gratitude 101

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Today is a lesson (or two) (or three) in Gratitude 101.

When “the girls” (dogs) came in from morning potty today, they brought with them a single perfect little leaf. Not “perfect” in the sense of “PERFECTLY PERFECT”. Just perfect. As is. Lesson #1.

Picking up that little leaf created a pause within me. A moment to reflect on this fleeting moment that we call “Fall”. Never EVER long enough. One moment we are ablaze with glorious color, the next we are bare naked. “Mable”, the Maple tree in the backyard, is my fav. She waits until all of the others have succumbed to the early winds of winter.  Like the end of an amazing concert, Mable waits until the stage has gone dark… and then she performs her breathtaking encore. Mable never disappoints. Patience. Lesson #2.

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In glancing out the back window, it is plain to see that Mable is thinning with each day. Her leaves, once a brilliant red-orange, have faded. I feel sad. It’s a weirdly warm, foggy morning – so I decide to wander out onto the deck and whisper a little “thank you” to Mable for yet another stellar performance. Hopefully the neighbors won’t see me talking to my tree with the fog.

Our small deck is littered with a multitude of leaves, and I begin, almost subconsciously, to pick them up one by one. Where did they all come from? Where ARE all these different trees? Have these leaves been here all along? I thought that, aside from sweet Mable, the fall foliage was long gone. And here it was all along; right under my feet. I just had to open my eyes and take notice. Lesson #3.

leaves 1

Gratitude 101.

live happy

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one week and counting…

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My baby boy moved to Dallas in September. I miss him.

A lot.

How old? Twenty four. So what…!? You don’t just NOT miss your kid cause they are 24 with a real job… in their own apartment… in a fun area… surrounded by people their own age… in a big city… with a lot of golf and restaurants and nightlife… ??

Yep. I’m pretty much screwed.

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So I simply hang on to whatever lands in my lap. A phone call, a letter in the mailbox funny text, an Instagram pic, a Snapchat video… Anything that brings him just a bit closer to home. But I miss still miss him.

A lot.

If you follow me on Instagram (creationsbycathy) you know that I have been posting every day during the month of November about things that I am grateful for. Spoiler alert… Exactly one week from today is Thanksgiving. A day for giving thanks for all of our many, many blessings. That being said, I can already tell you what I will be posting that day. “Someone” is flying in to spend Thanksgiving with his family… and mama bear, papa bear and sister are so, so, SO excited!! Three and a half glorious days!! The hugs. The kisses. Sitting next to him on the couch. Waking up in the morning with BOTH of my kids here… It’s almost too much! Yes, the countdown has begun…

tick, tock, tick, tock….

live happy

the gift of laundry

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Sometimes we make the simple act of gratitude way too complicated.

Case in point; laundry. 

So raise your hand if you enjoy doing laundry. Anyone…?  Ya. Thought so. And who among you gets “slightly irritated” when someone says they “did” the laundry when, in fact, all they did was put the laundry into the washing machine?? OR… (and this is worse!) merely transferred it from the washing machine to the dryer?? Ya.  Exactly. You know where I’m going with this, don’t you. It’s about FOLDING that doggone pile of laundry when it comes out of the dryer. Am I right?? Often times I find myself questioning how many times you can actually “re-fluff” before everything in the dryer becomes American Girl doll worthy…

But today was different. Kinda. Ya; I still refluffed a couple times, but once I finally dumped that (first, of many) load on the couch and started folding – I did so with a fresh new attitude. An attitude of gratitude. I decided to find five reasons to be thankful for the privilege of folding laundry. And, surprisingly; it wasn’t even hard to do.

  1. I was cold and the clothes were toasty warm. I wrapped up in an oversize sweatshirt and fresh socks.  Instant warmth xo
  2. We are so fortunate to even HAVE these crazy inventions called washers & dryers! Can’t even IMAGINE washing all of this by hand! Our poor great grandparents!
  3. I am so very, very, VERY blessed to have a wonderful hubbie; someone that generates all of these dirty socks and underwear that I have the privilege of folding.  xoxo
  4. We are over the top materialistically blessed. We have a home to do our laundry in, and a closet full of clothes to wear. Some have nothing.
  5. Down time. In the midst of a busy day, folding laundry gives me a little time to quiet my thoughts, slow down and reflect on my day. And all of the many things I have to be grateful for…

Today I am thankful for the gift of laundry.

live happy…

steak soup weather

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Right off the bat I’m gonna tell you that I am a believer in recipes, but more as a guide than a rulebook. Sort of a suggestion on how to “begin the process” of creating your own personal culinary masterpiece!!

