Jambalaya on the Front Porch

“Feeding someone is . . .for me, it’s a way of showing love, by providing nourishment that comes from my own creativity and craft.” — Susan Wiggs, The Beekeeper’s Ball

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Looking back at the events of last week. . .

If I had to choose one moment that really sticks in my mind, it would be the night I made Jambalaya for dinner and we sat out on the front porch to eat.

My daughter, Tori, had stopped by with her son, Kayden the night before for an overnight visit.  The next day she asked specifically for one of her favorite dishes for dinner.  The smell of the onions and peppers sautéing in butter wafted through the house.  The inclusion of Andouille sausage and chicken together with the spice of the Rotel tomatoes could be noticed as soon as you walked in the house.

Like Susan Wigg’s quote above, cooking for friends and family is one of my love languages.  Everyone needs nourishment and food has a tendency to bring people together.  Spread out on the porch, across the steps, and on the porch swing. . . watching my kiddos talking and laughing while they enjoyed their food, I was very content.

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Jambalaya

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 2 cans chicken broth or 22 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 cans water or 22 oz. water
  • 1- 1/4 cups rice, not the instant or minute rice
  • Creole seasoning to taste

Directions

In a large stockpot, melt butter.  Stir in onions and peppers on medium heat until onion is soft and clear.  Add sausage, chicken,  Creole seasoning, and both cans of tomatoes, stirring until well mixed.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add broth and water, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and add rice, cooking covered for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.  Ladle into bowls and top with shredded Cheddar cheese to serve. **Peeled shrimp may be added with the rice if desired.**

I’m possible (because of you)

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Often I am my own worst enemy.

And you are my best cheerleaders.  My friends, my co-workers, my family — the significant people in my life.  You are the ones who tell me I’m “amazing” or “awesome” or “wonderful” or “fantastic.”

Truth is, I’m not.  I’m “stubborn” and “willful” and “determined” and “tenacious.”

And I am human.

I will be the first one to tell myself any of the following:

  • “I’m too tired.”
  • “I don’t feel like it.”
  • “It’s too (hot/cold/rainy/sunny/cloudy) today.”
  • “It won’t make a difference.”

And then I get up and I do it anyway . . . most of the time.  Because I don’t want to let you guys down.  You’ve given me top billing in the arena of life, and that’s a big reputation to try and maintain.  And if I let you down, then you will know that I am just average.

I try to tell you . . . I’ve said it time and again, “I’m just karen.”  Or not.  I believe I allow my tenacity and stubbornness and your extrinsic motivation to push me to achieve more than I think possible.  If it were all up to me, I’d be stuck where I’ve been told I belong – – nowhere, because I am nobody.  So when the surgeon says I can’t run after a total knee replacement, it’s not just my intrinsic desire to run that pushes me forward because honestly there are days I HATE running.  It’s the belief that you have in me to succeed, to push the limits and to meet my goals, as impossible as they may seem.

Today I was listening to motivational You-Tube videos while I was on the treadmill.  (If you can’t have scenery, you can at least have brain food, right?)

Until 1954, the idea of running a mile in less than 4 minutes was considered physiologically impossible.  And then Roger Bannister happened.  On May 6, 1954, he ran a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds and the impossible was now possible.

“Everything is impossible . . . until someone does it.”

 

 

Share your Knowledge

“Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.” — Dalai Lama

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I have no need to be immortal, let’s get that straight.

However, I love what I do and I realize from speaking with others that it is an interesting story (in a roundabout way) how I came from believing I’d be a secretary to becoming a nurse, and a firefighter, and a fire investigator, and a contract worker specializing in explosives investigations.  All because I wanted to learn and keep learning, and I’m still learning.

Every day.

So when I received an invitation to participate in a “career day” with the Girl Scouts, I jumped at the chance.  When I was a girl there were no female paramedics, or female firefighters . Nursing was the field for young girls to look into if they had a desire to provide care.  For this event, I was told to expect about 50 girls and their grandmothers.   If anything I said sparks an interest, fans a flame or makes a young girl question what she thinks she wants to be when she grows up, I will have been satisfied that I have done my job.

I love what I do (most of the time), and I love to talk about it. That is what happens when you are passionate about what you do!  Put that passion together with visual aids, a bit of equipment worn while working, and a laptop playing a DVD of explosive scenes slowed down to see the flash of light, boom and burst of explosions going down — you have a happy audience.  Especially when I pointed out that eating Pop Rocks candy. . .is simply an explosion that takes place inside your mouth.

Apparently, the girls were not the only one who gleaned information from my presentation.  Imagine my surprise, when the sheriff’s deputy came over to look at my visual aids.  This sparked a discussion about homemade explosives and the classes available for POST credit as well as an opportunity to share with him about learning experiences available to law enforcement at FEMA sponsored sites across the country.

