Friday, November 21, 2014

Orange and Brown and Fall All Over



I'm still not quite believing Thanksgiving is next week. It feels like once that step-child of a holiday is over, it's Christmas everything and the world turns red, green, and white. So before it does, I'm enjoying all things brown and orange. 

Like Apple Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pumpkin Caramel Drizzle. Or those adorable clementines. Or freshly grated nutmeg on egg nog (life changing, really). 

If you are looking for a dessert to bake this holiday season, the Apple Spice Cupcakes pictured above are super easy to make!

Mixture:
2 apples
1 tablespoon flour
1 package of Spice Cake mix

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1 8oz package of soft cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt

*I drizzle Pumpkin Caramel Sauce on top of them


~Just add the chopped peeled apples, that have been tossed in 1 tablespoon of flour, into the prepared Spice Cake mix.
~The frosting is simply whipping together 1/2 cup softened butter and 1 8oz package of softened cream cheese. Slowly mix in three cups of powdered sugar and a 1/2 tsp of sea salt.
~The pumpkin caramel is from Trader Joe’s, and I sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on top to make it pretty, and give it texture.

It's my favorite dessert to bring to parties and gatherings. The apples make it a little unexpected and a lot more flavorful. If you don’t want to arrive at a party empty handed, try out these cupcakes and make sure they're presented with some care. I think the personalized plates from Shutterfly are too adorable to pass up (so much cuter than flimsy paper plates!) They're such a great way to make a simple baked dessert memorable and festive.



Happy Fall, my friends! 


*photos by me


Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Want To Be Nicer



I'm typically a nice person. I have a deeply sarcastic and sassy side, but I generally know how to act appropriate in social situations and I genuinely like people so it's not hard to do. But lately I've noticed I'm not very kind to customer service. I'm not talking about servers at restaurants or the sales associate at Target. I'm referring to the time when I spoke to Kaiser Member Services after being on hold for an hour and transferred three times and he tells me I have the wrong number and no he can't transfer me but call another number, which was the first number I dialed to begin with. Oh boy I lost my patience and let him have it.

Or a few nights ago when I noticed my email address on Orbitz.com was wrong and I called their customer service to fix it and they couldn't. That was frustrating because it meant I couldn't cancel my Thanksgiving flight to California. But was beyond maddening was when the man started talking down to me like I was a five year old. It got to the point where I said, "Sir. Please don't talk to me like I'm an idiot." But then he kept doing it and I just was very curt and mean to him and I still feel bad. 

I still feel bad because he wasn't talking down to me to be mean, but I think it was simply how he communicated and didn't know better. I know better, but I lost my patience and my pride. 

Sometimes I forget just because someone is rude doesn't mean I have to be in return. Mirroring someone's negative actions isn't effective or efficient.

That seems obvious, but I have this fear of being walked over or taken advantage of, especially by corporations who really just want my money. So when things go wrong and I call customer service, I already have this huge chip on my shoulder and project this fear onto them. 

I also have this womanhood complex where I fear people think I'm vapid or dumb because I'm a 31 year old woman at Apple trying to get my iPod fixed and they ask, "Did you try turning it off?" and I tell them in my steely teacher voice, "What do you think?"

Yesterday I had a very frustrating call with Costco's optical department. It was both the situation and the rudeness of the lady I was speaking to that grated on my soul. I know I was rude, and at the time I felt it was justified, but I hung up feeling sick and realized I needed to get my act together and just be nice no matter what.

I should know I'm strong enough and smart enough to not let people take advantage of me, so what's the point in being rude? I can still get what I want in a firm, kind, and patient manner. Even if no one notices but me, I still want to make the world a better place and I can't do that without fearlessness. And, like the sign above, sometimes it takes courage to be kind.



sign by Melina Sweet

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Best People Who Ever Lived




Thank you for your words of encouragement for my mom. One thing that's really stuck out to me about terminal illnesses is hope is a precious commodity. Finding inner strength to go on, despite the slim odds, is perhaps the most heroic thing a person can do. When my step-dad says, "Your mom had a rough night" it breaks my heart because it's not that she didn't sleep well or was uncomfortable, but it means she was in severe pain and/or making distressing trips to the bathroom. And with all the physical distress comes fear so brutally attached to it. 

But talking to her, you would never guess she was sick. She's always had a very matter-of-fact attitude about everything and I know that's where I get my "buck-up, move on" attitude from. Oddly enough, I don't think she's ever guilted or pressured me into thinking that way, I just learned from her example and made it a part of my sub-conscious. 

