Quiet Moments for Introspection

Sometimes in our incredibly busy lives we must find ways to carve out time for introspection. Without these quiet moments to reflect and assess, how can we expect to achieve personal growth. While many will argue about how life changing technology has been for us as a society, it has also made it more difficult for us to feel comfortable with solitude.

Being more mindful, acknowledging our weaknesses, and giving ourselves permission to learn from our missteps, starts with a willingness to love ourselves. Most of us, as women, are incredibly hard on ourselves. We scrutinize, nit pick, and harp on ourselves, when we really should appreciate, own, and celebrate our strengths. Love yourself for who you are.

love yourself

When you look in the mirror, be proud of the woman staring back at you. Smile, pat yourself on the back, and remind yourself that, “you’ve got this!” Too often we undervalue our talents, strengths, and abilities. Embrace them wholeheartedly! I’ll borrow powerful words from a powerful woman who has inspired many with her beautiful prose. As per Maya Angelou, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”

Fixating on our flaws, dwelling on the negative, and wallowing in self-pity rarely propels us forward. Our happiness comes from our own desire to persevere through the difficult times, high five ourselves when we overcome adversity, and offer gratitude for the beautiful moments that touch our lives. We are the author’s of our own story. Appreciate the importance of the pencil as you write, it allows you the opportunity to revise, edit, erase, and rewrite the negative parts of your story; infusing your rewrite with radiance, light, and positivity.

make it

We only have one chance at this life we live. Dream big, love fiercely, sprinkle in spontaneity, and celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to let your hair down, ruffle some feathers every now and then, and give yourself permission to go off script from time to time. While structure and regimentation often play a critical role in overall success, we have to appreciate and even laugh at the flawed parts of ourselves that make us who we are. Find time to let go sometimes and take life as it comes!

dance in the rain

When we allow ourselves quiet moments in our busy lives to pause even for the briefest moments, we open our hearts and minds to personal insight, reflection, and honesty. There are countless ways to find solace in our solitude whether through prayer, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, or quiet contemplation. Slow down and hit the pause button from time to time. You just might surprise yourself with what you discover!

every day

Be your best self and know that every day is a new opportunity for self-improvement, self-love, and self-acceptance.

 

A Comfort Food Concoction

Most Saturday mornings, the boys and I venture out to our neighborhood H-E-B for my weekly grocery run. Oftentimes, Liam is still in his pajamas and the boys enjoy breakfast in the shopping cart as I peruse the aisles stocking up on the essentials and the more wildcard items that end up on my weekend menu. The two of them indulge in fresh donuts with sprinkles or flaky blueberry muffins sprinkled with sugar. The trip probably takes longer than it should as I pause at almost every aisle to break off a piece of the muffin and hand it to Atticus. There are a lot of, “Oooo’s and mmmmm’s!” Two of Atticus’s most favorite phrases when enjoying good food. The easy exchange and back and forth banter between the three of us, makes the weekly grocery trip something I look forward to. The ease and simplicity of it makes grocery shopping seem like anything but a chore.

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This particular weekend, I was inspired by a sale on sausage at H-E-B. At two for $5, I added a pound of Italian and sage sausage to my cart. As I continued to shop, I happened upon their frozen Central Market demi baguettes. I usually like to keep these on hand for when I need them in a pinch to accompany a fresh pasta dish or pot of soup. This weekend, however, they became the brainchild for dinner. I consulted Pinterest for some ideas and found the perfect recipe for all of the ingredients I had on hand. With the help of yellowblissroad.com, I adapted the homemade Italian sausage meatballs to create a comfort food concoction that proved to be an ideal marriage of savory, spicy, and flavorful in each and every bite.

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So without further ado, I present to you marina meatball subs paired with Italian roasted potatoes. Buon appetito!

MEATBALL SUBS

Ingredients:

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  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a skillet on medium high heat, sauté the onions until translucent. Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, Parmesan cheese, and onions. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty as you mix all of the ingredients together. Be mindful that over mixing can lead to tough meatballs.

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Divide the meat mixture into 24 equal sized meatballs and place on the foil lined baking sheet.

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Bake for about 20 minutes. A good indicator that they are ready is when they no longer look pink.

