Savoring Julia Child’s…

Beef Bourguignon

For the past several years, once January arrives, I set aside a day to prepare this flavorful dish. I love to cook and not afraid to try new recipes, so after watching the film Julie, Julia I was intrigued by the challenge.  It is a hearty stew perfect for cold winter evenings and is well worth the time and effort.

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The recipe I follow provides a generous amount, so I freeze the leftovers in smaller portions and we are able to enjoy this treat for weeks to come.  I wish I could take photos of food and make it look appetizing, so please know I really did try.

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The stew simmers in the oven for about 3 hours. Then you have to carefully remove the liquid and boil it down for about 40 minutes. (Look how rich and delicious it looks!) Once this step is complete you are left with a silky broth to pour back into the stew. Placing it in the refrigerator to sit until the next evening makes it taste even better.

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I would like to say I baked this bread, but I could never get the hang of the step which required dissolving the yeast in any of the recipes I have tried.  Also, the loaves I bake lack flavor (probably because of the yeast step), so this loaf is store-bought.

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There are many ways to serve the beef bourguignon – over noodles, with mashed potatoes or maybe a side vegetable ~ anything that suits your fancy.  M. wanted to try it with noodles and this is all we had in the pantry.  In my opinion, these noodles were not a positive addition; the sauce fell through the noodles instead of around the beef.  I will not serve it this way next time. I like to keep it simple and serve it with warm, crusty bread, maybe a small salad, and of course, wine.

I am hoping Julia would approve!

Savoring the Emerald Coast

M. and I decided to spend Thanksgiving at the beach.  All of our children either had plans to spend the holiday with in-laws or were unable to travel home, so we decided to spend it with my siblings and their spouses along the beautiful Emerald Coast of Florida.

We were lucky enough to snag a deal in our favorite condo complex right on the beach for less than $100 a night so any apprehension we were feeling quickly became a no-brainer.

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We enjoyed beautiful sunsets from our balcony, fresh seafood in local restaurants and some lively card games with my siblings.

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We explored nearby areas such as Grayton Beach, Seaside, and Rosemary Beach all located within a few miles of each other.

Grayton Beach seemed to be laid back and had an eclectic kind of hippie feel.  We weren’t sure where to go, but stumbled across this cute little village (Shops of Grayton) and took a quick walk around.  We stopped in Twin Oaks Farm Stand (the blue building below) and would definitely revisit.  It was a very small restaurant and store with an assortment of jams, jellies, brines, beef and chicken stock, eggs, and an array of healthy food choices to enjoy a quick breakfast or lunch.
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We drove along scenic highway 30A and stopped at the bustling, although charming, upscale town of Seaside. This area was VERY crowded.  People were everywhere in spite of what it looks like in the photos I took!  They had a few gourmet food trucks (actually vintage Airstream trailers) from which mouth-watering aromas ascended in the air, unique $hops, and cute little water stations for your canine companions.

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After a leisurely stroll around, it was back in the car and we drove toward Rosemary Beach.  Unfortunately, I did not take any photos of this lovely town since we decided not stop.  There had been a Thanksgiving 10K run that morning and parking was not to be found.  I managed to locate some photos on Google that reflect what we were able to see.

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Rosemary Beach presented a similar upscale resort atmosphere as Seaside.  There are shops and restaurants in an area of old world charm which included cobblestone streets and gas lamps.  Many of the homes, either directly on the beach or within walking access, ranged in size from cute and cozy to quite large and gorgeou$.

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I have visited the panhandle of Florida almost all of my life, but had never ventured into any of these towns.  Exploring these areas was a nice surprise, a pleasant way to spend some time, and a possible destination idea for a future visit.

Kindness Rocks

Rocks have always had a special place in my heart and I have always been fascinated by the various textures and shapes.  Granted (no pun intended – granite – granted get it?) anyway…the ones I am mostly referring to are the ones painted by nature. Sometimes the beautiful color or the luster of the minerals made me happy so I kept it. I would often pick up a rock as a token or souvenir to remember a special location or vacation. Kind of like finding a shell on the beach and taking it home.  One very special rock is the one I found on a day I was terribly missing my mom not long after she passed away.  My heart was heavy and I really wanted to talk to her, to touch her and to be in her presence.  As I walked along in my grief, I noticed a heart-shaped rock lying on the ground beneath my feet.  Picking it up and gazing at the heart shape I noticed tiny sparkles of mica that caught the sunlight.  This simple rock gave me comfort, joy, and a connection to who I was missing at that moment.  I still have that rock.

Have you heard of the Kindness Rocks Project? I had not heard of this until I found two rocks in a period of two weeks in two different states!

 

On the back of each rock is a hashtag sign and the name of a city with the word “rocks” printed. For example, printed on back of one of these rocks was #WNC rocks.  After finding the second rock, I decided to look on the internet for anything that could explain what this meant.  I was surprised to learn this fad (for lack of a better way to say it) can be found all over the United States. It is called the Kindness Rocks Project.

The Kindness Rock Project was created to spread inspiration and a moment of kindness for unsuspecting recipients through random inspirational rocks dropped along the way.  Created by life coach Megan Murphy in hopes of sparking joy in people’s everyday lives.”

I found the Cat in the Hat rock on a bench outside a grocery store when we were at the beach in Florida during Thanksgiving.  After my internet research I learned you are supposed to take a photo and post it on Facebook.  So I did! The painter of the rock and I exchanged pleasantries and she was so pleased I had found it.  I have since hidden it here in my hometown.  The pretty snowflake rock was found by M. in Sylva, North Carolina when we stopped there for lunch on our way to Asheville one weekend before Christmas. Not only did the rock come with a cute penguin, but an additional surprise was taped behind the rock ~ a tiny pair of gold hooped earrings!  We decided to leave it hidden where we found it for some other lucky finder.