Or not.

Yep. That’s part of the deal when you allow yourself to be a creative cook. You must take risks, think out of the box, have fun and – yes – be willing to fail sometimes. Boo-Boos happen. So what. One of the biggest problems I have is trying to re-create something that does end up coming out pretty tasty. I start “creating” with a little of this, a pinch of that, a little more of the other and a whole lotta whatever.  At the end of the day, I have NO IDEA how much of this or that is actually in the final product. My poor hubbie… “Hey sugar lump; any chance you can duplicate this?” Ummm… ya… No. Sorry. And, sadly, he does not actually call me sugar lump.

So I’m getting better about tracking my “culinary creativity”. I have always been one to mark all over the recipes in my many, many (many) cookbooks.  Cross this out, halve that ingredient, omit this, sub that… What I have also started doing is making notes on a post it note until I get to the “final answer”. I write down the exact ingredients as I add them, updating the amounts as I go along. For example, I may start out by adding a tablespoon of minced cilantro to a dish; but after two more adjustments I end up at 1/2 cup in the end. The same goes for something you might add that you aren’t so keen on. Make a note. Cookbooks were meant to be tattered and dog eared and scribbled on!! It’s a sign of love and affection!  (Side note: the exception is BAKING.  For the most part, stick to the exact measurements when baking)

So it’s the first really cold day outside today.  All thoughts are on comfort food. So how ’bout some Steak Soup? I am going to give you the recipe as it was given to me, first.  Then we’ll talk.

STEAK SOUP

8 T butter                                                                                                                                                                           ½

1/2 c flour

40 oz. cans beef broth

¼ c diced carrots

¼ c diced onion

¼ c diced celery

½ c chopped canned tomatoes

1 T Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce

¾ t seasoning salt

¼ t black pepper

5 oz frozen mixed vegetables

½ lb lean ground chuck, chili grind, browned and drained

Melt, but do not brown, the butter in a large soup pot. Add flour and stir to form a roux. Cook over medium heat without browning for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add beef broth to roux and stir until smooth and slightly thickened. Bring to a full boil. Add the carrots, onion, celery, tomatoes and pepper. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are just tender, 20-30 minutes. Stir in browning sauce to achieve a richer color and flavor. Stir in frozen vegetables and cooked ground beef. Simmer an additional 15 minutes, or long enough that the flavors become well blended. Makes about 4 servings.

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Here’s how I “personalized” this soup to make it mine… I gathered whatever veggies I had fresh, and oven roasted until tender, rather than boiling them in the soup. (In this case that included carrots, onions and tomatoes.) I had frozen peas and corn on hand, so those were my frozen veggies. (On the fresh and frozen veggies – I don’t measure. Just add as much as you want) I also had some oven roasted sweet potatoes leftover from the night before, so in they went as well. I don’t use butter.  I use a combination of a little olive oil and some of the stock.  I use unsalted beef stock, eliminate the seasoning salt and add in 1-2 packets of beefy onion soup mix.  My hubbie likes a meaty soup, so I double the amount of meat… or more!! I also add dried thyme; to taste. (I like a lot) and I double the pepper to 1/2 t (or more).

So there we go.  My version of Steak Soup. Would love to hear what YOU add into your Steak Soup to make it special…

live happy

monday morning

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hydrangea

Today was your typical Monday morning. 18 things on the “to do” list. The first item was a priority for today Collect all the dead plants from the planters. Two reasons. First of all, we had a hard freeze over the weekend and everything that was alive on Friday was not alive on Saturday. (Luckily I had the sense to move all of my potted herbs inside and cut the last of my sweet little blooming hydrangeas on Friday, right before the freeze.) The second reason to do this today – Tuesday is trash day. Gather up the dead plants today; get them out to the trash tomorrow.  Simple enough.

Ya; right.