**Confession here** — I almost published this post as written above last night.  But I felt as if there was more to be said.  So I closed my laptop and went to bed planning to post it this morning.  When I re-read what I had written, I realized that in essence:

Sharing information about something I am passionate

about is the purpose of this blog!

My family and my home are my biggest passions.  Providing great experiences for my kids and making our home a welcoming place to be are the starting point of everything I do.  The cooking, the sewing, the cleaning, the renovations — these are just all spokes in the wheel with home and family at the center.

Those jobs that I am passionate about?  Those are just the icing on the cake that provide the funds to do everything else.

 

Learning to Enjoy Each Day

“I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.” — Rita Mae Brown

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Susan Wiggs is an author I enjoyed reading in the past, and so far I’m not disappointed with this book

For two years I was going to school to work on my Master’s along with working full-time.  Time seemed to always be rushed — assignments to do, housework, laundry, cooking, cleaning, working, sleeping, reading, errands, etc. And I didn’t like it.

And now I’m done.  I’ve finished.  The Master’s Degree is mine.

It’s hard to learn to adjust to a slower pace, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.  Instead of feeling like I need to rush to get things done on my days off, I’m learning to accept what I get done and really enjoy my days at home.

Reading has been one of the hardest adjustments to make.  When you go from reading highly technical and focused material on which you base papers and discussion board posts . . . to reading for fun . . .   I have to admit, I’ve been lost for a few months trying to decide what to read and finding most things in short supply of “substance” for lack of a better word.  I have had to wrack my brain to remember names of authors I enjoyed reading in the past to help me find new books to enjoy: Susan Wiggs, Julie Garwood, Sue Grafton, Richard Paul Evans . . . these are a few of the names I’ve been able to recall.

Cooking is another adjustment.  Meals that were easy, fast and required few ingredients are now evolving into meals that are tasty (not that my cooking wasn’t tasty before) and more detailed but also fun to create and eat.  Trying new recipes, usually keto based, and seeing the kids reactions has been priceless.  Aioli — a simple sauce of garlic, mayonnaise and lemon juice has become a favorite.  In fact, I usually have a small bowl made up in the fridge at all times now.

Sewing.  Who had time for sewing when there was schoolwork to be done?  Sewing and crafting is something I have ALWAYS enjoyed, but I felt too rushed to start and finish projects.  Now the sewing machine is sitting on the dining room table and commonly has dinner with us.  The kids are learning to sew, I am sewing more things and it has had quite the calming effect.

The last few days have just been more relaxed, laid back and enjoyable all the way around.

 

 

Make Your LIFE Spectacular

“Sometimes over things that I did . . . you go, ‘Why did you do that?’  But in the end, I can’t regret them because I met amazing people.  There was always something that was worth it.” — Robin Williams

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I was recently asked in an interview, “Is there anything you regret doing?”

My first response was to reply, “I think we all have things in life that we regret doing. Don’t you?”

At the age of 51, there are many things that I regret.  Things I wish I hadn’t said or done. Those things are in the past, though, and it does no good to dwell on them.  In fact, I had a very hard time answering the question.

We make mistakes, we learn from them and we move on.  Life cannot remain stagnant as it is ever changing. . . ever moving.  Time does not stop when we make a mistake.  We can apologize (often just to ourselves), we can learn from the experience and, we can hope to not repeat an experience.

Even in our darkest times, there are good and amazing things that happen IF we have the strength to look for them.  They may not be audaciously apparent at first, but over time, looking back . . . we can find the things that made even a bad experience worth it.  People, friendships, small overtures that may have seemed insignificant at the time — you look back and these are the amazing things and people that allowed you to survive or overcome.  These things are joy.  Perhaps bittersweet joy, but joy just the same.

A spectacular life consists of all aspects of life — the good, the bad and the ugly.  What makes it spectacular is your choice of response.  To find the good, to live boldly, to make a connection with others as well as a making a difference.  To use your talents to touch other’s lives, to share knowledge and love.

You only get one chance at this life . . . make it spectacular!

Think on These Things

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” — Philippians 4:8 NIV

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Life is not always joyful, right?  Circumstances surround us at times that are far from joyful.  Disappointments, hurts, misunderstandings, feelings of guilt or anger . . . these things can steal the joy right out of our hearts and minds . . . IF WE LET IT.

Now I’m not saying those things will never happen to joyful people.  I’m currently going through some situations and it feels as if every door that appears to be open is getting shut and not just shut, but slammed shut in my face.  I could dwell on these circumstances. I could fret and worry and get angry and internalize the hurt and let my self-esteem and psyche take a beating (which is a very sensitive area for me, anyway).  Or I can look for the joy in such situations — perhaps the job wasn’t a good fit, perhaps there’s something better in my future . . .

