-Lee went next. Same mother/grandmother/aunt hovering. Her lobes were smaller so we had to have the nice lady re-do the dots a few times. Lib and Phoebe held her hands. Click! Lee-Lee felt the pain and the tears rolled down her cheeks. We cheered her on. Click again as the final pink flower pierced her ear. Done. Hooray!

They stood together looking at each other proudly and then gazed into the mirror. A special time they will always remember. They did it together.

After all the energy it took out of us we decided to end the excitement with lunch at the food court. A fun girls day for all!
Lee-Lee & Phoebe with sparkling earrings!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Grilled Cheese Martha Would Like

My little son "Scout" loves to have grilled cheese and apple slices for lunch. I usually eat his crust and other tidbits he leaves on his plate (I know you moms get it). Today I decided to make my own grilled cheese for a few reasons.
1. Martha Stewart was on Oprah recently teaching her to use good bread, butter, and assorted cheeses, fruits, veggies, and herbs. Her grilled cheese bar looked so delicious!

2. I just happened to have a rosemary artisan loaf of bread that needed attention.

3. I have tart Granny Smith apples and one ripe yellow pepper.

On the hot griddle I threw on butter to sizzle, placed two slices of rosemary bread on the butter, added yellow pepper slices on one piece of bread and toppped it with a slice of creamy cheddar cheese. On the other slice of bread I topped it with a slice of swiss cheese and thin apple slices. After letting the bread brown, I folded the sandwich together. It was perfectly crisp with gooey melted cheese.
Martha would be proud of this one. Now I need a good tomato soup recipe.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Autumn Beauty, Pictures and Poems

I never want to leave the ranch during this season. Here are some photos I snapped on a walk in the crisp autumn air.
 "In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as
from August to November."
- Rose G. Kingsley, The Autumn Garden

"Just before the death of flowers,
And before they are buried in snow,
There comes a festival season
When nature is all aglow."

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

"The sweet calm sunshine of October, now Warms the low spot; upon its grassy mold The purple oak-leaf falls; the birchen bough
drops its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold."
- William Cullen Bryant

"The leaves fall patiently

Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves."
- Sara Teasdale

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sweet Treat - Grandma's Butterscotch Blondies

I have had a few requests for a sweet recipe. This is a winner! My oldest son "Blaze" is my pickiest eater all around. He came home and was telling me how good Mrs. L's bars with powdered sugar were after a soccer game. She gave me the recipe and I have made them twice last week and am pulling butter out of the fridge as I write to make some more. There is nothing like the aroma of whisking butter, vanilla, eggs, and brown sugar together! Enjoy!

Grandma's Butterscotch Blondies
1 stick butter, softened
2 C. light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 C. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
powdered sugar

Cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add flour, baking powder, salt and mix well. The batter is irresistible! Bake at 350 in a greased and floured 9x13 pan for 20-25 minutes. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Warning: they disappear fast!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Perfect Pot Roast - Great for a Fall Gathering or Family Dinner

I have made this twice in the last month for my family, and gave the recipe to my friend Tiffany to make for a  birthday party.  We both agreed that our husbands love this one - as well as the plain eaters in the family. It's comfort food that's simple and delicious! Fire up your crock pot or make it in a covered pan in the oven. You choose. Just make sure to serve it with a big fresh loaf of crusty bread and butter and a glass of deep red Zinfandel.

Perfect Pot Roast

4 lb. Chuck Roast
1 bag frozen pearl onions
2 bags fresh baby carrots
4-6 lg Yukon Gold potatoes cubed
1 32 oz box Emeril's Beef Stock
1 Sprig fresh Rosemary
Salt & pepper
Generously salt and pepper roast on both sides. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet. Brown roast on each side for 5 minutes until it is sizzling and very brown. While roast is browning, add stock to warming crock pot. I like to add a splash of red wine to the pot too. Place browned roast in pot and place onions and carrots on skillet to brown with a pinch more salt for 5 minutes. Place carrots, onions, and cubed potatoes on and around roast. Salt and pepper once more and add sprig of rosemary. Cover and roast of high for 4 hours or until meat is very tender. If roasting in oven, roast on 325 for 3 hours covered in foil.
When done, remove rosemary and serve in stew bowls with crusty bread and butter. Enjoy!