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I made these on a Sunday afternoon and then added them to a pot with jarred tomato and basil to reheat them for dinner. I used demi baguettes as the base for my meatballs subs, but ciabatta bread would also be a great option. Spoon the meatballs and sauce onto your bread and top with grated mozzarella cheese.

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ITALIAN ROASTED POTATOES

Baby potatoes would be better suited for this dish, but I already had fresh Russet potatoes on hand so I opted for those instead. I sliced them all about the same size so that they would could more evenly. If you used baby potatoes, it would be best to cut them in half. This recipe was adapted from rasamalaysia.com. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound potatoes, cut evenly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 dashes of paprika depending on your preference for heat
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean and rinse the potatoes before cutting.

In a cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until the potatoes begin to get crispy. Continue stirring to allow them to brown. Push the potatoes to one side and sauté the garlic. Then add the Italian seasoning, salt, and paprika. Combine well. Turn off the burner and sprinkle the grated cheese atop the potatoes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the butter cubes to the top of the dish upon removal from the oven and allow the butter to melt into the crevices. Serve immediately for the best flavor outcome!

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My Dynamic Duo

From playgrounds to playtime and everything in between, the brotherly bond between my Golden Bear and Baby Bear continues to grow and melts my heart at every turn. I know it won’t always be this simple. When Atticus is more verbal or when Liam decides his little brother is too much of a baby to spend time with. The natural ebb and flow of sibling rivalry and banter will slowly trickle in and this Mama Bear will be praying for more patience and guidance to get them all happily through it.

Until then, I will continue to float on the beauty of these little moments- little exchanges between little people who love each other dearly. It comes in so many different forms- a sincere and heartfelt hug initiated by Liam as he wraps his brother in his arms in an embrace. The giggles and coos that reverberate around Atticus like a halo as he finds humor in all of the big boy things his older brother does. My cup runneth over as I stand idly by witnessing such heartfelt moments between a big brother and his baby brother.

Lost in each others company, they play together lovingly- stacking colorful blocks one on top of the other or pushing matchbox cars around an imaginary track on the carpet. Each in awe and wonder of the other. Liam fascinated by all of the things his brother can now do- walking, playing, laughing, and discovering. Atticus intrigued by all of the things he can only dream of doing one day- zip lining across the playground, rock climbing high above his head, or racing across the sidewalk faster than lightning.

As a mother, I absolutely love seeing the two of them leaning on one another and growing as brothers. There is something truly beautiful to see as an outside observer. My two sweet boys may you always look out for one another, want the best for each other, and demonstrate love and support every step of the way. When you find yourself frustrated or angered by your sibling, may you search deeper and let your bond and love outshine the conflict. I will always be here to lend an ear, help you make amends, and guide you back into one another’s good graces. My little dynamic duo, together you will always be stronger, happier, and more alive when you are in it together.

The Magic of a Good Book

From a very young age, I can remember how much I looked forward to bedtime stories with my mom. From fairytales to fictional fantasies and everything in between, my love for reading quickly developed. By the time I could read independently, I could often be found lost in a good book curled up somewhere in my bedroom.

Growing up, my mother modeled a love for reading. Her favorite place to read was in a comfortable swivel chair next to our large front window in the living room. The perfect nook haloed by natural light eventually turned into one of my favorite places for page turning fun too. Weekends, afternoons after school, and summers often involved bike rides to the neighborhood library where I eagerly checked out every Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Babysitters Club, or Boxcar Children’s book I could get my hands on. Then I sped back to my house as fast as my little legs would carry me so that I could open my new book and let the reading adventure unfold.

In the course of my life, I can think of only a handful of times I was too busy for reading. My tenure in graduate school required a lot of reading, but I can honestly say it was rarely the kind of reading I would typify as pleasure reading. With the exception of graduate school, reading for pleasure has been one of my favorite leisure pursuits.

For the longest time, I loved reading paperback books. There truly is something so satisfying in the tactile parts of reading: running your hands across the smooth cover, opening the book and letting it rest between your hands or on its spine in your lap, and turning the pages over and over as you lose yourself in the riveting plot line. Additionally, I loved being able to share in the highs and lows of the storylines with my closest friends when I passed one of my favorites along to them.