If you find a special rock painted by nature or painted by humans, I hope it brings you a feeling of joy, surprise, or a connection….even if that connection is to an unknown stranger who is trying to bring a smile and brighten someone else’s day.

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Be the “I showed up” person in the lives of others. Such a thought provoking post to start the new year.

Red's Wrap

My friend’s mother was dying in her living room. I knew that but I didn’t.

She’d told me her mother was terminally ill but it never really sank in. Oh, that’s why you brought her across the country and set up a hospital bed in your living room. I get it now.

My friend told me this on a long walk with our dogs. No one asks how I am doing, she said. No one visits. No one ever brings food for us.

So that night I made a pot roast with potatoes and carrots and onions and I took it to my friend’s door. You’re the only person who brought us dinner, she said A few days later, her mother died.

At work, a colleague’s wife faced a new wave of cancer. He sat in my office and complained that every night they went out to dinner. It was expensive…

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Fall on Your Knees

Humbling moments seem to be a part of life.  Some range from a simple embarrassment such as smiling and talking to someone only to realize later you had a poppy seed stuck between your front teeth.  Others can become a life changing circumstance such as in personal and professional relationships.

When you are faced with a humbling situation over which you have no control but to recognize that you are at the mercy of God, is the time in which prayer becomes especially real and tangible.

There was a time in my life when I realized a situation I was facing in regards to helping one of my sons needed the hand of God.

I had reached a point where I had to accept I had done everything I could and I needed a power greater than myself to intercede. I clearly remember the night I “fell to my knees”.  As I prayed about the pain, I was able to recognize that God required me to fully place this situation and my biggest fears into His hands.

It took time, a couple of years, but I emerged humbled and filled with gratitude for I knew God had heard my prayers and averted the unspeakable outcomes I had feared.  I can now thank God for the humbling experience, knowing that it brought me closer to Him.

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It helps to remember the child born in Bethlehem was born in a humble stable among animals. His mother was a young girl who surrendered her will to God — and His stepfather a carpenter who obeyed God’s messages in dreams. That child grew up to preach, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  That’s a tough saying in a world that celebrates power and money.  Not to mention the egos of Hollywood stars and politicians.

There are an abundance of TV shows, movies, books, and songs with holiday season themes, and some actually hit the mark on the real reason for celebrating this season. The Grinch is humbled when he states, “It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

A particularly humbling TV show is one of my annual favorites “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charles Schultz and the whole Peanuts gang had the courage to put the true meaning of Christmas in this seasonal classic. My favorite scene, which always chokes me up, is where Linus recites the true meaning of Christmas to a frustrated Charlie Brown.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”    “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

During this sacred season, I will continue to fall on my knees in praise and thanksgiving as I remain watchful for the humbling moments in my life.  Merry Christmas!

 

Life Songs

My reply would be that I still think they are wonderful,” stated Irving Berlin in regards to the many songs he had written that didn’t become hits.

You may recall Berlin composed songs such as God Bless America, Blue Skies, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, and White Christmas. An article in 2001 Time magazine stated he wrote over 1,000 songs with 25 reaching the number one spot on the pop charts throughout his career.

His comment got me to thinking and I realize that every day I am composing my own “life” songs.

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Over the years, I have noticed when I try to compose the melody or write the lyric all by myself the result often sounds like a bunch of noise.  No matter how many attempts, or the amount of time and tears I invest in a composition, the song is, well, inferior.

It is only when I allow my Heavenly Father, with His skillful hands and ears, to help me that I begin to notice how rhythmic and harmonious the sounds become.

Like music that becomes beautiful in the hands of a master, so do our lives in the hands of our Heavenly Father.  When the Lord composes our lives, then our lives will become a beautiful song, melodious to the people who hear it, including God Himself.

Although our “life” songs may not always reach the #1 top tune, even among those who love us the most, it is important to remember that God loves the entire collection of our “life” songs.  From the top hits to the ones that did not make anyone’s playlist, I’m betting He “still thinks they are wonderful.”

If Irving Berlin felt that way about his songs, imagine how our Heavenly Father must feel about us ~ the “songs” He created.

Jeremiah 31:3: “…I have loved you with an everlasting love,”

Getting Older ~ Getting Better

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks!

Turning sixty almost two years ago was difficult for me. As I reflect on the time that has past since that milestone birthday, I am ashamed I had such a concern. It feels good to realize I am definitely more accepting and appreciative of the “gift of time” my Heavenly Father has allowed. My daily prayer is that I treasure each and every day I am given.

I found the following passage and it almost perfectly reflects both where I am headed as well as hits a few points I have already reached in my life.  (In spite of much searching, I cannot find the author.)

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    “Old Age, I decided, is a gift.

     The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, he was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question, and I would ponder it, and let him know. 

     I have decided I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body! I sometime despair over my body – the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror, but I don’t agonize over those things for long.

     I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I don’t chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn’t need, but looks so avant-garde on my patio. I am entitled to overeat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

     Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 am, and sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of my youth, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love. I will.

     I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the bikini set. They, too, will get old!

     I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten, and I eventually remember the important things.

     Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

     I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. I can say ‘no’, and mean it. I can say ‘yes’, and mean it.

     As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself anymore. I’ve even earned the right to be wrong.

     So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day.”  – Author Unknown