Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Starbucks Holiday Drink Tasting!

A couple of weekends ago, Starbucks offered a Buy One Get One Free from 2-5pm on their holiday drinks!
Not one to pass something like this up, you could say I took advantage of the offer!

Spending the weekend with my cousin always spurs creative energy and fun activity.
We decided that we four adults would like to try a large portion of Starbucks Holiday Drink Menu!
So, with a few dollars in our pocket we were off and ordered the following:
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Gingerbread Latte
Caramel Brule Latte
Caramel Apple Spice Cider
Peppermint Mocha
White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha

Starbucks hooked us up with 6 smaller cups for our tasting party and my hus, the dispenser, figured out a creative way to pour us each our blind taste
(which of course were rinsed out between tastes to avoid tastebud confusion!)
The rules were simple:
1. Guess what you were drinking
2. Rate what you were drinking

The Taste Test Recorder (Tracy) developed a highly fanciful spreadsheet to accurately track our data for our official "Best & Worst" Poll!

So if you can't read the spreadsheet, these are the very official results :)
#1: Caramel Spiced Cider
#2: Peppermint Mocha
#3: White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha
#4: Caramel Brule Latte
#5: Pumpkin Spice Latte
#6: Gingerbread Latte

My personal favorite coffee drink that I would consider a "daily drinker" would be the Caramel Brule Latte but the yummiest Christmas inducing treat was the White Chocolate Peppermint Mocha/Peppermint Mocha options (just a little too sweet to drink an entire cup of!)
In the end, however, my traditional go to is always Apple Cider!

Fun taste testing brought to you by four fabulous adults permanently on the quest for laughs & adventure!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A White Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday and in our home for the first time.
With a few Fall touches set up around the house early in the week,
I actually had time to enjoy a piece of a season that generally flies by.
My plan this year started with white and kraft paper and shaped itself from there thanks to a few borrowed pieces from my cousin and a husband who let me spend the night shaping the table as my mood struck.
This was the end result:
The table cost me a total of $20 in new purchases:
Tablecloth: $10
White Pumpkins: $5
White roll of paper: $2
Place Tags: $3
My favorite piece ended up being my make-shift white paper table runner!
With the Martha Stewart Lace paper punch, I took a standard white roll of paper typically used for children's art and punched away until it fit the length of the table.
The natural look of the table ended up feeling relaxed yet special.
Exactly what I wanted.
While the wine cork place card holders didn't seem appropriate for the kiddos;) clothespins worked & kept the look cohesive.
With a few nuts in a glass container & some crayons, the munchkins were good to go at their own table!
With the loving words of my husband,
"Thank you for making this so special. Things like this are easy to just let go by. I'm thankful you did this,"
It was worth it and so fun!

To my honey,
Thank you for encouraging me to do what I needed to make Thanksgiving special and loving through my "too much to do" spasms! ;)
You make my world right.
I love you.

*please do not use any photos without permission & appropriate credits.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who do you do it for?

In everything you do, there is always someone you are doing it for.
It can be you, God, your spouse, your child(ren), your in-laws, your parents, your friends but regardless of your answer it is for someone.

This year I will host my first Thanksgiving in our first home.
That in itself is something to be incredibly thankful for.
While my immediate family will be spread out and around the state of California & Oregon, I will welcome my husband's family through our doors.{Beautiful mantle courtesy of my cousin's home}

Months ago I began planning & purchasing the things I would need to set the table, stage the meal, and love on the people that can be with us.
Along the way, I would find my anxiety points and my need to control the outcome:
This will be a sit down meal, this will be at a certain time, Football will not be on until after we eat....
I had to address the question as my anxiety rose:
I actually surprised myself when I realized the answer was:
For weeks I had thought I was doing this for my in-laws.
I was going over the top to make it special because I wanted love on them with the details because that is how my family loves but when I looked closer I saw the heart of it:

Thanksgiving is a time for family.
It is a time for sitting around a table that has no distractions other than loved ones & deliciousness, it is meant to be special and special to me means personal, pretty & planned.

So, this Thanksgiving in our home, I'll be attempting the three P's that make it special for me & to me and hope that those who come to share this day of thanks with us feel loved and special the way I truly hope they will.

What makes it special to you?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anywhere But Near

{a slice of fiction}
She sat across the table from him lost in thought. Her head was slightly tilted as she played with the shape of her wrist and spoke, "There's something about me that I can't figure out. I always want to be somewhere else. It's a need, a craving."

He looked at her as he always did, with love and patience and he asked, "Why?"

"I don't know," she said, "Maybe it's because home was always a relative term or maybe it's how God made me. I want that place to come back to but if I don't leave frequently I feel like I'll die."

She crawled inside her heart and dug around shuffling the dusty travel itineraries stuck in scrapbooks with receipts from ristorante's she ate at alone and photos she took with people that were just a train stop on her journey. They felt good as she pulled up each one: Australia's Kangaroo Island and the smell of Eucalyptus lapsed into the taste of fresh yogurt in New Zealand and the sound of a good rugby match. The shine and bump of cobblestone under her feet tingled her memory of Norway and the taste of waffles & fresh water as she drifted in a fjord on her way to London's churches and china stores. Italy came and stayed awhile as she inhaled a cigarette, drank red wine, & bought her daily mele on the way to school. The taste she swore she'd never know sat on her tongue as the memories of Greece came to play and took her all the way to Peru where dirt stuck in her fingernails & laughs echo through Macchu Pichu. Her heart was pounding and she realized, she was addicted to the rush and she began to cry.

