Sweets & Treats Gallery

Monday, August 27, 2012

when i grow up...

This is me.
When I was a little 7 year old farm girl I wanted to be three things in life:
1. a veterinarian
2. a teacher
3. a stay-at-home mommy

Rude awakenings when I had to give my lambs shots back in my 4-H days... I practiced on an orange first, and almost passed out.  In general, the sight of blood, barf, guts, inards of any kind, and needles are no-nos for me.  My career ambitions shifted.  But my love of animals endured.  To this day I like my dog more than most people.  And at parties, I'd prefer to be playing with any house animals, rather than making small talk with guests.  Animals and I, we get each other.   There's no judgement.  Just a simple relationship of: scratch my belly and feed me.  And I got that under control!  Heck, on a bad day, I request the same things of my hubby.

As for the teacher thing, I took the off-roading path to get here, but I do, for a living, 40 hours a week work with teens.  I'm not credentialed, so all the teacher types don't consider me a "real" teacher.  It matters not.  I am a teacher of life and leadership.  I work with at-risk youth and their mentors to give them the most important lessons they'll ever need: adult readiness skills.  Here comes the rest of your life... now let's get ready, yo!  It is immeasurably rewarding.  And they teach me infinitely more than I teach them.  But finally, after odd jobs, grunt work, weird career stops and starts, I am here, doing what I love and making a difference in the world, teaching about life!

As for the stay-at-home mommy dream, I guess I'd need a kid first...  And in my head I've run every scenario possible to make that a feasible reality when I do in fact have a kid or two (my hubby wants three children... we need to chat!).  Short of moving to another state or winning the lotto, I think this dream will have to be massaged a bit.  Maybe I'll be a stay-at-home mommy one working day a week... Or maybe I will be a kick butt mommy who handles it all with grace: the cupcakes on birthdays, never missing a volleyball game, always there to listen and work on arts and crafts, all while having a career.  My mom was that kind of a mommy, and she was and is amazing.  Now, as an adult, I can see how hard she and my father worked to pull it all off!  I am so lucky to have had the childhood I did with two loving parents committed to each other and to raising a well-adjusted, contributing member of society.  It's an honor to pay my taxes and vote.  It's an honor to celebrate their anniversary.  It's an honor to be their child.  All that I was privileged with didn't come without sacrifice, though.  And I am fully aware that the hurdles to provide a similar upbringing for my children will seem overwhelming at times.  But I am committed to at least what my parents were so successful at: loving me, supporting me, building me up, pushing me, and growing me.

I'll be 30 soon.  It doesn't scare me.  I remember taking a walk with Hubs a few days before his 30th birthday a few years ago.  He was frustrated that he hadn't done more with his life.  He felt like he should have been further along.  I didn't try to tell him how to feel, but it was ridiculous.  He is amazing!  Grounded in a career he can tolerate and is extremely good at, a college grad, married, a homeowner, daddy to a puppy, a man of integrity and surrounded with loving and supportive family and friends... as far as I'm concerned, he's living the American dream!  So as my 30 birthday approaches, it's got me thinking about the "30 Before 30" list I created around my 29th birthday... lots of stuff still sits unchecked.  And, let's be real, it probably won't get done.  But who cares.  In essence, my 30 year old self wants my 7 year old dreamer self to know a few things:

1. You still love animals, even though you don't doctor them.  Your heart overflows with love and compassion for animals.  And it always will, little farm girl.
2. You did it!  College in 4 years.  The impossible feat!  And you worked hard for it.  Sometimes three jobs, always loans and scholarships. The deans list.  Graduate with honors and distinction. And you overcame some serious challenges.  You did it.  And no one can ever take that from you!
3. You are important.  You make a difference in the world.  You did become a teacher.  You are proud of the work you do.  And you are proud to empower young people.  You matter and you help others feel like they matter too!
4. You've learned to save some of your talents for yourself.  This wasn't an easy lesson to learn, and sometimes you still slip.  But you don't spend your life trying to please everyone and do everything for everyone else.
5. You surround yourself with people of substance.  That's not always been the case.  But you matter enough to yourself that you can draw lines now.  That's awesome!
6. You're not done growing or changing... and you're proud of yourself for that.
7. Sometimes you're too hard on yourself.  Ease up.  You are a good human!

