The Best Hot Chocolate Ever (yeah, it’s Spiked)

I figured that since our plans got turned all around by the ice storm in Dallas today, we might as well enjoy it. What says warm and cozy like Hot Cocoa? Since we’re all big kids here, I went ahead and kicked it up a notch to an “adult beverage”. Oh me oh my, this was the best hot chocolate ever!!

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This Hot Chocolate Recipe is from food.com. I noted the tweak I made to it in the directions below

Teddybear Hot Cocoa                   

Ingredients:                                      Units: US | Metric                          Servings: 1
8 ounces of prepared Hot Chocolate
1 ounce Vodka
1 ounce Kahlua
1/4 cup Whipped Cream
Green Creme de Menthe

Directions:

  1. Prepare your Hot Chocolate using Milk, as I doubt this would taste very good made with water.
  2. Pour Vodka & Kahlua into a coffee cup.
  3. Pour in Hot Cocoa.
  4. Top with whipped cream. (It was a Snow Day and I didn’t have whipped cream, so I used the Espresso Maker to froth Half and Half to dollop on top, which turned out very yummy as well.)
  5. Drizzle with green Creme de Menthe.
  6. Serve immediately. Boom.

This Hot Chocolate is off the hook, so I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did! Stay safe and warm, friends!

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“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – CS Lewis

From “Mere Christianity” this is a powerful illustration of what it feels like when God is at work deep inside. With my husband and my nephew last night, we were talking about life, pain, faith, and purpose — this quote really hits home today.

This Advent – as painful as it may be, allow Him to rebuild you into a majestic palace and come and live inside.

palace

“Imagine yourse…

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Road Trip Tales and Tips

Traveling together is a very bonding experience, especially on a road trip. This Thanksgiving, with our nephew visiting from South Texas, we made a last minute decision to surprise him with a roughly 3,000 mile road trip over 8-days to spend the holidays with my Florida family.

Road Trip

Here’s some Road Trip highlights and travel tips from Texas to Florida:

On November 23rd, we departed Dallas towards our first stop — New Orleans, Louisiana.
It’s always a challenge to get out the door at a reasonable time, so it was a bit after noon before the wheels (which we had to fill with air) started to roll towards the Big Easy.

From road trips of long ago with my Cajun friends, we always stop at the French Market Express, on University Pkwy, in Natchitoches for Gas and a little fried treat or sweet.

Travel tip: Natchitoches is known for their Meat Pies, which you can pick up at this stop while getting a fill up and making a potty stop.

We arrived in NOLA after about 8 1/2 hours of travel. Our accommodations were at the Hilton Garden Inn on South St. Peter’s Street.

Travel tip: Staying downtown New Orleans is always more expensive, so I use Hotwire to get a better deal. I check all the travel sites, and usually Hotwire is the best – although you never know exactly where you are staying until you book it. But this Hilton ended up in a pretty good location and is nice – even has Sleep Number Beds – but the parking stinks (like always is my experience anywhere in New Orleans). There’s no self-parking, so they have Valet parking for a whopping $30/night (+ tax & tip). But, another hot tip, you can opt for the garage a block over for $10/night.

Our nephew wanted to see the Pay-Preview Boxing match that night. It was really hard to find it playing anywhere, let alone a place with good Gumbo like my Hubs wanted. So we decided to eat somewhere first, then the guys could go catch the fight somewhere and my weary bones could relax back in the room.

My husband loves Poutine, Canadian “gravy fries”, a delicacy we’ve not had in the States before. I found a restaurant there that actually serves it – Capdeville, which must be named after the street where it is located. We went there for dinner, but alas they don’t serve traditional Cajun/Creole food like the Hubs was craving.

poutine capdeville

A Burger connoisseur, I urged him to try one of their beef patty entrees. Set on Gumbo he almost didn’t, but reluctantly ordered the Capdeville Burger –with just lettuce, fried onions, and pickles. Surprised at how incredible it ended up being, it now sits at his highly ranked #2 all-time Burgers.