It’s often been said that what you put into your mind is what comes out of your mouth.  In his book, “48 Days to the Work You Love,” Dan Miller states: “Be very careful how you start your morning. You are planting the seeds for what the day will hold.”  He commits his first morning hours to meditation and then an hour on the treadmill while listening to motivational speakers or podcasts.  And it’s true . . . if I can get up before the children, take the dog for a short walk and then drink my coffee on the porch while reading a chapter or two from a motivational book or listening to a motivational speaker, my day goes SO MUCH BETTER!  On the flip side, if I wake up late, scramble to get the kids up and moving, chug my coffee in the kitchen,  yell at someone to take the dog out and then start my day . . . it is a chaotic mess all day long.

 

Miller, Dan. 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal (p. 97). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

I Saw the Signs . . .

“Joy is about feeling good — in the moment — right now.” — Ingrid Fetell Lee

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Ever have those days when you wonder whether you’re on the right path and then suddenly events affirm what you’ve been thinking? And voila! You just KNOW that you are going in the right direction.

My personal planner has an area for each week’s “intention” or as I like to think of it . . .”focus.”  We all want to be happy, but to find joy in the small everyday things is really fantastic.  And so, JOY was the word I wrote as my intention for this week.  I didn’t really plan anything as far as searching for joy or trying to track it down, it was merely a thought on a Saturday night as I began planning my week.

Sunday morning, I sat on the porch drinking my coffee and reading e-mails.  There was a listing for a TED talk that sounded interesting so I went to their website.  I never did find the talk that piqued my interest, but I did find a 13 minute session discussing the topic of JOY.  Specifically — where joy hides, and how to find it.

Cool!

After watching the video, I then checked my Facebook where two of my friends who are not mutual friend with each other, both posted about finding joy — one at random, and one quoting a Bible verse.

Hmmmmmm . . . . 

I then flipped over to my Instagram, and one of my favorites whom I follow (@thisloudhouse), and if she hasn’t posted a photo of her morning coffee in a mug with the word JOY printed on it.

A-ha!!!  I’m onto something here.  You can call it coincidence if you want, but I’m going to call it little God messages.  Little non-connected videos and posts by people with whom I haven’t spoken, and who don’t have access to my planner.  Kind of like the hot/warm/cold game we played as kids — when you were getting closer to finding the object you were told, “you’re getting warm.”  When you were almost on top of it, or touching it, the admonitions might be, “you’re hot, you’re very hot” or “your burning, you’re so hot.”

I’m slowing down and finding out what things create joy for me.  Things that make me laugh or smile or giggle or even want to jump up-and-down.  I don’t think I’m “hot” yet but I believe I’m getting very warm.  One thing Ingrid Fetell Lee comments on at the end of her TED talk is the fact that maybe we’re so busy searching for happiness that it’s elusive because we’re looking for the ONE thing that will make us happy.  Instead we should be looking for and finding and experiencing those moments of joy, because when you put several moments of joy together, you will have happiness.

Favorite Things

My favorite things in life don’t cost money.  It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. — Steve Jobs

Memories of Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things” in the Sound of Music will be with me always.  It was one of my mother’s favorite movies, and later my older daughters had to watch it as part of music class.

A lot of soul searching went into making the decision to start blogging again. Over time, readers will get to learn the nuances of the lifestyles and thoughts of the blogger . . . what makes them tick, what motivates and drives them, and the things they find important.  A blog is a personal expression and leaves the author vulnerable.

To ease into this, I chose to share five of my favorite things:

  •  Snowflakes – the unique design of each, frozen crystal — beautiful in simplicity
  •  Hearing my children laugh — shared joy is a good thing to behold
  •  Walking into a fabric store — the colors, the textures, the smells, the drape of the fabric on bolts, buttons and spools of thread
  • Driving — the power and control of cornering, shifting gears, speed and travel
  • Reading — exploring new ideas, going places vicariously, immersing myself into a comedy, drama or biography

Too often we get caught up in the details of life and forget how to really live, to do those things which make us happy, often with no particular contribution to livelihood in the way of monetary gain.  My goal this month is to DO the favorite things on the list above (yes, even the snowflakes . . . in JULY!)

Be sure to check back, the details of how I DID the things will be here along with some history of why these are favored things for me.

Until next time . . .

 

 

 

 

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Several years ago I had a blog by the same name above.  I let it go due to changes in relationships and life circumstances, but after 9 years I discovered that I really missed blogging.

Back then, I was married and we homeschooled.  I worked weekends and was able to spend the week at home being mom, wife, chief bottlewasher and cook.

Times have changed, things have changed, circumstances have evolved and I am not the same person I was, however . . . .

I still have the same dream and desire.  To live life as simply at home as possible, taking joy in the small things.  To develop my talents in providing for my family whether it be thru sewing or cooking or renovating our house to make it a home.  To read and enjoy and share ideas and dialogue, to enjoy time together as a family in shared activities that require the absence of electronics in order to concentrate and be involved.

Join me on the journey . . .