Today I Am Grateful For…

A husband who loves me immeasurably and would do anything for his family and our happiness.

A son who is constantly growing and developing and encouraging me to do the same.

Another healthy baby on the way who is bound to change our lives as much as Aiden did in new, exciting, and challenging ways.

The ability to splurge on loved ones at Christmas time.

A lovely and warm home that defines comfort in chaotic times.

Two stable and good jobs in this tough economy.

Consistent health for me and my family.

Two cars that are nearly paid off and run well.

Tons of good food cooked by someone other than me ;)

The diligence, accountability and encouragement I receive to write regularly, both for my own benefit and for others’.

The habit of reading a new book every month.

A kitty that keeps my feet warm and always loves to play.

Family that visits me when we don’t have enough in the budget for travel.

Compliments from my son every night as I sing him to sleep and he strokes my face.

Old friendships that have stood the test of time, distance, and struggles.

The development of new friendships that are proving to be indispensable parts of my life as a young, working mother.

Private childcare from ladies who love my son and train him as one of their own.

The extraordinary luxury of technology (iPhones, the internet, Facebook, Netflix, etc.) that allows us to stay connected to distant and nearby loved ones.

The freedom, thanks to the sacrifices of so many others, to experience all of these things in such abundance!

The truth is, we should all be grateful every day of our lives for our extraordinary blessings, liberties, and abundances. Some of us are better at living a life of gratitude than others, but today is a wonderful reminder to all of us to stop, remember, and appreciate all that we have. Hopefully the effects of such a reminder will linger long through the holidays and into next year. And as we are tempted to grumble or complain or let cynicism get the better of us, we will direct our thoughts in a more positive and grateful direction, recalling these lists that we all tend to create on Thanksgiving or New Years and pledging to live more consistently by them.

I wanted to leave you today with a somewhat non-traditional Thanksgiving recipe. With a house full of family and friends, many of us are so focused on the BIG meal that we often forget that all these beloved bellies need breakfast too. And no one wants to present their family, who came from near and far, with boxes of cereal and a carton of milk. So here’s my easy and delectable breakfast recipe that’s sure to impress:

French Toast Sticks:

In a bowl mix:
3 eggs (or substitute)
Milk to thin
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and a touch of Vanilla
Whisk till well blended.

In a second bowl mix:
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp of White Sugar
3 Tbsp of Flour (or more as needed)

Cut the crusts off of approximately 1/2 a loaf of wheat bread and cut each slice in half. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil. Dip each strip of bread in the first mixture and coat well with the second mixture. Fry evenly on both sides and pat dry with paper towels. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, maple syrup, and whipped cream. Voila!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May your day be blessed and full of happiness!

Close to Home . . .

Having posted a couple of times about my vague admiration for Autumn and it’s effects on the world and my own personal psyche, I decided to share a few specific examples of what Fall looks like in our home – just small glimpses of why it will always hold such a special place in my heart.

Daddy teaching Aiden to cook breakfast. Mmmm, I can still smell it!

The newest addition to our family begining to show him/her-self.

The first fire in our fireplace. Needless to say, Aiden was impressed!

Painting pumpkings! Much more enjoyable for a toddler than trying to carve them.

The end result - Mine on the left, Aiden's on the right (with a little help on the face).

Shhhh! Be vewy, vewy qwiet! I'm hunting wizzards!

A crochet project I'm working on - for the baby if it's a girl, otherwise myself :)

Getting ready for Trick or Treat! Happy Halloween everyone!

The World’s Rosy Complexion

I’m not sure if it is the gradual change of the weather this year, as opposed to the dramatic drop we usually get from 90° one week to 45° the next, or if it is simply the universe smiling at us poor southerners at a time when the stress of life is getting overwhelming, but I was just commenting to my husband that the fall colors seem more vivid this year and remarkably out of character for our little corner of the world. Of course it helps matters that, due to a temporary change of sitters for my son, I have been driving the Natchez Trace to work every day. It is the most beautiful stretch of road in Mississippi and such a refreshing change of scenery to clear my mind as I drive.

A section of the Natchez Trace near Rocky Springs

I must confess that seeing all of this Autumn grandeur does more to make me miss my Yankee upbringing that it does to help me appreciate my current home. It reminds me so much of the Autumns I remember growing up, surrounded by sugar maples, oaks, elms, and other hardwoods that transform themselves annually with a fiery magic that seizes even the most diehard advocates of summer and captures their hearts and imaginations for Fall. The whole world has a golden, rosy complexion and it is hard to not to look at the rest of life through the same colored lenses.

Another section of the Old Natchez Trace, slightly north of here.

And the colors that seem to be spreading like wildfire over the local foliage are accompanied by the most glorious earthy, musky smell of the fallen leaves and the damp earth that lingers in the cool air instead of being baked away by afternoon heat. It is a smell that inspires us to fill our homes with the other smells of Fall: pumpkin spice muffins, squash casserole, roasted pumpkin seeds, cinnamon apple cider, and zucchini bread. It reminds us to kick on the heat, pull out the afghans and find a good book to wile away the rainy afternoons.

Mmmmm, Yummy!

I am so grateful that Autumn has finally arrived and has decided to grace us with its rather picturesque presence this year. I, and I’m sure many others, definitely needed the change of scenery and the renewal of inspiration.

Spaghetti Squash Discovery

Every now and then I come across something so simple, so fresh, and so healthy, it’s hard to imagine how I could NOT share it. Particularly since I just posted an article about healthy eating and it’s effects on your body and life. This most recent find of mine may be old hat to many of you, but, somehow, in my 30 years of existence, I have only just discovered spaghetti squash! What an incredible and unusual little vegetable. If you, like me, are often prone to have some starchy side dish with many of your meals such as pasta or potatoes, this would be an excellent substitution with the same general aesthetic. And, let me tell you, preparation doesn’t get much easier!

There are a variety of ways to cook and season it, but I opted for the time-saving simplicity of microwave cooking. I cut it in half length-wise, scooped out the soft middle section that contained the seeds, placed it open side down in a baking dish with 1/2 cup of water, and covered it with plastic wrap. I then cooked it on high in the microwave for 10 minutes. When it was finished I let it cool long enough to be handled and then scooped out the spaghetti-like meat with a fork. I mixed it in a bowl with a bit of heart-healthy margarine, garlic salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. As you’ll quickly discover if you google “Spaghetti Squash,” there are MANY ways to prepare it. You just have to find something that inspires you.  I served it with steamed peas and sautéed mushrooms and onions on the side.  It was a lovely and fresh vegetarian meal requiring VERY little effort.

I highly encourage everyone to give this remarkable little vegetable a try. And let me know how it goes!

Ode to Autumn

There is something magical about the change of seasons. Particularly the change from the oppressive heat of the Summer to the brisk, brightly colored, candle lit feeling of Autumn. The moment the weather turns you feel it. You walk out into the crisp morning air and you know fall has arrived. The multitude and monotony of the many shades of green suddenly transform into every imaginable color of the rainbow – from bright red and orange to yellow, green and plum purple. Temperatures that would have had us excitedly donning shorts at the start of the summer, are suddenly justification for pulling out sweaters and slacks and dreaming of winter coats. It is the start of the season that contains all of the major holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. A time for friends and family and sugar cookies.

Even the labor of raking leaves feels like a labor of love the first time you do it, bringing with it a flood of childhood memories. The very smell of the air – wood burning chimney smoke, dead leaves, evergreen sap, pumpkin and zucchini bread – fills your nose with delight like a fine wine or dark chocolate fills your mouth. This is a time for remembering and a time for creating new memories.

What are some of your favorite Autumn memories?