Thursday, September 30, 2010

My new attitude...thanks to Oprah. :)

"When life gives you lemons, take photos of them."
I mentioned a few days ago that I love Oprah and want to am going to meet her.  Aside from the obvious (her rise to the top, her generosity, her philanthropic ventures, etc.), the spiritual side of Oprah is what has truly changed my life.

My husband and I went through some slightly rough adventures of our own (nothing marriage or health-related) a few years back (more on that next week) and honestly as cheesy as it sounds, information I took from several of Oprah's shows is what gave me a very necessary attitude adjustment.  

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The first show that comes to mind was when The Secret was discussed.  I watched this show with various guests speaking of how this "secret" changed their lives.  I taped it (ha ha...yes we still used a VCR at the time...3 years ago) and I watched it over and over again.  I told my husband about it and while he thought I was a little crazy, he put up with my constant outbursts about the show.  My birthday was a few weeks later and he bought me the book as part of my gift.  Every page of it was like an awakening for me.  I have always been a positive person, but reading The Secret gave me such a better understanding of why that is so important in every aspect of life.   Finally interpreting  the laws of attraction, showing gratitude, and realizing that "you get what you give" made complete sense.

"Your life is a mirror of the dominant thoughts you think."  ~Lisa Nichols

After the Secret, I remember when  A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose  by Eckhart Tolle was announced as the newest piece for her book club.  To say this book was life-changing is a gross understatement.  A New Earth goes a bit deeper than The Secret and stresses the importance of living in the present moment.
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One of my ah-ha moments:  Though I considered myself an optimistic person, but found myself slipping away from this.  I had gotten to a point where I was unhappy with several things.  I was frustrated that I had always thought I wanted to be a teacher and then after several years of teaching discovered that I just couldn't do it anymore.  Then when we moved for my husband's job and I stopped working, I was completely content making our first house our home, but felt like I constantly had to answer to others ("What do you do all day?  Aren't you bored?") and justify why I wasn't working.  I also got annoyed with people saying, "That must be nice," when they learned that I wasn't working.  My frustrations with other people were starting to make me miserable.  I needed to just snap out of it.  I knew it really had nothing to do with me, but was all them and how I chose to deal with them.  Once I started reading the book, it was so clear to me, that I was letting what others said affect my daily life, and that really does not help things at all.  By living completely in the present moment, nothing that anyone said or did could bring me down and I felt more in control of my feelings because I now focus completely on what I am doing at the moment and don't let others' words or judgments cloud my thoughts.  I am rambling and I hope I am not sounding preachy, but it was really what I needed at the time.  Now, several years later,  I can honestly say that any event that has happened in the past has no effect on me now.  Whereas before I would hold grudges, now everyday is like a clean slate.  It is so refreshing.

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I have always tried to be as positive as possible in every situation, but this book just changed my attitude about such a great way. Honestly, A New Earth was the missing piece.  After reading it, I now felt silly as that sounds.  There are portions that deal with anxiety, guilt,  judgment, worry, etc., and how these serve no useful purpose.  It also talks about how people can be so focused on the future, that they forget to enjoy life right now.   It truly helped me see things in a different way and to not let little things get to me.  I also registered on for the webcasts of each chapter of the book where the author and Oprah discuss each chapter for an hour.  Some of the book got a little wordy (like this post) and confusing and it helped to have the author further explain exactly what he meant.  It was also helpful when readers would call in confused about something or disagreeing with something and to see how the author would respond.  I actually took notes and have a file.  I am a little crazy, though!  :)

So to go back to that last Oprah post for a second... In A New Earth, Tolle stresses becoming one with nature when you feel yourself slipping away from the present moment.  I was having a day where I was stressing out about future events and needed to snap myself back into the present.  I went to our patio, laid down on our bench and stared up at our tree.  That's when I saw the Oprah was all just a little weird.  :)

I hope I haven't completely overwhelmed (or bored) you with this ridiculous book of a post.  I have such a hard time putting my thoughts into words.  Until I read these two books, I didn't really know how to remain positive and present all day, everyday.  Now I do and I can honestly say that I have never been happier.   ...thanks to Oprah.  :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Wall...                   
For the longest time, I have been against hanging personal photos in our home.  I have no idea why, I just have never been the type of person to have family photos displayed.  ...but no more.  I want to create a family wall!

