Monday, December 23, 2013

Traditions {a recollection}

My favorite holiday memories are deeply rooted in our family traditions. I remember walking into my grandparents’ house in Jonesboro for Christmas and feeling like I had stepped into what I imagined the North Pole must be like. Garlands of gingerbread men hung along the doorframes, each individually wrapped in cellophane and ribbon so that opening one felt like a present in itself. Those tasty, carefully and lovingly created gifts of gingerbread goodness were one of the highlights of my childhood. I looked forward to them each year and they are part of many wonderful memories.

Christmas at the beach in North Carolina!

As our family moved from state to state, sometimes far from our extended families, we tried on traditions. When I was 8, we traveled to North Carolina from our home state of Texas to be with my father who had moved ahead of us for a new post. Intent on making it a memorable Christmas, my parents created a scavenger hunt that sent us joyfully around the apartment following clues that led us to our gifts. We followed that up with a trip to the beach! Other years included counting down with purpose using the advent calendar and an unforgettable Christmas pageant featuring live animals.

One tradition that stuck, although it presented itself in many forms over the years, was a tradition of serving others as a family during this time of year. Whether we went caroling at the hospital, visited the elderly at the nursing home, or served Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter, we took the time to shower love on those whose spirits needed brightening.

This year, as a new parent, I have been especially thoughtful of holiday traditions and the memories I want to create for my own son. I hope to instill in him the same sense of service and love for others that my parents ingrained in me by their example.

I’d love to hear some of your family traditions as well. Just know that I might just adopt them as my own!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanks + Give

It's the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. You've eaten until you were stuffed and then had some more. You've shopped til you dropped. You most likely don't want to see another turkey or the inside of another mall until the new year. Here's where Giving Tuesday comes in, to remind us that this season is really about giving differently.

What if you could give a gift that literally keeps on giving? With a mission to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth, Heifer International supports families all over the world (here in the U.S., too) by giving them livestock and training. Then, those families Pass on the Gift by sharing the first female offspring of their livestock with another family and helping to train them. Each time I stand behind a booth sharing with others about Heifer, someone inevitably says, "So it's kind of like the 'teach a man to fish' idea?" It's that and so much more because not only does that man (or woman) learn how to "fish" to sustain his family, he turns around and teaches someone else how to do it as well.

So, check your recycling bin for that Heifer catalog you got in the mail, or check it out online. Get the kids involved in choosing between ducks, rabbits, goats or bees (yes, bees). Give to this worthy organization today and then, get that gift catalog back out because Heifer gifts are great under the tree as well.

And if you're a trail runner, go register for our Hoof it for Heifer 20K happening April 12, 2014 at Petit Jean State Park. It's our third year to put on this trail run in a gorgeous setting and the proceeds benefit Heifer. We have some great volunteers (and staff)! If you are not a runner and already have an organization you are giving to on Giving Tuesday, give us a "like" on the Heifer In Arkansas Facebook page. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

{Soup's On} Chicken Tortilla Soup

Fall is my absolute favorite season. While I do prefer warm weather, there's a beauty in the changing leaves that makes me feel like I too can shed myself and come out on the other side of winter renewed and reinvented. I take to making lists and goals during this season whereas most people wait until December 31. That is probably why my blog has many more posts in the fall than any other time, something I'm hoping to remedy. Fall is my buckle-down season--where I try to fit in everything I've wanted to do all year because time is running out. And there is so much to do this year.

Well, I actually came here to write a post about soup. I eat soup all year round, but I understand most other humans, especially here in the South, prefer to eat it only in the fall and winter months. I hope to share some of the tastiest recipes during this soup season, and I'll begin with my favorite.

This is the first meal I ever just threw together without paying attention to exact measurements or following a "recipe." That is one of the great things about soups, you can usually just throw together what's leftover from the week along with some items from the pantry and come out with a great meal in the end. Every time I make this soup for guests I end up giving out the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups shredded chicken (I use poached chicken I've made ahead of time or rotisserie chicken in a pinch)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tsp cumin
1 Tsp coriander
1/2 Tsp cayenne (optional)
4 cups chicken broth
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chopped green chilies
1-2 bunches fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla strips or chips

In a large saucepan heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Once the onions have softened add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chicken, chili powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Cook for 5 minutes. Pour the chicken broth, tomatoes and chopped green chiles into the pot and bring to a boil. Once at a boil lower heat to simmer and cook 10 minutes. Add fresh cilantro to the pot. In individual serving bowls top with a lime wedge, tortilla strips, avocado slices and cheese.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The journey home {a farewell}

Traveling home from laying my papaw to rest, I lifted my head up from behind the car seat where I'd spent most of the drive alternately entertaining and lulling to sleep our 3-month-old. "Are we about to leave Texas?" My husband casually confirmed our impending border crossing and without warning, I burst into tears.

"What's wrong? Are you upset because we didn't stop at Whataburger?"

And while it is sad to leave Texas without having a Whataburger, that wasn't it. It wasn't even the prospect of driving on Oklahoma roads for the next 200 miles. Nor was it the fact that the speed limit was now 70mph instead of 75mph for the remainder of our trip.

"I wasn't ready. I don't want to leave Texas." Jeremy, only half understanding, told me that we could always come back. I immediately thought, "But papaw won't be there."