Capdeville Burger

They dropped me back at the Hotel after dinner and the guys headed out to Rick’s Saloon for the fight. Unfortunately, by the time they got there, the fight was just ending. So they watched the highlights and headed down to Bourbon Street for the experience of it.

Since a road trip two years ago, my Hubby loves his Corned Beef Hash, Eggs, & Grits breakfast at the Gumbo Pot restaurant. Here’s a shot of my breakfast a la Gumbo Pot.

Gumbo Pot Breakfast

After that, he goes to get his coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde. The to-go line was really long that Sunday morning, so while we waited, my Nephew and I tooled around.

Cafe du Monde Beignets

In the courtyard of St. Charles Cathedral, we met some girls from Austin that wanted their picture taken mid-air while jumping in front of the beautiful Church. Afterwards they told us we needed to do the same. When in Rome…

St Charles Cathedral New Orleans

While waiting we caught a little show of entertaining guys. One of them even flip-jumped over 6 people kneeling on the ground! See him mid-air here:

New Orleans Entertainment

We got an even later start from NOLA, (which, I’ll admit, I was expressive about my dislike of that) and we still had about 10 more hours until we reached my Dad’s. But, traveling with others does require give-and-take, right?!

Travel Tip: Using Smart phone apps is very helpful when on the road. I almost always look up “nearby” restaurants on Urbanspoon. This time I found a “Five Guys” coming up in Killearn, FL, and with the Five Guys App I was able to order and pay for our dinner before we even arrived – talk about convenient when traveling!!

Five Guys Burger App

We arrived after midnight at my Dad’s Florida home, tucked away in a gated Retirement community. We had traveled 2 days and 1,086 miles by that point.

At my Dad’s, my Hubs still had 2 days of work to put in remotely. I also did work (see my office with a view below), while my Nephew got to ride around with my Dad to see the area and later drove Dad’s Golf Cart around himself.

The Villages Florida

I loaded up on 2 days worth of groceries. We ate well: Day #1: Tacos; Day #2: My Nephew grilled Marinaded Chicken and Corn on the Cob, with baked Sweet Potatoes.

Grilling in the Villages

We departed around noon from mid Florida to go further south, past Miami, to my brother’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving. Florida has some really nice rest areas, so when we stopped for a bathroom break, we grabbed some Wendy’s.

Since we tried Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Ft. Lauderdale a year and a half ago, my Hubs has searched high and low for something similar – to no avail. So that’s where we ended up for a delicious family-style dinner with 8 of us now in tow.

Anthony Coal Fired Pizza Ft Lauderdale

Thanksgiving was that perfect mix of all good holiday things: Savory dishes that many hands lovingly prepared, desserts, thankfulness expressed while holding hands in prayer, Tropical Sanchez’s (my bro’s signature drink), calls to out-of-state family, Basketball, movies, cigars, and memory-making with family.

Turkey Cooked With Bacon

Pumpkin Pies Pumpkin Log RollsThanksgiving Dinner Hollywood FloridaBasketballCigar smoking outdoorsIMG_9302

On Friday the 29th we set out for a change of scenery. But before leaving the Hollywood area, my Nephew needed to experience some good Cuban food. We went to Las Vegas for a big old lunch.

Las Vegas Hollywood Florida

We also couldn’t leave without him getting an eyeful of the daytime Atlantic Ocean view – even if it was windy and cool for South Florida.

Dad Omar Mike Beach Sanchez Kids Beach Hollywood Florida Beach

Then we were off across “Alligator Alley” to Ft. Myers. We showed up early evening at the Edison & Henry Ford Summer Estates for the Christmas tree lighting. Growing up in Dearborn, Michigan with the Henry Ford, it was interesting to see the summer recreation side of such geniuses.

Palm Trees with Christmas LightsFlorida Sunset BeachEdison Summer EstateHenry Ford Summer EstateMike and Lisa

Afterwards, we enjoyed a hot meal at Cracker Barrel. It’s always fun to shop in their little country store as well – we all walked out of there with a little something.