Walls like these have me wanting one of our own for our special memories:

I saw this in my September issue of Real Simple, but snagged the image here.
This wall is from the fabulous YHL.

Here are some of my current loves:

1.  Photo from our son's one year shoot with Adrian of Canyon Photography.

2.  I'd love to do our son's hand (or feet...or both?)  prints and our dog's paw prints, similar to the fabulous ones found here.

3.  I saw these modern family trees here, here, and here...and I am dying for one of my own.

4.  Another photo from our son's shoot with Adrian of Canyon Photography.

5.  My husband and I are the center of our little family.  I just love this print which would be personalized with our names.  [first introduced to this Etsy shop in a post from the lovely folks at YHL]

6.  I saw this map here and think it is so awesome and so perfect since we have done our fair share of moving.  [You will hear more about the moving next Friday in my blog crawl entry.] 

7.  Our pup.  :)

I think I would also love to have a print of our current home (our first home) made from Modern Bird Studios to go on this wall.  Similar to this one:

Perhaps something from our wedding too?  I definitely want a mix of things and I want them to all mean something to us.  This is all just in my head right now and I have no clue when it will get done, how it will be arranged, the sizes, etc... but it is the next project on my list.  The most important thing in my life is my family and I can't wait to have a wall dedicated to the ones I love!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pure comfort!

I want it to be Fall.  I am so ready for cooler weather, but alas, it is still at least 105 degrees.  :(  I am still trying to will some fresh autumn air our way, so this past Sunday night we made another one of our favorite comfort foods:  chicken pot pie soup!  We love the taste of chicken pot pie, but in the interest of saving a few calories, we created this recipe for a soup a few years ago with the same flavors of the pie, but without the buttery crust.  We also wanted to have dessert, so omitting the crust makes us feel a little better about it. 

[More on the dessert this Friday!]
Unfortunately, we only wrote down the ingredients and completely drew a blank when trying to recreate it this past Sunday night.  I mean seriously, we have made this at least ten times in the past three years and we could not remember anything!!  So, we just kind of threw things together.  I was just getting over a cold and my husband had just returned from a business trip, so the two of us in the kitchen??...kind of a disaster.  Our soup was still great, just not as we remembered.  We wrote down the steps this time, but will still try to get it back to what we remember another time...if we succeed, I will post those steps.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup  Chicken Corn Chowder?

Ingredients (I apologize for the random measurements):
-1 cooked rotisserie chicken, chopped
-4 cups of chopped potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes)
-about 2 cups of chopped carrots
-3 celery stalks, chopped
-2 corn cobs cooked and cut off cob
-1 cup of chopped mushrooms
-1 medium yellow onion, diced (we also added two random green onions, chopped)
-1 quart of chicken broth
-a lot of fresh parsley, chopped
-2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning
-3 tablespoons of flour
-3 tablespoons of butter
-1 cup of milk
-salt and pepper
-olive oil
~We chopped everything and gathered the spices for easy assembly.

~Put the potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and a tiny bit of olive oil into a large pot over medium heat for about 15 minutes to slightly brown the veggies, stirring frequently.

~Add the poultry seasoning, stir, and continue browning for maybe another 5 minutes.

~Add 2 cups of the broth and bring to a boil.

~Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the veggies are tender to your liking...about 20 minutes.

~Add mushrooms, corn, and parsley.  Stir and simmer for about 5 more minutes.

~Add chopped chicken, cover, and reduce heat to medium/low heat for about 15 minutes.

~This was a complete experiment.  We could not remember how exactly we made the soup creamy, so still following the ingredient list, we sort of made a bechamel sauce.  1.  3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour into a saucepan.  2.  Whisk flour and butter to make a roux.  3.  Gradually add the 1 cup of milk while whisking.  4.  Add remaining broth and continue whisking until creamy.

~With a potato masher, I mashed a few of the potato chunks to help thicken the soup and then added the sauce from the other pot.  Salt and pepper can be added depending on your taste preference.  Stir and voila!