"I just can't breathe here. The world is out there waiting to teach me more about who I am. It is wanting me to remember how strong I am, how beautiful life really is and what it's all about."

Her whispers came in echoes as he reached a hand out to hers and spoke, "I'm listening."

"Whenever I leave a place in life, I can't go back. It's as if I look back and all I can see is how ugly I was, how much better I could have been. When I'm on an adventure, it's not like that. What I see is how strong I am, how blessed I am. That's what traveling gives me, a place I want to go back to because I see the good about me. I tackle fear, I do the impossible, and I succeed. That doesn't happen for me anywhere else but out there. I need to go out there. I need to go with you," she begged with a quietly explosive passion.

And as only he could, he said, "I love you," and it opened to door to the abyss of forever.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Finding Alice in the Rabbit Hole

I've been asking myself something a lot lately-- "where have I been?"Today as I drove home through the canyon that my son and I point out the bell peppers, count the watering holes, and race the train on certain afternoons I realized, six months ago I made a decision that robbed me (hopefully temporarily) of my ability to be inside my own head.

It was like lightning struck and all of a sudden my life was on rewind and then fast forward connecting the dots.

This year has produced a lot of "new" in my life. New I have wanted and new I haven't. It's been something taken from me, a dream I gave up, a goal accomplished, a double edged sword that appeared to be gift & blessing, goodbyes & hello's. It has all catapulted me into a personal divide so restricting & confining that I had forgotten any thing that I loved in life.

My self has truly been duking it out in the last 6 months. I have spent nights crying & journaling pages of "how do I be the new me in a place that makes me want to live like the old me" & I have really, really struggled.

I forgot how to craft, how to write--I forgot the things that made me feel good and allowed me to breathe.

I realize there are tough patches in life and I am thankful that I was able to come to a point where I was able to admit- humpty dumpty fell, the queen of hearts turned bitter, the mad hatter is running himself in circles, & Alice is lost.

Everyone needs help getting out of life's rabbit holes and I'm finally emerging from this epic fall from grace. It ultimately comes down to me and learning to give myself grace (which I'm not good at), not expecting perfection (I just don't seem to get that one), ceasing to compare my life to others (talk about a battle!), & setting out to live the priorities I verbalize- Faith First, Family second, & all else proceeding after.

In a season of thanks, I'm thankful for new beginnings, forgiveness of myself, my husband's patience & undying encouragement, the friends who have been there to listen to me, the family that has been helping me fight this dark year each in the ways they can, for HOPE.

I found Alice in the Rabbit hole. She's coming back now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Matters of the Heart

Having a heart has to be one of the easiest things to achieve in life. So easy, that perhaps it's not achieved at all--we are born with it. Perhaps the most difficult thing is that it's not about having a heart that is difficult--it's protecting it.
We each are born in purity, innocence, and grace. Along the road, those things slip away. We find ourselves discovering that our parents are fallible, we discover adults do not know everything, we meet our first love thinking it's our last then find our true love realizing it's our first, we lose friends, we get betrayed, & we get lost. In all that bad, there's the good: there's the parent that loved you all along, the parent who comes back, the one good man left in the world manages to find you, you find the friend that speaks what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear, you realize that blood really is thicker than water. Life seemingly appears to be one giant bell curve of battle from run-over to restored.We are all fighters and we are all fighting for the same things: acceptance, love & respect.

Today I am overwhelmed with our fragility & God's amazing grace. He continues to send forth love to refurbish this heart that often runs down so far past empty. In a season of THANKS I am thankful for this!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My First Vacation

I'm back from Puerto Vallarta and I do in fact feel like a new me.
I have been very blessed in life to travel a lot.
One of my secret ambitions in life was to become a travel writer.
I love exploring, diving into new cultures, learning who I am somewhere else.
I believe there is a lot to be said for pushing your comfort zone, trying to speak another language wherever you are, & seeing the world from another point of view.
Sometimes, the longer we stand in one place, the less we are able to see the beauty of what we have. Other times, the opportunity to step out gives us the appreciation and respect we need to keep going.
For all of these reasons, I love to travel.
On this particular excursion to Mexico, I learned the difference between trip & vacation.
Trip: To explore, to be on a schedule, to set out to not miss a thing.
Vacation: To rest, to abandon schedule, to realize there is nothing to miss.

When I travel, I "trip". I study, I learn, I take photos, I run, I go-go-go.
Quite frankly, I love doing it.
I was raised in a family of "trip-ers" (ya hear me right, Trace?!)
It's hard to undo that innate desire to soak it all in.
However, here I was in desperate need of a place rest and recharge.

This has been a really tough year for me.
I feel like I have lost a lot in the midst of a lot of accomplishment.
My heart has felt heavy & my spirit has been unbearably cracked and some days broken.
I found I lost my joy.

So--Mexico was a serious count down for me.
It was what was helping me survive:
7 nights & 8 days with our best friends, no munchkin, & no plans.
If you asked me how Mexico was, this is what I'll say:
It was perfect! We did nothing in particular which was everything I wanted to do!

I remembered what it meant to sleep, how to read a book, & how to STOP.
The first two days were hard for me to sit still but with a few mimosas, some good playlists, a journal, & a book...I figured it out.

My first vacation.
It kicked @$$