It took 3 hours and 15 minutes to get back to Dad’s home. There we grabbed a quick night’s sleep, before our morning departure.

Family in the Villages Florida

Trip home, Day #1: Lady Lake, Florida to Jackson, Mississippi.

We ate a steady artery-hardening fast-food diet that day; but, might I add that the Whataburger in Crestview, Florida was the nicest one I’ve ever been to, and very friendly too.

Travel tip: The Country Inn & Suites in Jackson, MS was a disappointment. They are undergoing a renovation – so the pool, hot tub & exercise room were all under construction simultaneously. The carpet in our room looked like a tractor had parked there, and there was a bug in the Bathroom. I wouldn’t consider that property 3 stars; but it was quiet, and we slept OK, so we made it through.

Trip home, Day #2: Jackson, Mississippi to Dallas, Texas.

Driving to Mass, we saw one of the oddest post-accident car scenes ever. One of the hit cars was stuck in reverse, looping around backwards in a perfect circle with no one driving or even in the car. Bizarro.

We started Advent with 10:30 am Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral – a beautiful Church, rich in history. For my stained-glass loving Hubby, he snapped a bunch of pictures at this Church.

St Peters Cathedral Jackson

Travel tip: I use my Mass Time App, by theCatholicDirectory.com, to find nearby Churches, check their Mass schedule, and get directions.

We asked some of the locals where to find a proper lunch. A friendly local directed us to the Piccadilly Cafe, but that seemed to be everyone’s idea as well – the line was tremendous. So, I got on my Urbanspoon and found the Broadstreet Baking Company & Cafe. They had fresh baked breads, a tempting dessert counter, and many locals enjoying a Sunday brunch there. My Hubs loves his Espresso, so I was glad to hear that their coffee was delicious, as I savored delving into my first Croque Monsieur.

Croque Monsieur

We were on the last stretch of road home around 1:00 pm. Things were smooth sailing until we hit the final 2 hours on I-20. There were 3 car accidents during that time, but my Hubby used smart navigating to save us some time.

Travel tip: My Hubs loves the “Waze” Social GPS, Maps, & Traffic App. Drivers keep other drivers informed on the roads, from accidents to speed traps, it gives you some useful info to help make your trip go smoother.

Our last stop before home was in Canton, Texas. We like to Gas up and grab some grub in the final stretch.

Travel tip: Duke’s Travel Plaza in Canton, just off I-20, is a nice stop. The Bar-B-Q is pretty good, and you can get a family dinner there with 2 lbs of meat and some sides for around $25.00.

We spent about 7 1/2 hours on the road today, and are finally enjoying the comfort of home. This Texas to Florida road trip was about 3,000 miles, filled with family, and more memories than calories if that is possible. Glad we got to surprise our Nephew, who has never really left Texas, with such a great adventure. Most of the time, he had no idea where we were going. Great fun, but as always, nothing like being home!

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Feeling Underestimated?

Several years ago, a co-worker gave me one of those little inspirational Hallmark books for my birthday. The title seemed a good fit, “Laughter & Latte: Joyful Inspiration for Women”.  I never really cuddled up with it to read many of the reflections. To be honest, it quickly settled among my “bathroom books”. You can even see some of the dust still left on the cover.

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But this week I could really use some “joyful inspiration”. On Sunday, I got that Holy Spirit urging to go and pick up my little Bathroom book. I now know better than to write off or question those little promptings, so I did.

“Feeling Underestimated?” was the title of the excerpt from Laurie Beth Jones’ book, “Jesus in Blue Jeans.” OK, you’ve got my attention. Here is the short story across those two pink and brown pages:

The media escort who accompanied me on the Los Angeles stop of my most recent book tour was a woman about five feet, two inches tall. A petite blond with movie star charisma, she disclosed during our conversation that after she had been mugged and later car-jacked in Los Angeles, she had become a black-belt kickboxer. Now, when she and her husband encounter rough situations, her six-foot one-inch husband whispers, “Go ahead, honey, get ‘em. I’ll hold your purse.” She says she actually enjoys the feeling of being underestimated.