Honestly, it really was good...and even better the second night.  I am still so annoyed that we did not write down the initial recipe, because it was perfect.  Oh well.  :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

I am going to meet Oprah!!

...someday.  I just know it.  ;)

my Oprah tree tree in our backyard
I mean, if those aren't Oprah "O"s staring at me, then I don't know what is.  Am I crazy?

...and am I the last to know Oprah has an online store?  Just for fun, here are some cheery "O" things:

Pewter Oprah25 Ornament

Classic O Cosmetic bags

Ceramic Tea Set

Melamine Plates, set of 4
Hey Oprah...if you are reading this (ha ha!)... I love you and can't wait to meet you! :)  Have a great week!!

[More on why I love Oprah in a later post. :)]

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cupcake Friday: Bake It Pretty!

cupcake wrappers
~Happy Cupcake Friday!  Today, I am spotlighting Bake It Pretty, "sweet supplies for inspired bakers"!  I just love their inspiring story.  You may or may not have heard of them, but regardless, their story is so wonderful that I need to share it.  :)  They started as an Etsy shop back in 2006, then turned that business into a larger website with an awesome online shop, and now have opened their own shop in Asheville, NC and it could not be more adorable:

All shop images found here!

The Bake It Pretty Shop
58 Wall Street
Asheville, NC 28801

You can bet that if I am ever in Asheville, I will be paying Bake It Pretty a visit!

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Creativity Explored!

yellow and orange abstract
Creativity Explored is a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities are able to explore their creativity and create, exhibit, and sell their art.  I had not heard of this until I was flipping through my latest CB2 catalog and noticed they are selling a few limited-edition pieces.

Some of the pieces on the Creativity Explored site can be purchased in their original form or as prints.  Others can be purchased through their gallery in San Fransisco, some can be commissioned or rented, and some are just available for your viewing pleasure.  Honestly, just seeing the art is enough to make your day, but after reading about each artist, each piece is even more wonderful.

Here are just a few pieces.  You can click each link to find out more information and to see if it is available for purchase. 

woman with pink earrings
Mary's Story

Pablo Sandoval Hits a Home Run

red abstract
I think this work is so amazing and just love what this organization is all about.  Please do yourself a favor and take a little time to check out Creativity Explored.  I hope you find the artists and their work to be as inspiring as I did.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


exclamation point necklace

~I realize I overuse and misuse punctuation, but I was not an English major and I am not a writer, so I do not care.  I am a passionate person and feel like I should be able to show it!!  You will notice exclamation points all over my blog and I just can't help it!  I have discussed this with friends numerous times, but am bothered for some reason when people don't use multiple exclamation points for happy news...or even something really terrible or sad.  It makes me feel like they just don't care, when really that is likely not the case.  They probably just don't have the crazy over-punctuation addiction that I have.

Elaine: I was just curious why you didn't use an exclamation point?
Jake: What are you talking about?
Elaine: See, right here you wrote "Myra had the baby," but you didn't use an exclamation point. I mean if one of your close friends had a baby and I left you a message about it, I would use an exclamation point.
Jake: Well, maybe I don't use my exclamation points as haphazardly as you do.
(Seinfeld) (source)

I never really watched Seinfeld, but I can picture this conversation and it makes me laugh because it has happened with friends of mine in the past or I have wondered if someone was mad at me because when I had my son, they only said, "Congratulations!" on my Facebook page....instead of, "OMG!!!!  Congratulations!!!!!  I am so happy for you!!!!!!"

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 Am I the only exclamation point-abuser out there?  They are pretty cute to look at, I must admit.  :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Feeling Closed In...

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My son has major food allergies and last week we had a food challenge for soy, since his latest round of tests showed he may have outgrown it.  The test takes four hours and we were confined to a room the size of a small area rug the entire time.  We packed enough toys and snacks to keep us occupied for the full time, but being in such a small space for so long can make anyone go a little nuts.  I felt so claustrophobic, but after about 45 minutes, we were completely at home.

