Last Page of 2011

This is the last day of the year 2011.  

I just feel the need to state the obvious on that one.

As I look back on 2011, there is so very much I want to articulate about the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens.  It's been a year.  A year of change for me.  The kind of change that is hard to wrap my head around.  I know there were mistakes made and lessons learned and tears and fears but I also know there was laughing and loving and the kind of life living that made me think, "Who gets this life?"  

My hope for 2012 is to keep growing and morphing into the best person I can be.  Because I truly believe the instant we become stagnant in our dreams, goals, and aspirations...is the very same instant we quit doing the life living we are meant to do.   

I can not predict what I will be or where I will be or who I will be when I sit down on December 31, 2012 and look back at the year.  The crystal ball I want has not showed up at my door.  I don't know what will happen this year or if the choices I make will be the ones I should.  But what I do know with certainty is through it all, I will still be the person who loves the people in her life more than anything.   And be the person who is slightly ridiculous with those loved ones.  

And be the person who opens footie fleece pajamas from her nephew with excitement because he said, "Remember when you said you wanted to look as cute in footie jammies as I did in mine.  Now you have some!  We can wear them together."   

And be the person who promptly puts on those footie pajamas because Easy Rider put his on and then wears them while playing a game.  

And be the person who does the ugly laugh because the moment is worthy of it.  The kind of moment where nothing else matters besides the hilarity of what is going on.

And be the person who notices the ugly laugh in the loved ones around me.  Because it means they are doing their best life living too.  Knowing in my insides, nothing makes me more happy than seeing that.

Here's to closing the last page on 2011 and opening up the first page of 2012.  Here's to hoping it will be a year to stretch and make me better.  Here's to hoping the ugly laugh shows its face every day in 2012.  Because every day needs that much happy.  Every single day. 


A Little for Now


Was magnificent.  

And I am enjoying my week break by not being in front of the computer.  But here are a few scenes from the preparation before the festivities began. 

Little ones church Christmas program.  The reason for the season.  

Going with Karen and her family to their girls' dance recital.  I am basically Sugar and Spice's aunt.  Here's why I know.  They find me in the crowd and they smile at me.  Melt my heart.  Then I get that same teary eyed business that happens when I watch the four munchkins do their thing.  Here's what else was just on this side of fabulous.  The sparkles.  Anything with sparkles is a win.

 Wrapping presents with a side of hot coffee on Christmas Eve morning.  While wrapping this year, I had the epiphany that it doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to cover the present.  It's kind of like learning to leave dishes in the sink every once in awhile.     

The start of Christmas Eve at the farm.  The start of a day and night tucked forever in the Christmas memory book.  More to come when I'm not squeezing every bit of goodness out of this week.  More to come.     

I hope your holiday season has been the merriest of merries.  I hope you are squeeze hugging your loved ones.  I hope you are soaking it all in.  I hope you are happy. 


I Choose Happy

I caught glimpse of her across the room.  And chills went down spine.  A little tear formed in my eye.  In admiration.  Complete admiration for that woman.  Because I thought about the trials she had been through in her life.  Horrific experiences no one should ever, ever face.  Seeing her with an enormous smile spread across her face with laughter easily escaping gave me chills.  Knowing her happiness is not simply an act put forth to portray the appearance of being alright, but that she is truly happy, put a little tear in my eye.  How does someone rise above the terrible and make the choice to not let it change who they are?  How does someone not become a bitter and angry soul wandering through life without happiness?  How does someone move on and heal with such grace? 

How did that woman rise above the unthinkable and find herself back?  And more than anything, how did she find the strength to forgive? 

And as I sat there watching her, I realized once again...life is a choice.  One tiny choice after big choice after enormous choice.  

Because really, the only person we can ever control is ourselves.  When I look back at my life, I want to see that I chose happy.  I want to look back at a life full.  FULL.  Full of fun and ugly laughing and true friendships and hugs and ridiculousness and risk taking and meeting goals and forgiveness and love.  I want to look back at a full to the freaking brim life.  And that means every single choice I make in my life needs to align with that vision. 

I can get wrapped up in the not important, tiny problems real fast and find myself spinning in my thoughts.  At those moments, I need to remember that tiny problems are just that.  Tiny.  Miniscule.  Not worth the spin.  Not worth it at all. 

Because there are people out there who have risen above the awful and terrible and heartbreaking.  They have made the choice to remain themselves and to even go so far as becoming a better version.  They are the people who deserve the world.  They are the people who give me chills and put a little tear in my eye.  In complete admiration.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”  --Elizabeth Kubler Ross


Christmas Came Early

Our book club had a Christmas party and it was a gift.  The kind you can't buy with money.  It ranks right up there for a very best evening of my adult life.  Felt like I was a supporting actress in an A List movie.  One about women and their friendships and the importance of opening up and sharing.  Of letting it out.  Of laughing.  Of accepting.  We didn't read a book before this party.  We did however, wear heels and tights and sparkles and shimmers.  There is something about dressing up.  Applying an extra layer of mascara and taking a few seconds longer to smooth on lipstick in a darker than usual shade.  The precursor for the experience to come.       