Unless you are dealing with people who daily recognize and acknowledge the miracle-working power of God, chances are very good you are being underestimated, and more significantly, chances are you are underestimating yourself.

When we have access, through prayer and meditation, to all the gifts and knowledge of God, we can be relatively confident that whoever is challenging us is underestimating us. Our responsibility in difficult situations is to harness the power of God in us and the power of God everywhere.”

When I later shared it with my husband, we laughed through the part where the husband says, “I’ll hold your purse…” After all, who more than my partner, and my Confessor, knows what “kickboxing” the spicy passion of this five-foot three-inch Tomboy can unleash. God help us.

Yet it is not about believing and proving what we are capable of. Even Jesus was and still often is grossly underestimated. But, what if we embraced everything as a gift — recognizing that all we are, have, and can do is because of our Maker. After all, as His children, do we not have access to the miracle-working power of God?

This verse was shared with me this week, and I have since paid it forward; but take a moment to reflect on great power of God to work in and through you.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his INCOMPARABLY GREAT POWER for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty STRENGTH, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

- Ephesians 1:18-20

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90 Years: Celebrating The Life of Our Matriarch

The head of our Hungarian clan, my Grandmother, Helen, is NINETY years old today!!! WOO HOO! My Aunts have said that they couldn’t let this major accomplishment slide by quietly, and so have planned a nice celebration in her honor back near my hometown in Michigan.

90 year old Grandma

As we’ve grown and married, most of her Grandchildren have moved away from Michigan. Knowing how difficult it is for all of us to make the trip, besides Grandma never wanting to cause a fuss, my Auntie approached me with a request: Could I compile and edit a video of Birthday wishes from the out-of-state family members that would do it? I accepted, under the condition that I’d get all the videos a month out to be able to work at it as time allowed — yeah right! I did get Grandma’s DVD finalized in time – never you mind if I was burning the disc on my laptop (which had conveniently crashed) in the passenger seat as I slid into UPS, 2 minutes to close with the truck leaving. That’s what they designed 2nd-Day Air for people!

There’s a good cross-section of us out-of-staters represented in the final production. One of the things that I loved while working on the editing is that each clip so classically embodies each family. The beginning always makes me laugh, as it just so Grandma. Shortly after her 89th birthday, my Hubs and I visited and shot some home movies where we interviewed her for posterity’s sake. Good thing about Grandma – you never have to guess what she’s thinking, she’ll let you know. For real. She used to tell me:

I hope you get married before I die.

And I would respond,

I’m purposely holding out so that you will live longer.

Suffice it to say she lived to see me dance at my wedding, which not even my Mom (her daughter) had been able to do. Some may say she’s a tough ol’ Bird, but she’ll tell you that God must still have some mission for her.

Here’s a snapshot into my wonderfully talented and quirky family – wishing a happy 90th Birthday to our Matriarch! For those who hold out, there’s a bonus at the end.

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Story of A Soul

Today marks the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, a young French Carmelite, who has profoundly shaped my spirituality.

StThereseQuote

Since I’ve written several posts in the past about Therese, creating this graphic was a new way to honor such a beautiful soul. Last night I opened “Story of a Soul”, her autobiography, and out of the many underlined and bookmarked pages, I was captured by this simple reminder.

Our daily life and work often is teeming with demands. It is action oriented and results-driven: “Go big or go home,” right?! The challenge is not to approach our spiritual life in the same manner. God does not ask us to prove ourselves to him, or perform great actions to gain His approval or reward. Therese simply relates to bring it back to “surrender and gratitude”. It’s speaking to my heart right now – what about yours?

There’s great freedom and refreshment in receiving that kind of Love.

