A Long, Cold Winter…Gratitude

A long, cold winter

This blog has been stagnant for approximately 4 months. Initially, I wondered why I did not find interest in blogging about the things that I usually find delightful. I still enjoy reading others’ blogs, so why not keep nurturing my own. Upon reflection, I have determined that it is because I am missing a piece/peace of myself. For the past 4 months, I have been living about 2,000 miles away from friends, family, and the love of my life. This all has a grand purpose. I am completing a six-month internship in my dream job. While I should be happy, I feel myself just going through the motions. I love what I get to do each day, but being so far away from my home, I am missing part of me. And no, I am not “depressed,” I work in the mental wellness field, so I can assure you of that. It is simply that I have such love in my life, that when I am separated from it, I become acutely aware of that fact. As I spent some time feeling sorry for myself I realized something: how incredibly lucky/blessed (take your pick) I am to be a part of such a loving lifestyle that it could impact me in this way. I think that many people go their whole lives searching for that kind of love, and there are others who don’t know what they are missing or are too afraid/hurt to experience it. Regardless, I write this blog as a testament to the gratitude that I feel for being able to feel such love that I could miss it this way. This includes the incredible relationship that I have with my parents and their genuine interest in spending time with me, and knowing who I am. Never trying to be nosy or controlling. I was also surprised at how much I’ve missed my sisters. I have been acutely aware of the common transition into adulthood that breeds really wonderful sister relationships. This has happened for us as well. My ability to think of a million things that I cannot wait to do with them when I return home has much improved over the past 4 months. I also miss friends, family friends who for all purposes are family. I am grateful for the opportunity to appreciate these relationships, and take steps to further nurture them. And of course, there is the love of my life that I have mentioned. We are getting married this year after what will be 6 years of dating. This is not a result of the infamous “off again, on again” arrangement that so many people seem to gravitate towards. This is because I met him when I was 17. You do the math. Quietly and efficiently, he has become my better half and not in some unhealthy, codependent sort of way. In a beautiful, supportive, be who you are and I will love you all the more sort of way. The skeptics and cynics out there will read this and cry bullshit and wonder just what nasty secret he or I or both of us is hiding. But we’re not. We’re two soul mates who allowed ourselves to be open and ready for all the potential love the universe had in store for us. As this internship draws to a close, I find that I have never before been so aware of the changing seasons in my life. I look back and see a long, cold winter despite the fact that I have been living in a hot desert. I am however, grateful. I think gratitude is the foundation for happiness. And I appreciate this experience for teaching me to be grateful for the simple gifts in life. Love. To give and to receive. And as the season changes again for me, as we move toward spring, I sense the flowers blossoming anew, the new growth that is possible because of the long, cold winter. Grateful indeed.

Changing Season

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Each flower is a soul blossoming out to nature. -Gerard De Nerval

Wedding flowers! These are oh-so-important big day decisions and often shape the overall style of the wedding. So, about a year ago (before I was engaged) I fell madly in love with a gorgeous bunch of dahlias that I picked up at the farmer’s market.

Gorgeous farmer’s market dahlias

I love their colors, their shapes, and the way that they add a striking whimsical elegance to any arrangement. Funny story: at some point later on down the road my fiance wanted to buy some dahlias for me as a gift, and when he inquired about them with the local florist he was told, “We don’t carry those, dahlias are something you would find in your grandmother’s garden.” Haha! Of course, this just made me love dahlias even more…and my fiance for that matter. All of this is to say that, I have known for quite a while that I want dahlias to take center stage at the wedding. I’d also like to include plenty of other colorful, Autumn elements such as berries, leaves, branches, and flowers such as sunflowers and celosia.

This is a bouquet that I picked up at the farmer’s market. Although it doesn’t have any dahlias in it, it is close to the style I’m going for – I’m thinking a bit more elegance for the wedding but with the same natural, whimsical feel.
Here you can see the celosia quite well. It’s the orange, funny shaped flower. I love them for their beautiful colors and the way they add texture and depth to a bouquet

The best part is that this past weekend my parents and I visited the local arboretum, where the wedding will take place, to discuss wedding plans. When we arrived we saw that they were having their annual Dahlia Show put on by the state Dahlia Society! Perfect! So, I whipped out my camera and captured the blue ribbon dahlias that have inspired my wedding vision.

These would be perfect tucked into a centerpiece to add some Autumn ambience
This would be perfect for the bridal bouquet, adding just a hint of color with the pink tips. It would also be beautiful tucked into the bride’s hair
I adore the color of this dahlia, perfect for an Autumn wedding
The purple Dahlias are perfect for adding a surprising splash of color to any bouquet or arrangement
This is the “Kenora Sunset” variety of Dahlia, it would be a perfect splash of color and texture
This is the sweetest Dahlia, it would be especially beautiful tucked into the bride’s bouquet or in someone’s hair
This arrangement won “Most Artistic Arrangement.” That is actually a new variety of pumpkin, it has that color naturally.
This lovely Dahlia has some fun-shaped petals
Perfect wedding Dahlia
This is the “Hamilton Lillian” variety. Stunning Dahlia!
This variety of Dahlia is called “Hilltop Stella.” Both my mom and grandma are insisting this be in their bouquets. Striking isn’t it!
This is the “Cameo” variety of Dahlia. This would also be perfect for the bridal bouquet or tucked in the hair
Great idea! Try floating a single blossom in a bowl of water. These would be great for buffet, drink, cake tables and wouldn’t be easy to knock over
I am in love with this variety of Dahlia called “Lou.” It is perfect!
Gorgeous “Clyde’s Choice” variety of Dahlia

Needless to say, there were many more award-winning Dahlias in stunning colors and varieties, though I did not have the time nor the energy to capture them all. These are just a few of the Dahlias that caught my attention and gave inspiration for my Autumn wedding. Enjoy!