I gathered up all of the dead stuff in pots. It took longer than I anticipated. It always does. As I was doing this, I couldn’t help but notice the annoying little voice in my head that kept nagging. And nagging... “Look around you. There is certainly a lot more to do around here than the dead pots.  What about the dead peonies. And daylilies. And hydrangeas. And clematis. And roses. And…” “UGH!!!  STOP TALKING!!”, I wanted to scream. But that stupid voice just continued. “It’s a nice day today. Tomorrow IS trash day, you know! What are you waiting for? Don’t be a procrastinator!! And (this is the biggie); if you DON’T do it… Who will?” 

Ya. No one.

So what if I just decided not to do anything at all? What if I just left all of the dead stuff there for now. And said that I was gonna get to it. Soon. Real soon. But I didn’t. And then winter came. And there was snow. And cold. And all of the dead stuff stayed right there through winter. All, well… dead. I’m not saying that I would EVER do that, of course. I guess it could kinda… accidentally… sorta happen. Maybe?

OK, Ya. It did. And when springtime finally came around, all of the new growth started coming in. Or should I say, TRIED to come in. Around the dead stuff.  Not a good plan, really.

So, in the end, I decided that today was THE day. For yard work. All day. Five HUGE bags, cuts and thorns, a couple band-aids and an aching back. Upon completion, my reward was a hot cup of tea and an Aleve. I sat down (Ahhhh…!) at the kitchen table and admired the vase of beautiful hydrangeas that had been in full bloom just days ago. Time. Where does it go…? The “to do” list from this morning was sitting there on the table. I grabbed a pen. Task #1 “Remove dead plants before trash day”. Check. Alrighty then. Guess I will just carry those other 17 items over to the Tuesday list… And Tuesday is trash day, you know.

hello, again

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hello.  again….

I’ve been gone awhile.  Six months, to be exact.  But I’m back. In my usual, haphazard sort of way.  You know; a post every day for 2 weeks.  Then nothing for the next three weeks.

Or six months.

I needed a little social media hiatus, I guess. A time to chill.  Regroup.  Collect my thoughts. Ponder life…

Bold statement: “I’m going to attempt to be a bit more consistent in my blogging” (don’t think that I  don’t hear the muffled giggles amongst you…)

Followed by the “however…” statement: “In order to do so, however, I must learn to be a bit more, well.. brief?”  (OK – the muffled giggles just turned to outright laughter…!)

OK, Yes.  I said brief.  I know.  It sounds ridiculous coming from me, doesn’t it!?  I agree. But I’m sure gonna try. Truth is, I think that I really need this place, this little space, to share what’s in my head and my heart. I’ve said it a million times before, but blogging – for me – is an online journal. My diary. My therapy. I’m sharing my thoughts, feelings, experiences with you, in hopes that something that I say may touch your life in some small way. Perhaps we will connect on some level. Start a conversation. Or not. It may simply be something you just needed to hear or see at that very moment. Something in your heart; not to be shared with anyone. That works for me too…

So it’s November. A beautiful month to honor the spirit of gratitude. Every day this month I am going to post a picture on Instagram; something that I am grateful for.  I am going to jump back on Facebook, as well. Although not as often as I used to. And, of course, stay tuned – right here – for future “brief, yet meaningful” blog posts from yours truly! (teehee!!) 

yes.  it’s hello. again…

got s.w.a.g.

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swag hotel filterGot milk?  Ya. Me neither. Lactose intolerant.

But I got SWAG!  Yep. Just returned from my SNAP! Blogging Conference on Sunday night. And let me tell you, friends…  I got seriously “SWAGGED”. Yes ma’am!! Now, like me, you may lie awake at night, tossing and turning, wondering to yourself; “But what IS “SWAG”, actually?” Hmmm… I started playing around with the letters in my brain. Wait. Think I’ve got it. “Sweet Widdle Assorted Goodies & Givaways”.  Ya. That sounds right. Nope. In reality, it means “Stuff We All Get”. Really? Wow. That is seriously b-o-r-i-n-g.   Liked mine way better.

swag hotel floor

It will take several blog posts to tell you EVERYTHING about my incredible time in Salt Lake City.  Truth be told; I am still slowly p-r-o-c-e-s-s-i-n-g all that I learned and experienced. Yep. It’s gonna take awhile, friends. There were “secret sisters” (another blog altogether!) and door decorating contests; “pajama parties” and “prom night”.  We had AMAZING keynote speakers, sponsors and entertainment. The classes to select from were so wonderful that I found myself torn between “this one or that one” many times over.  My only option…”eenie-meenie-miney-moe“. From the word “go”; it was truly a feast for the senses. Rooms set up like your favorite Pinterest boards come to life; detailed delights and surprises around every corner. And just to be surrounded by so much creative energy… Wow.  I’ve just gotta say it again… WOW. Absolutely amazing, really. My brain is on super-duper serious overload. For the time being, I can only process SWAG.  