Ah. I thought I was crying because I wasn't ready to leave Texas, but really, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to papaw. Coming back to Texas will never be the same. Sure, I still have family and people I love to see in that state, and to me it will always be home; but until now, papaw was always the reason to come. It feels like losing a part of my identity.

Someone recently told me, "You're not a Texan." True, I haven't lived in Texas for 7 years, but in my heart I truly feel it is home. If I clicked my heels 3 times that's where I would find myself. As for papaw, his home is now a place where there is no more pain or sorrow. I grieve his absence and miss that dear, sweet man so much that I feel used up and nauseated, but at the same time, I'm hopeful. Because of Christ, I know that I'll see him again one day. In this happiest of thoughts, my heartache gives way to rejoicing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Between blue & gray

At 23 weeks pregnant my rings are starting to get a little snug. I know it's only going to get worse. I wasn't really on the hunt for a stand-in ring, but when I stumbled upon this gem from JewelMint I couldn't resist. I mean, how could I pass up something called the Grey Shadows Ring? I absolutely love the blue-gray color of the jewels. In fact, I was so excited to purchase it that I completely forgot to take advantage of their 2-for-1 coupon code. If I hadn't gotten ahead of myself, I probably would have picked up the Sorbet Thorn Necklace or the Come Together Bangle. Oh well, I'm still jazzed about my ring. I can't wait to see it in person. I just hope it's big enough!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bringing up baby

Okay, this goes out to all of the been-there-done-that moms out there. I am sure I will have many questions and will probably get more advice than I know what to do with, but right now I want to know two things.

1. What is the one item of baby gear that you just cannot live without? Preferably this thing is or was useful in the first few months after bringing baby home.

2. Alternately, what is the one item that you wish you had never purchased. Whether it was something that looked nice but didn't function or just something that you bought and never even used.

I feel so lost on what to buy. I thought I could gather some insight from all the great moms I know (and some I've probably never met)! Thanks so much for your help.

Baby deer print by Sharon Montrose at the Animal Print Shop.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A bit of news

I didn't think I would ever say the words I'm about to say. First of all, let me say that it was not for lack of desire...I just didn't want to let myself hope for something when it seemed it was not in the cards for me. You may have guessed at this point, or you may have known from the time you saw the heading for this post, but I'm saying all of this to tell you...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Kick it!

This week I've been participating in a blogging challenge that focuses on ways to make your blog work better. It's put together by the same lovely ladies that put this challenge together. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had already instituted some of their suggestions (go me!), but mostly I've learned a lot and made some changes...some behind-the-scenes, some that you can see. I spy some nifty social media buttons, do you? I added those all by myself (okay, Jeremy helped a little). While working on this challenge, I realized that the best thing I can do to improve my blog is to post more. I'm up for that challenge. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guilty pleasure

"You should have been a ballerina." It's prom night and I'm walking down the stairs at my friend's house where we had all gathered to get ready. I never had a great desire to be a ballerina, but ever since that comment was uttered by my friend's mother I felt like I had somehow missed a calling. At the time, I felt incredibly conspicuous and embarrassed. She meant to compliment a gracefulness I didn't feel I possessed, but I thought immediately of my boyish frame (read: flat chest and no hips to speak of). Never do I feel the pangs of this unspoken desire more than when I'm watching my newest guilty pleasure, Bunheads.

When I read in WWD of all places that Amy Sherman-Palladino had a new show coming to ABC Family I knew I had to watch. The same speed-talking, reference-dropping dialogue that made my head spin in Gilmore Girls is there, albeit a little more choppy. Each week I feel like I am getting to take a stroll down the streets of Stars Hollow. There's the same small town setting with plenty of quirky characters and, of course, the fact that the cast is populated by many of the same actors doesn't hurt either. Emily Gilmore herself is a main character and you catch glimpses of other familiar faces here and there.

The similarities between the show pretty much end there. Instead of being focused on an impossibly tight-knit mother-daughter relationship as in Gilmore Girls, Bunheads follows the transition of a Vegas showgirl into a small-town ballet instructor. Yes, each episode is filled with the drama that caters to a more high school audience, but that hasn't kept me from parking my butt in front of my tv each Monday night to watch it. What is your guilty pleasure?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Can I take a raincheck on that handshake?

There has been a noticeable uptick in the number of sick people around me during the last couple of weeks. I have been taking precautions: asking my sick husband to please sleep in the other room, making sure I have hand sanitizer at my desk and in my purse, and of course lots and lots of good, old-fashioned hand washing.

Today, I was introduced to a new co-worker. As we exchanged our "nice-to-meet-you's" she reached out and gave me a nice, firm handshake. The first thing I thought was, "Oh good, she isn't one of those limp fish handshakers." You know the type. Then with horror, I began thinking of all the other hands she had shaken in her round of first-day introductions. I was on my way to lunch and made a mental note to wash my hands before eating or at least use the aforementioned purse hand sanitizer.

Well, between the short walk from my desk to the cafeteria I completely forgot to do either of those things and wouldn't you know, a couple hours later I started to feel nauseated and dizzy. Although it's much more likely that this nausea is due to the questionable cafeteria kabobs I consumed during lunch, I can't help thinking back on that handshake and wishing I would have just asked for a raincheck until after flu season.

Ps. I've always wanted to learn this secret handshake from the Parent Trap remake. :)