We made a small 'family room' in one corner, where the portable dvd player was set up playing Elmo over and over again.  :/  We had a little 'kitchen' AKA his stroller, where he ate his snacks.  The torture chamber  examining table :( acted as his 'bedroom' where he took a short 15 minute nap in between force-feeding soy milk testing.  We also had a little 'learning/family room' area where we did puzzles, played with blocks, and flipped through tons of flashcards.  He loves his flashcards!

It really got me thinking about small spaces and how you really have to get creative when you are low on space.

Here are some of my favorite 'on the small side' multi-tasking spaces:

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I have had this in my file for at least three years and did not save the source. If you have it, please let me know, so I can give credit.

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Seeing such great images where the best was made of their spaces, I took this as a sign (much like my speeding ticket as a sign to slow down in life) that I needed to make the best of our situation with food allergies. I was becoming crazy thinking about traveling or even going out to eat and what food can he or can he not eat. I felt almost claustrophobic, if that makes I was trapped in this food allergy world. Will his diet be so limited because he can't eat wheat, dairy, eggs, and peanuts? Is he going to starve? No more...Make the best of it. I have make the best of it. This whole experience really opened my eyes to foods I never even would have thought to feed him at this age. Who knew he would love polenta or quinoa or spinach cakes. Cooking for him has become so fun. It has always been fun, but the challenge of coming up with healthy, allergen-free foods for a 15-month old has been such a learning experience and has made me realize that allergies don't have to be the end of the world...much like a small home or room really isn't that bad when you can learn to make the best of it. :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Studio Surface Recipe Exchange!

Happy Monday!!  What's a great way to start off a new week?...with a bunch of new recipes, of course!   Michelle over at Studio Surface organized this blogger recipe exchange and I am so excited to be participating!  I love cooking and love trying new things, so this should be fun!

To give a little background, prior to moving to Arizona, my husband and I lived in New Orleans for close to four years.  I cannot even begin to explain how wonderful the food of that city is and how much we miss it.

New Orleans street scene

This time of year as Fall approaches, I crave comfort food.  In NOLA, jambalaya was my comfort food.  Despite the fact that it is about 106 degrees right now, I am going to try to beckon Fall by making one of my go-to cozy, cool weather meals.  We found this recipe for Cajun Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya and it is so worth the effort!...I promise.  [The recipe calls for tasso, which is a spicy smoked ham, used for seasoning. If you can’t find it, you can order it online or use this substitute (courtesy of Commander’s Kitchen – Commander’s Palace, New Orleans – a fantastic cookbook, I would highly recommend): 1 ounce (per every ounce of tasso in recipe) ham cut in strips tossed with 1 part cayenne and 3 parts paprika. (source)]

I cut the recipe in half and it still makes enough for us for several days.  The recipe above gives step by step instructions and I took photos of the process to give a visual:
1.  To make things easy, we went ahead and chopped everything that needed to be chopped and gathered all of our seasonings.

2.  First brown the sausage and then add the chicken.

3.  Add the onions and garlic.

4.  Add the tasso, thyme, basil, and black and white pepper.

5.  Add the chicken stock.

6.  Add the rice and then fold in the parsley.

7.  Simmer, covered, for at least 25 minutes.

8.  Ready to be plated!

9. Accessorized and ready to eat!

Confession:  I made it WAY too spicy.  :(  My husband loved it, but my mouth was on fire.  I used the tasso substitution I mentioned above since I have only been able to find tasso in New Orleans, but I could not for the life of me remember how much cayenne pepper I used last time.  I used one teaspoon and I am guessing I would have been fine with about an 1/8 of a teaspoon.  :(  Oh well, lesson learned.  I wrote it down this time, so next time I make it I will not go so crazy.

This recipe is a wee bit of work, but if you like jambalaya or have never tried it, this one is a real treat!...just chill out on the cayenne, unless you like things spicy! 

Be sure to pay a visit to these fine ladies and see what recipes they are sharing:  Michelle from Studio Surface, Ana from Live & Enliven, Estelle from Under a Pink Moon, Bianca from Bink and Boo, Damaris from Kitchen Corners, and Susan from House of Brinson.  ...say hi and check out their blogs if you haven't already!  :)

Have a great week!