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Fall Wedding

I am in the midst of planning an October wedding for next year so I want to share some ideas that I’ve seen that are really beautiful for fall weddings. The wedding will include an outdoor ceremony with an indoor reception at a local arboretum. Here is some fall wedding inspiration…

These glittered pumpkins would be really cute to line the aisle, scatter along the path from the ceremony to the reception, line the staircase, and decorate the reception area…

I think these pumpkins with leaves carved into them would also be an elegant way to incorporate some whimsy…

These initials are a great way to personalize your venue…

a great inspiration board…

This photo captures the essence of the atmosphere of the warm, autumn wedding that I’m trying to achieve…

I love the warm colors in this photo…

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So it begins…

And so begin my efforts to organize all of my recent conquests, adventures, and musings. I think it is most appropriate for me to start with food as it is my primary endeavor – I am passionate about fresh, delicious food. I think this is rooted in the fact that I am a very picky eater, and I learned at a young age that if I cooked, I could make things however I wanted. Of course, it is important to note that my mother is a phenomenal cook who is creative, adventurous, and delicious in all that she makes. With that said, I cook/bake/brew… at least 5 times a week, sometimes 7 or more!! According to my fiance, I have yet to make something that downright tastes bad – although I have had some battles with yeast but I’ll get back to that another day. The best part: my fiance eats and loves my cooking, so there is that aspect of instant gratification in my cooking experience. So I will share my most recent triumph: delicious Chicken Salad.

Homemade chicken salad sandwich on freshly baked bread

Simple, I know. But like I said, I am picky, very picky. So it has taken me a long time to come up with the right combination of ingredients, and in this case overcome my need to add a complex blend of spices and flavors, and just let some wonderful chicken salad do the talking. This is a savory recipe with no grapes, no nuts, no curry…southern juicy chicken salad.

Delicious Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts (or whatever cut of chicken you have on hand is fine)

butter, salt, and pepper for roasting the chicken

Chopped celery and onion

1/3 cup chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1. Place chicken on a baking sheet and top with  1 tbl glob of butter per breast, salt, and pepper. Bake at 350 degree F until just done, approximately 30 minutes. Just slice into the fattest part of the chicken and make sure it’s no longer pink. Remove from oven and don’t touch it for at least 10 minutes – the juices need to settle.

2. While the chicken is resting chop your onions and celery, set aside.

3. Gently slice the chicken into small chunks, depending on how chunky you like your chicken salad.

4. Add all of your ingredients in a bowl and mix together (I like to add my mayo a little bit at a time so as not to have goopy chicken salad, but if you like yours goopy, by all means…)

5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pile chicken salad on top of lightly toasted baguette, add a slice of provolone cheese, and lettuce. Add chips and a pickle and Voila!

Of course, being the naturalifeventure, I baked my own bread (recipe below). Also, I like to use free-range, antibiotic/hormone free organic chicken, and organic lettuce. It could be the placebo effect, but I really think the chicken tastes better!! With all of this said, going back to my picky issue, you should make this recipe and ratios to your taste for your perfect chicken salad. This one just happens to be mine!!

Whole Wheat Baguette Recipe

Whole Wheat Baguette

Preparation Time: about 25 minutes
Cooking Time: about 25 minutes
Resting Time: about 4 hours, 30 minutes

4 cups Flour (2 cups whole wheat flour, 2 cups all-purpose or bread flour)
1 tbsp. Dry Active Yeast
1-2 tsp. Salt
2 cups Warm Water
Oil for bowl

How to make it:

1. In a bowl, mix together the flour and the salt.
2. In another bowl, combine yeast, warm water, and half of the flour/salt mixture. Using your hands, mix until it forms a dough. Then, cover with a dish cloth and let sit at room temperature for 3 hours. It should triple in size.
3. Gently incorporate the rest of the flour/salt, using your hands.
4. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. It should be supple and elastic when you stop kneading.
5. Lightly oil a bowl. Place dough in bowl. Cover with a dish towel. Let sit for 1 hour. It should double in size.
6. Preheat oven to 450°F. Knead again. Then cut dough into 3 parts and form each part into a long baguette. Place on a baking sheet. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.
7. Place a bowl of water in the oven. Just before you put the bread in the oven, make a small slash in the top of the bread from end to end to allow the bread to rise upward. Bake baguettes for about 25 minutes (maybe less). Remove the bowl of water after 15 minutes of baking.

Tip for French Bread Baguette Recipes:

Baguettes are particularly crusty and light because they are cooked at extremely high temperatures and are vaporized. Even though domestic ovens can’t go as high a real French bakery ovens, you can still make an excellent baguette, by remembering to put a bowl of water in the oven. And, of course by baking at a very high temperature.

I have found that making about 8 small baguettes also works for this recipe and makes sandwiches super easy because they are the perfect size!! Enjoy!

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Happy Birthday to this blog!

Greetings!! Welcome to my first blog post. This blog has been a long time coming and I am thrilled that it has finally come to fruition. Over the course of my next few posts I will get you up to speed on my recent conquests. But on this first of blog posts I will simply share a quote that sums things up: 

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein


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