Today though, more out of convenience than anything else, my page turning now requires finger swiping across my phone screen. The Kindle app on my iPhone and a subscription to Prime reading, guarantees that no matter where I am, a book is never more than a few finger taps away. If I find myself with idle time, I simply take my phone out and enjoy one of my favorite pastimes as I wait in line at the grocery store or in an airport waiting for my flight to board. It also makes reading at night with the lights off incredibly easy, which often leads to me staying up way past my bedtime. While I often miss the tangible aspects of reading an actual book or having the opportunity to share a book with a friend, I appreciate the ease and accessibility of reading on an electronic device.

The joy of reading is one of the most beautiful gifts my mother passed along to me. A love of reading is something I have passed along to classrooms full of students and now love that my own two children are following suit too. As this school year has progressed, it has been incredibly amazing to watch Liam grow academically. Decoding and applying his knowledge of sight words as he takes in words and signs all around him. I love seeing Atticus delight in turning the pages of his hard books or listening as Liam and I read aloud to him. I hope that they will both find happiness through the adventures they discover in the books they read. Perhaps renowned artist J.K. Rowling puts it best with, “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”

Here’s to reading for pleasure in your favorite nook with a delightful cup of coffee and getting lost in the magic that unfolds with the turn of every page!

 

 

“Break” is a Relative Term

For those of you who know me well, I very rarely slow down. Whether I’m running, working, or being a Mama Bear, I am a busy bee buzzing from one flower to the next. So naturally when Spring Break rolled around, the word “break” proved to be a relative term. Yes, I did enjoy a much needed break from work however I found many other projects, activities, and outings to keep me busy from the very beginning of the break to the very end.

The break kicked into gear on Monday morning with Liam and I hustling around the greater Houston area for plants. With our multiple freezes and snow days this winter, my potted plants bit the dust despite repeated efforts to cover them from the cold temperatures. We perused Target, Wal-Mart, H-E-B, Lowe’s, and Ikea for a multitude of different plants. Later in the week, I planted and rearranged our outdoor living space. My favorite takeaway from this project was repurposing Liam’s sandbox into an herb and vegetable garden.

My mom drove in midday on Monday, so the two of us enjoyed some much needed mother- daughter time shopping, eating out, and catching up. Liam and Sean ventured out on Tuesday afternoon for a father-son snowboarding trip in Colorado. Between the shopping and late night conversations with my mom, Atticus enjoyed quality time with his DeeDee (my mom’s grandma name) and also enjoyed walking just about everywhere his little legs would take him.

After my mom headed back to the Valley on Thursday morning, I enjoyed some extremely long lunches catching up with good friends. The food was great but naturally the quality time in good company was even better. In the afternoons, Atticus and I enjoyed some quality time exploring the neighborhood playgrounds, and I also mixed in a little work by reorganizing my closet. Purging and donating several bags worth of clothing to Goodwill proved to be cathartic. With some of my new finds from my shopping excursions with my mom, it also felt good to make room for the new and pass on some of my clothes for someone else to enjoy.

While at lunch on Friday with my friend Anna, she convinced me to run the 5K at the Bayou City Classic if I could find a babysitter. Thankfully, one of my go-to babysitters who works at Atticus’s daycare was willing to babysit starting at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Exactly a month out from my Steps for Students win, I toed the line again with a goal of improving my 18:40 time. I was incredibly happy to better my time by 20 seconds and cinch the overall female win. The icing on the cake was catching up with my favorite Bayou City Road Runners and savoring my victory with an amazing iced coffee compliments of Katz coffee. I rounded out a wonderful day catching up with a dear friend of mine and enjoying a glass of wine and a charcuterie plate of amazing olives, cheeses, and prosciutto.

As if I didn’t squeeze enough into my “break”, I also devoured another great psychological thriller (Trespassing by Brandi Reeds). An absolute page turner I stayed up way past my bedtime reading on multiple occasions because I was desperate to see how the book ended.  I also made time to cook because it always brings me so much joy. One of my favorite dishes from the week included a savory white chicken chili with white beans, white corn, and fire roasted tomatoes and a fresh batch of homemade cornbread.