Read my earlier posts on the Little Flower, which were daily reflections during the Novena to St. Therese:

A Test of Faith

Happy Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux

Loving Our Littleness

- A Heavenly Shower of Roses

- True Love

- Victim of Love

- The Power of Prayer

- On her profound autobiography, Story of a Soul.

- On another of my favorite books on her spirituality, I Believe in Love

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The Hardest Prayer for Me to Pray

Prayer is not something foreign to me, or that I struggle to formulate. There is one prayer that, if I’m being honest, has been difficult for me to embrace — The Litany of Humility.  Gosh, it’s humbling even to admit that.

Throughout my waking hours, as well as the moments where I’m drifting off to sleep, there are often little and then longer prayers interwoven into the rhythm of my day — many of which are never spoken aloud. The prayers vary: It may be the scriptures in Morning Prayer, offering up a friend that suddenly comes to mind, begging for grace needed at the time, entrusting special ongoing intentions, prayers from the heart with my husband before bed, and many types in between…

But have you heard the caution: “Be careful what you pray for”?  Unfortunately, this is the main prayer I associate with that warning. In praying this particular Litany, part of my hesitation lies in what opportunities I’m inviting beyond my normal humbling moments. Scratching beneath the surface, it’s likely because not until I pray these words do I fully realize exactly how prideful and sensitive to forms of rejection I am. If I’m being really honest, I think that this Litany throws a right hook square at my old people-pleaser tendency. WALLOP! Ouch!!

Humility

Photo: How to Nest for Less

Click this link for the FREE printable format of The Litany of Humility.

Where did The Litany of Humility first originate? Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val wrote this prayer which he recited after every Mass he celebrated. The sweet irony is that he is said to have had “one of the fastest-moving careers in all ecclesiastical history.” In fact, he was chosen by St. Pius X to serve as Secretary of State, a position of honor and authority, serving as the right hand to the earthly head of the Catholic Church. What generosity was shown to the man who daily prayed, “From the desire of being honored and from the desire of being preferred to others…Deliver me Jesus.”

“Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine,” was a prayer I recited often with my household in college. It’s one thing for me to say it, it’s a whole thing to embrace the opportunities to live it.  After all, beyond our own desires, how many voices in the world bombard us with opposing messages…we want to be esteemed, preferred, praised, and noticed!

This is the model of humility Christ gave us:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 
- Philippians 2:5-8
 

I understand this, but how can I overcome my fleshly aversion to this prayer and what it really calls me to embrace?

Enter this new song, I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad, that I LOVE. Another irony — it’s based on the Litany of Humility. Yet there’s an echoing of Psalm 23 as the refrain, which is a Psalm of comfort:  “When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

What a beautiful approach to the Litany, challenging my perspective: Why narrow your view coming from a place of pain, from suffering various forms of rejection? What if you approached it instead from a stance of fulfillment in the Lord, of wanting for nothing?

BOOM – the uppercut that rounds out the hit to the ol’ people-pleaser!  If nothing more, the best place to start is the final line:

“Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” 

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We Remember

statue of liberty

 

Photo Credit: Mike Martinez

We all remember exactly where we were on this day, 9/11, twelve years ago and what we were doing. How surreal it was — that those were not images in a movie, or in a foreign war-torn nation — but right on our soil… The emotions…especially fear, and the helplessness we felt as we watched but could not even reach our loved one to be assured of their safety.

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.  ~Author unknown

Just taking a moment to pause, rounding out the Hour of Mercy now, reflect, and to be in solidarity with my fellow Americans. To remember. To not take anything for granted.

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This One Goes Out To the One I Love

It’s not just an REM song, it’s also the expression of birthday lovin’ for my Hubby!

illuvintBirthday

I always ask him what he wants to do for his Birthday, and he just loves to spend quality time together. So we’ve both taken the day off tomorrow and surprises and new adventures await.

I’ll add some pics as we progress throughout the birthday ballyhoo, so check back later.