To be continued…

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A great big THANK YOU to ALL of our sponsors…

The Home Depot, Cricut, Miniwax, Duck Tape, Rust-Oleum, baby lock, RYOBI, Cents of Style, Elmers, World Market, Darice, Scotch, Jo-Ann, Homes.com, Thompson’s Water Seal, Simplicity, Sizzi, DecoArt, Moen, Gorilla, Charmed Collections, Lollipics, DohVinci, DCWV, Modern masters, hometaslk, Tough Press, IKEA, O’Keeffe’s Company, ruffle fabrics, Sweet!, Pick Your Plum, inlinkz, Wacom, Atly, American Crafts, The Ribbon Retreat, Art Gallery, Pollinate, WEAVE, Persnickety Prints…

Human Beings are all Kinds of Awesome-Sauce (Part-2)

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Having a rough Monday so far? Well, I’m about to change all of that. This is from a blog that I follow… “The Kindness Blog”. I guarantee a change in your day once you read through all of these. Promise. I was going to try and list my favorites; but it was just too hard. Do be sure to read the one the one of the gentleman in a dark blue jacket holding a Starbucks coffee. Then get out there and “Do some kindness”… xo
Kindness counts. live happy…

Kindness Blog

This is a follow-up to Human Beings are all Kinds of Awesome-Sauce part one! Enjoy 🙂

old man's letter

chemptherapy superhero for kids

old man holds car door open for his wife

free houses for cats in turkey

man loves his three old dogs

letter of kindness

barber of kindness

little boy and his pink shoes

boy pulling his injured friend - kindness

women and men superheroes

tumblr_mmen in china catch a falling girlA little girl fell from the fourth story of a building, and these men caught her.tumblr_mmen in china catch a falling girl

the cancer is gone

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A runner collapsed near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and four other runners picked him up and carried him over the finish line.boston marathon kindness

free cold water - kindness

giving bread to a homeless person

This cute kitty who goes for a walk with this older gentleman regularly.

Dived in the River to Save His Rabbit

free food for the unemployed or poor

kindness to a lonely old man

go humans - kindness

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off to SNAP!

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http://www.pinterest.com/poeticwanderlust

Source: Tracy Porter poetic wanderlust

So it’s time. The “to-do” list is checked off, my bags are packed and it’s time to head to Salt Lake City for the SNAP! Conference. (lies, lies, lies. My “to-do” list is MILES from being completed, and I haven’t even touched my suitcase. I’ve got less than 24 hours as I write this post. Ya. Whatever.)

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Source: A Night Owl

So you’re wondering.  What is SNAP!, exactly. Well, in all honesty… this is my first SNAP! Conference.  But here’s my guess… Think “creative thinkers” meet “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” meet “middle school slumber party with your (new) BFF’s.” Ya. That’s a lot, isn’t it. Can’t wait!! We have “secret sister’s” and we bring “roomie gifts” ( Check out Kimberly, from “A Night Owl“). And, of course, there’s a slumber party and a door decorating contest! (Yes. I am 52.) Oh ya… and classes. Two and a half days of great classes!! Should be a BLAST!

Still wondering?  Alrighty. Here is a direct quote from the official SNAP! site

http://snapconference.com

“Welcome to SNAP, where you’ll find creativity at your fingertips. There is something a bit different about being a creative blogger…Instead of dissecting life and examining the pieces like many online writers, we’re busy dreaming, sharing and building things up. We inspire one another and when we connect in ways that comfort and sustain, it is something truly extraordinary.

That is why we launched SNAP – a community where imaginative bloggers can come together; learn from one another and walk away invigorated.
The hallmark of this community? A three-day conference April 24-26, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah,targeting the best bloggers representing modern handmade, contemporary craft, mind-blowing events and DIY.
Take a step away from your busy life and join us for lots of laughter, hugging and replenishment. You’ll walk away with a stronger sense of community, enhanced skills and an even greater sense of self.”