All in all, my Spring Break was anything but a break but proved to offer bountiful opportunities to enjoy some of my favorite past times, catch up with some of my favorite people, organize and declutter, and feel productive and proud of my accomplishments. With a few hours remaining of break, I plan to enjoy a glass of wine with my husband, try a new creamy chicken soup recipe for dinner, bond with my boys, and sneak in a little quiet time reading a new book. For me, the word “break” truly is a relative term!

An Honest Look at Marriage

Today marks our two year wedding anniversary. While there are a wealth of amazing memories that I could easily reflect on, today’s post will highlight the more real moments of marriage. For those of you in a long term relationship or marriage with your significant other, you know as well as I do that co-habitating and/or co-parenting with your partner is anything but a cake walk.

From the “I do’s” to the to-do’s, marriage is an ever-changing journey that challenges, tests, and illuminates our greatest strengths and weaknesses. After the mystique and beauty of the honeymoon, real life settles in and the less than ideal characteristics of our partners and ourselves, for that matter, start to show their true colors. Balancing a career, children, personal interests, and caring for a marriage, requires deliberate effort, calculated patience, and unconditional love.

Laundry, grocery shopping, yard work, general housekeeping, cooking, and all of the other components of managing a house can create tension if one partner feels like they are carrying more weight than the other. Our little people have big needs that require constant supervision and attention. Bills, unexpected expenses, and so many other details can cloud our perspective and keep us from taking in the beautiful moments that happen in the midst of all of this.

Marriage is difficult. It takes work that requires frequent introspection, a willingness to compromise, and a desire to honor your commitments to your partnership without exception. Through it all, we have to find ways to look beyond the hard times and reflect on the foundations that built our love story. Carry their love in your heart always. Cherish their help and honor them with gratitude and appreciation. Never stop believing in the person you promised your life too.

Today and every day is an opportunity to grow in love with your husband or wife. Let bygones be bygones and let true love shine through. Life is too short to let resentment take hold of our marriage. Each new day offers us a chance to reconnect, restore, and rebuild any foundational issues our marriage may be enduring. An open mind and an open heart are an integral part of a strong partnership. Live each day in love and let the little things go. In the end, they really aren’t worth our time.

Here’s to loving our other half with our whole hearts. Here’s to putting our best foot forward to be the best wife, mother, partner, and friend we can be. Here’s to saying, “yes,” even when we’d rather say, “no!” Here’s to loving deeply and forgiving often. Here’s to the beautifully chaotic love story that is marriage.

wedding day

Marriage is about becoming a team. You’re going to spend the rest of your life learning about each other, and every now and then, things blow up. But the beauty of marriage is that if you picked the right person and you both love each other, you’ll always figure out a way to get through it. – Nicholas Sparks

The Beauty in Imperfections

Parenting is an intricate tapestry tied together with delicate stitches of many varying colors. As parents, we are called to guide our children to be their best selves. This task is one we do not take lightly. It requires infinite amounts of patience, immeasurable amounts of love, and unwavering support every step of the way.

Even with all of these tools in our back pocket, sometimes our children will misstep. These moments will test our wills and make us question our parenting abilities. For mothers in particular, this can prove to be a deeply personal struggle. The internal monologue in our heads can ring loud and often make us feel like we’re somehow letting our children down by not serving as a better model along the way.

But just like us, our children are human. Like us, they make mistakes of varying degrees each and every day. For our children, the takeaway at the end of the misstep is the most important part of the journey. An integral part of their personal growth comes from recognizing and accepting the error they made. With acceptance, they can put their best foot forward to make a more positive choice when they find themselves in a similar situation. Children, however, are not always quick learners. Their innate curiosity may guide them to push boundaries and test limits to see if the outcome or consequence will change.

Through it all, our role as parents should never waiver. We are there to love, support, model, and guide our children every step of the way. When they fail, we pick them up, dust them off, sprinkle in words of wisdom, and send them back out into the world to do it all over again.

Remember, Mama Bears, parenthood is a calling that comes with immense power and infinitesimal amounts of responsibility. There is no manual to consult for the answers to our lingering questions about raising amazing children. We can only ever take it one-day-at-a-time. Love fiercely, support deeply, and accept our own faults as parents. We are not perfect parents so we cannot expect to have perfect children. And if we look closely enough we will recognize how much beauty truly lies in life’s imperfections!