We met in the back room of a downtown restaurant.  You know those times when the setting simply enhances the experience, like waking up to frost on the tree tips Christmas morning.  This was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of those times.  Long table.  Plush chairs.  Vintage record player.  An eclectic mix of background music laying out the soundtrack for our evening.   

A seemingly never ending wine supply.  Bottle after bottle.  Opened and shared.  

Indulging in sauteed mushrooms and pheasant strips and calamari rings for appetizers...prime rib and fresh fish and squash ravioli and filets for entrees...chocolate souffle and creme caramel for dessert.  Throwing out our notions of worrying about calories to instead embrace the experience of enjoying well prepared, delicious food until only crumbs remained.  Because we could. 

Exchanging gifts.  Some too ridiculous to mention.  Others heartfelt.  Even a few practical.  The spice of variety once again hit.  And then came the conversations and the laughter.  The topics ping ponging all over because of the ease of being around people who let you know with their actions, anything is fair game.  No judgement.  Just acceptance with a laugh and an "Oh, I have so been there." 

That is priceless.     

If I had to pick a theme for our book club, because every great novel or movie or party has a theme, it would have to be this...eclectic acceptance.  As we ourselves are a mix of backgrounds, beliefs, attitudes, and styles which all come together in a way that simply works.  Our groove just works.   

Even when I completely ruin the picture trying to explain how to work my camera.     


White, Red, and Green Goody

Alright, so I know I said before that holiday cards are my Christmas crack.  But I might have to change that statement because this goody I whipped up last week to bring to work is seriously like crack.  Once started, it is nearly impossible to stop.  And it is ridiculously easy, so much so that I almost don't want to tell you how to make it.  It could be my little Christmas treat secret to bring and wow.   

However, considering I found the idea on the internets, I better spread the wealth.       

Here's what you need.  White chocolate chips, shelled pistachios, craisins, pretty bowls, wax paper, two baking sheets, and will power.  You are going to need to have your will power tucked in your pocket.  Like don't even lick the spoon unless you plan on eating the whole batch.  It's that kind of a situation.   

I didn't really follow the recipe.  I mean I did in the fact it's three ingredients.  It's not like you can really mess with that, but I changed the amounts.  I used two normal sized bags of white chocolate chips.  Melt them slowly until they become ooeeeyyy gooeeyy goodness.     
Then, let it cool for a few minutes but stir it every once in awhile so it doesn't lose the smooth.  Line two baking sheets with wax paper while the slight cooling is happening.  Then add one cup of craisins and one cup of shelled pistachios.  Gently combine.   

Spread the Christmas crack out evenly on the waxed paper and place in the fridge for several hours.  I repeat.  If you do not want to eat this entire batch, do not even lick the spoon.   

After it's been in the fridge for several hours, break it up into chunks.  If you want to do large chunks, go for it.  If you want to do small chunks, go for it.  Whatever floats your boat.  

It's so very festive when it is all done because of the color combination of white, red, and green.  Make this and people will give you a big hug.  Maybe even a big kiss.  It's that good.  Smooth white chocolate, sweet craisins, and salty pistachios work together to create a win.  Whoever thought of this needs a high five.   


Little Work Day Gem

This past week, progress monitoring kindergartners on first sound fluency was on my agenda.  One afternoon, I walked down to a classroom and said two girls' names.  They both enthusiastically jumped up, like they had won a trip to Disney World, and we started walking down the hallway.  Just me and those two poptart little girls.  While we made our way to the reading room, I explained who I was and what I was going to talk to them about.  

And spontaneously, they started holding hands and smiling.  Pretty soon, their walk turned into more of a skip, hop, and bop.  Happiness popping out of every seam.  Then one poptart turned to the other and exclaimed, "You look really beautiful today!"  

When she said it, she meant it.  Like her smile was going to bust out of her face meant it.  The best part was her idea of beautiful had nothing to do with looks or clothes or designer names or any of that garbage.  It had everything to do with loving her friend for being who she is and wanting to shout if from the rooftops.   

The other poptart. The one who was told she was beautiful.  Well, she just grinned while she tucked her hair behind her ear.  Happy to know she was indeed beautiful.     

Guess what?  Our world.  Is not such a bad place.


Being Betty

My inner Betty arrived on Monday night.  

I made sugar cookies.  

From scratch.  

In my kitchen. 

By myself. 