By the way, this attitude is not appreciated by a husband after he stubs his toe and breaks it. "You can still walk, can't you? Good. Then hurry up because we need to go berry picking."

(I clearly need to learn the part where I don't guilt others into sucking up pain.)

I saw the above quote and it made me grateful for a mom who teaches me not just why to persevere, but how. I know we all have times in our lives when life feels like an uphill battle, but I do take heart I'm in the footsteps of great men and women before me. And there is perhaps a reason for trials and heartache.

Thank you again, everyone. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hope



Despite my mom's cancer cells going down, we found out her tumor has grown three times its size since her last scan. We're devastated. We were sure lower cancer cells meant a smaller tumor. She's scheduled to drive down to Arizona on Monday to another clinic for more treatment. She's having complications and might not be able to go, so please pray for her.

Sometimes I feel silly asking strangers for their prayers, but I believe in prayer and I'm not beyond asking for help, especially for my mom. I believe in miracles even when such notions are mocked and questioned by a lot of my friends. But it's okay. We all have different beliefs. But if you do believe in prayer, or even pray just a little, I ask you say one for my mom.

Thank you for all those who have been with me through all this. Strangers, friends, and kindred spirits, I'm grateful for you all. She's touched by all your concern and I know, if anything, it brings her greater strength knowing there are people out there believing in her.




Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life Lately





~I've been preparing for the Holidays by not being absolutely terrified by pie crusts. To practice, I baked this crostata and it was one of the best desserts I've ever made. I think I'm ready, my friends. I think I'm ready.

~My mom has been transitioning from her treatments in Germany to being at home and things are going well. She's been having a lot of discomfort, but her cancer blood cell levels have dropped significantly. We're waiting for more test results, but we're more hopeful than we ever have been.

~I bought a flight to visit her over Thanksgiving and can you believe Thanksgiving is in two weeks?

~I've decided to go back to yoga. I used to do it religiously, but stopped after breaking my wrist. Honestly, it's not for any good reason at all: I want to streamline my muscles and strengthen my core. I highly doubt Jillian Michaels will give me inner peace.

~I've been foam rolling my muscles to help not be in constant pain all the time. I've also been more vigilant about doing my splits everyday. I really don't want to become one of those ballet teachers who let their bodies stiffen and deteriorate. 

~If you want me to do a post about foam rolling, let me know. I will gladly show you how I scream in pain.

~I saw Interstellar and really liked it. Mr. B hated it because he said the physics was outlandish, but I barely passed physical science in college so it's all the same to me. It was a great story with terrific acting. I catch myself thinking about it from time to time.


How are you guys?
Are you ready for Thanksgiving?
Are we all okay?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Survivors


Each Veteran's Day reminds me there aren't a lot of World War II veterans still living . It also reminds me of the reality of my grandfather's age and how precious time is.

There are questions I have for World War II veterans. There are still stories I want to hear and lives I want to know. My grandfather's memory and brain isn't fully functioning, but I get tidbits here and there. Like how he was a mechanic because his flat feet prevented him from marching. How he learned how to swear from the other servicemen. Names of men he knew, and then said goodbye to.

I wonder what those memories are like now. Does he remember his time serving his country? How often does he think about it?

This post is dedicated to him, and all surviving World War II service men. It won't be long until there are none left.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's Kind of Like Scotland


















Yesterday I told you about my trip to Skyline Drive. When you enter Skyline Drive from the small, adorable town of Front Royal, one of the first stops you can get out to see is a beautiful grove of yellow trees. The photos here can't express the sheer beauty of being surrounded by illuminated gold. It was blankets of yellow all around with the sun sending light flares everywhere.

There were moments when the wind would pick up and suddenly it was snowing thousands of leaves. I ran from tree to tree to try to capture them in my hair and hands. I caught some on video. I danced a little. I leaned against trees and stared. I marveled.


I was so touched when Tabitha said this on yesterday's post:

"Oh it looks so like Scotland, I now know that all of my ancestors who went over hundreds of years ago would have felt at home."

I can imagine all those Highlanders, fleeing from their beautiful home after the Battle of Culloden, coming to America, and feeling very lost. But maybe (maybe) places like this helped them feel comforted and welcomed. 


It absolutely reminds me of Scotland. Especially here. Oh yes.