UPDATE:

Quality time was on the agenda for Mike’s birthday, especially considering how hard we’ve both working. A lot of people post birthday party pics from their kids; well, here’s a peak into the birthday festivities:

SURPRISE #1: Mike’s favorite dessert = Apple Pie. I went the extra a la mode step, with Butter Pecan Ice Cream. Ohhhhh wow. Unfortunately it wasn’t a complete surprise, as I had him stay in the back office while I made it, but come on folks, how can you not smell homemade Apple Pie bubbling up in the oven just the room over!

IMG_8589

SURPRISE #2: Kayaking White Rock Lake! Kayaking was one of my favorite excursions when Mike and I were dating. We haven’t really been since, so it was overdue. We’d never kayaked White Rock Lake, and with it right in our backyard, it worked perfectly with the other plans for the day. The amazing part was that it had rained in the morning before we got up, and there was unseasonably cool weather Friday morning. It was overcast but not raining, cool but not cold at an unreal 72 degrees for Dallas in August!

IMG_8594There even was a rainbow!!!

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Surprise #3: Picnic at Klyde Warren Park, Downtown Dallas. Since before this urban green space opened in the heart of downtown, Mike & I have wanted to go there. So glad we finally did. What a cool space — lined with food trucks, a Children’s park with sweet water features, reading and games areas, people tossing footballs in the open areas, others walking dogs, a Performance pavilion, trails, etc — definitely add it to your list if you haven’t gone already.

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The kids were having a blast playing in the water!
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Surprise #4: The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, new to Richardson! How perfect that the night before his birthday, Mike suggests that we try out the newly opened Alamo Drafthouse to see a movie (his favorite past time for certain). Little did he know that I had already purchase a TravelZoo voucher for dinner and movie there :)  It was a beautiful facility, the burgers were great, the Popcorn had real butter, and the picture & sound quality excellent. They did a great job working around the fact that their computer servers were down, and manually had to write out our tickets, take our vouchers, as well as write out our meal tickets. We saw “Jobs” – the story of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, as played by Ashton Kutcher – who I thought was very convincing in the role.

IMG_8634

Surprise #5: Has yet to arrive yet, due to an eBay delay…but it is the thing that Mike was most excited about. We’ve invested in the Vitamix 750 Professional Series, as part of our plan to get more healthy. This bad boy has presets, a complete cookbook & DVD, a tamper to push everything down into the blade, a 7-year warranty, and actually liquifies whole fruits and vegetables – so not extracting the juice and leaving the fibrous good stuff as refuse.

pro-750-modular-package

Our new Vitamix 750 will be arriving in the next couple of days, and we’re excited to have a plethora of ways to use it: from smoothies, to soups (it even cooks in the blender), to grains, purees, etc. There are 5 pre-programmed settings “to ensure simple cleaning, walk-away convenience, and consistent results for smoothie, frozen dessert, soup, and purée recipes.” We can’t wait to test our new machine out and share with you some of the great ways we’re utilizing it. So stay tuned for that!

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Blog Birthday Bash

happy4BdayBlogTime to blow out the candles, cause it’s my Blog Birthday at closed doors open windows! Four years ago I really began to dig into my journey of self discovery with some major doors closing in my life, leading to some incredible open window opportunities. I’ve shared things across the gambit here: joys, sorrows, updates, my family life, recipes, crafts, home decorating, business tips… I’ve shared some of my life’s lows — from my Mom’s battle with Cancer and her passing — and highs — my Engagement and starting out as an Entrepreneur. Wow, how life has changed in these past 4 years, and its gratifying to look back and see some life-defining moments captured here!

It is my hope that in a world where we are bombarded with information, that at some point these ponderings by yours truly have brought even a bit of delight or a moment of reflection. Thank for joining me in my little space on the interwebs, for celebrating my Blog’s Birthday, and for taking time to share some of yourself with me here. Writing is one of my first loves, and using it to connect with other people one of my greatest joys, so sincerely…I’m grateful. I am blessed.

Happy Birthday closeddoorsopenwindows.wordpress.com!

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