First though, I had to go to the grocery store and buy white sugar and white flour because those don't so much exist in my every day life.  Hence the lack of cute storage for said white sugar and flour.  I do however, have almonds and steel cut oats in canisters if that makes you feel better.   

While at the grocery store, I only had to call Momma Debi once and Sil twice.  I had originally planned on using Grandma Audrey's recipe because it's a classic.  But then Momma D. explained to me I actually had to use margarine in them or they wouldn't turn out as well.  And the thought of using margarine gave me the shakes, so I promptly called up my sister-in-law who is baker extraordinaire and asked for her recipe which uses butter.  Real butter.  

Then I had to call her back while in the baking aisle and ask where to find cream of tartar.  I'm going to be honest and say the only tartar I knew of at that point was tarter sauce.  For fish and such.  I figured that wasn't what she was talking about.  Of course, Sil was able to direct me over the phone to the cream of tartar spice.   

I really have come a long way in my cooking abilities, but some things I still am learning.  And I figure with every new thing tackled, I get one more glitch out of my Betty self.  

Yes, I used a brown egg and don't you just love that little vintage table of weights and measures?  That's from Grandma Lee's treasures and I big hug and kiss it.  

I followed Sil's recipe exactly and the dough was the perfect consistency.  By this time, I was feeling confident in the entire endeavor.  It was rocking right along.  

Then I remembered from my childhood sugar cookie making escapades that chilling the dough helps in the rolling out process.  This also provided me with the perfect chunk of time to clean up the mess I had created so far.  I'm all about cleaning along the way.   

After wiping down the counters and washing a few dishes, I grabbed the bowl of dough out of the fridge and set it on my counter.  Then I retrieved my cookie cutters from the cupboard.  I put some flour in a pretty paisley bowl... 

And then I promptly put the bowl of dough back in the fridge and made a Target run to buy a rolling pin.  Turns out you need one of those. 

Once back from the Target, I rolled the sugar cookie dough out like nobody's business.  

This is my "Look Momma Debi and Sil!  I'm really going to do this!" face.  

This is the part I winged because I wasn't sure how thick the dough should be.  I went with what felt right.  Pretended for a moment I possess kitchen instincts.

The shiny objects.  They get me every time.  Every single time.

And voila!  Just like in life, following your instinct of what feels right also works in the land of thickness while sugar cookie making.

Random insert here.  During the cookie cooling time, I looked in my fridge and thought to myself, "Self.  What are you going to eat for lunch tomorrow?"  What I saw staring back at me was cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, and baby tomatoes.  It turned into steamed veggies and whole wheat pasta tossed with fresh garlic, a tish of squeezed lemon, a sprinkle of black pepper, and liquid aminos {soy sauce...it tastes just like soy sauce}.  After a sample bite, I thought to myself, "Self.  This is tasty.  Do this again."

And it made enough for three days of lunches.  Bam.  A successful fridge clean out.  

By 10:30 in the pm, the kitchen was once again cleaned and a quick trip to ask the neighbors to unzip my dress had occurred.  Because turns out, I couldn't reach it.

Then the frosting process finally started.  My original ambitious plan was to make adorable ornaments out of my three sizes of cookie circles. 

But quickly it became 11:30 in the pm and the only thing finished was the white base layer.

So the choice was made to leave behind notions of being super cute and instead go with medium cute polka dots and swirls.

By 12:30 in the am, my first solo making sugar cookies from scratch experience was complete and my inner Betty felt successful.

I took the cookies to work yesterday and by ten in the morning, all that remained on the trays were crumbs.  I never did eat one, but I'm taking that as a clue they tasted yummy.

Sil came through with her recipe and her knowledge of cream of tartar.  And when I was rolling out my dough, she was texting me pictures of peanut butter ball snowmen she was making with Firecracker for her kindergarten snack day.  That woman is amazing.  Four kids and she whips up homemade snowmen that actually stand up for snacks.  Pretty sure I'd send raisins. 

Like I said before, I followed the recipe exactly so here it is in case you want to have your inner Betty arrive at your house.  

Sil's Sugar Cookies
2 cups butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar   
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine butter, powdered sugar, and white sugar in large bowl.  Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.  Add egg and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed.  Reduce speed to low; add the dry mixture of flour, cream of tartar, and baking soda.  Beat until dough forms a ball.  

Roll out dough.  Make cookies.  Bake 7 to 9 minutes.  Let stand 1 minute and then remove from cookie sheets.  

3 cups powdered sugar
4 Tbs milk
Little bit of vanilla to taste
If too runny, add more powdered sugar

Call for questions!  :) 

Well, she probably doesn't want you calling for questions but that is what was at the end of my email.  It's like my sister-in-law knows me or something.  Now, go forth and make sugar cookies from scratch.  If I can do it, believe me...anyone can.