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Little America Hotel & Conference Center – Salt Lake City, Utah

So I’m sorry to have to say this, but I’m gonna have to give you a little break on the ole’ blogs here for a short time. (Suddenly, out of nowhere, she heard inconsolable weeping…) But no worries.  I’ll be back in no time. (wink, wink!)  Dawn (Joyful Scribblings) and I are gonna do our best to throw things on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… as we go along.  Otherwise, we will just catch up when I return!!

live happy… Cathy

 

joyful scribblings

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serendipityAbout a year ago, I stumbled across the blog of a gal named Dawn. “Joyful Scribblings.  I like it. She made a nice comment on one of my blogposts, so I went to her blog to “check her out”. (No. I’m not a creeper. That’s what bloggers do with other bloggers!) In the process, I stumbled across a “few” similarities…  Married with a son and a daughter, an SUV and a brown 2 story house “in the suburbs”. A dog person with a sweet tooth and a frequent shopper at Ann Taylor Loft, Trader Joe’s and Target. OK. Nothing earth shattering so far. But then it went a little deeper. Self described as “a dreamer, a list maker, a person who is passionate about collecting ideas. All with a touch of sarcasm…“??  Oh my. She was describing ME! She went on to list two things that are on my “bucket list” that most people don’t even know about me… I would love to play the drums (yes. really.) and I dream of publishing a book of my writings someday. OK, Dawn. Whoever and wherever you are; You had me at “Hello”.

I immediately called my mom to inquire about the day of my birth. Is it possible that I might actually have a twin sister somewhere out there that someone just forgot to mention…? I told my mom that somehow, somewhere; I would meet this obviouslywonderful, amazing, All-American” blogger… named Dawn.

f4eee-lazydaysmainpicsmSeveral weeks later, I got an email request to participate in a group blogpost “Lazy Days and BBQ’s” from another blogger that I had never met. I was invited to come in as the resident “expert” (teehee!) on entertaining/table settings. That bloggers name?  Yep.  It was Dawn. Don’t believe in fate? Fair enough. Read on.

In the world of blogging, one of the really fun things is getting to “meet” people online that live hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away. I was excited to know where I was headed if I wanted to meet this new friend of mine at some point. As it ends up, this get together wasn’t going to cost much in the way of travel miles.  Dawn lives less than five miles from my house…!! Ha! But wait! There’s more. Our daughters share the same first name. Our sons share the same middle name.  And her son’s first name is what we were going to name our daughter when we thought she was a boy! Ha! And it just continues on and on from there.  Some of our extended family similarities would blow your mind…   

dawn cathy BlogHerSo we eventually met at a Starbucks to discuss the details of our “group blog”. Soon after, we decided to go to a “Blogging Conference” together in Chicago. The conference took place in July, and although we had only known each other for a couple of months, everyone thought we had been friends forever. Many even thought we were related! Too funny! One year later; we are great friends! We have lunch, we go on “double dates” with the hubbies, we share stories and problems and challenges, and we talk and text more than we probably should. We both love photography, food, crafting, the beach and have wonderful hubbies. We are a lot alike, but at the same time very different. Almost like the “yin and the yang” of the same person!

friends cartoon B&WSo off we go...  Heading to Salt Lake City this week for another blogging conference. SNAP! (Talked about this conference in a recent blog called “creative thinking“) Both Dawn and I are really looking forward to going. It looks like a GREAT group of bloggers that will be there!! Our “peeps”!! Last year we (somehow) ended up taking matching Martha Stewart turquoise leather notebooks. Not kidding. This year??  I’m thinking maybe matching “Hello Kitty” lunch boxes…

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So without further adieu; my friend, Dawn…  “Although I consider myself ordinary, I’ve always believed I was meant to do and experience great things. We all are because we were created. I sometimes overlook the simple abundance and possibilities which surround me because I get caught up in the treadmill of life. My intention for creating this blog is to find the joy in the everyday.  Joy is something you feel from within and makes your heart smile. Outward circumstances can’t affect it unlike happiness. I hope you find joy from within and follow your passions.” 

Please hop over and check her out at Joyful Scribblings

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