So, bring it on 30!  I can't wait to see what lessons and challenges you have in store for me.  And, sure, I'll work on a few more of the "30 Before 30" list items....!  ;)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

rules for friendship...

There is nothing I value or appreciate more than friendships & family.
They are precious. I treasure them.

Last Friday, my friend Laurie came over for dinner.  We're trying to make it a monthly thing.
We had take-out Thai.  She's low-carbin' in it, but didn't tell us. Oops!
While we sat on the floor around the coffee table playing Shut the Box and Apples to Apples, I was melancholy thinking back on my life and the friendship I've shared with Laurie.
Laurie has changed.  I've changed.  And still we find our way back to each other... all these years later.
She's a month and a half older, but we joke that we met at my birth.  We both had working mothers and we ended up in the same daycare as infants.  So, we kind of have known each other since my birth. And along the way we've gone to school together... were girl scouts together... spent time scrapbooking together and then gone months, even years without much contact.  But somehow, we always find our way back to each other.  Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other's gold.  Laurie is golden!  And there's nothing, really, like an old friend.

It got me to thinking about rules for long, meaningful, fulfilling friendships. And Laurie inspired rule #1!  So here they are, my rules for friendships with the people who I love and who love me the most, and in no particular order:
Rule #1: Remember The Good Ol' Days!
Part of building a history with an old friend is remembering the history you have together.  Little quirks, other friends, growin' up country... never disconnect yourself from who you were then, and what that friendship has meant all these years, and who it has helped you become!

Rule #2:  Make Each Other Laugh!
My moma & I are as close as any mother & daughter I know.  We share secrets, make-up, clothes (sometimes), and lots of giggles.  Sometimes we get each other laughing so hard we cry, and shouldn't be driving or in public... cause it gets ugly.  We're talking minutes of doubled-over-laugh-til-ya-cry-over-nothin'-really kind of moments! And we're corny!  That's the joy of friendship!  You never laugh as hard so you do with close friends!

Rule #3: Always Be There!
I've talked about Lyns before.  She and I have been through some crazy sh!t together!  We went to the same college... need I say more?  In over 15 years of friendship, we have been through so much together... and she's always there and I'm always there.  Break-ups from bad men, bad days with roommates, lovey times in the early days with our husbands-to-be, bachelorette parties you don't remember, betrayal of other "best friends," wedding days, normal days, first cheers in your new house, funerals, the birth of her baby, the highs and the lows... be there!  Be that person your friend can count on!  That really should be rule number 1.  And Lynsey has ALWAYS been there for me!

Rule #4: Celebrate Successes!
Amy & I are old friends too!  I always say we've been friends since we were two, and she corrects me with, "Actually, we met when we were four, at pre-school."  I think she's right.  I remember throughout my long friendship with Amy, that she has always been so good about celebrating my successes, like when I got announced as royalty my freshman year of high school, or at my graduation from college and especially on my wedding day!  She is always so good about making me shine in my moments (she's good at Rule #3 too!).  I could stand to do some growing in this rule.  It's not that I'm not happy for my friends or that I am jealous of their successes... I think I could just learn to turn it up a notch for my friend's shinning moments like Amy always has done for me!  Turn on the excitement!  Yesterday Am told me she had an amazing job offer... and I was genuinely excited for her!  It speaks volumes about her work ethics, her intelligence, and her passion.  I made sure, after we were done processing the reasons why she has turned it down, to stop and say, "Despite your answer to the offer, congratulations, Amy!  I am so proud of you!"

Rule #5: Make Something Your Thing
Michelle and I are friends and coworkers.  We met 6 years ago when I started at my current job.  We hit it off instantly!  Leo + Sagittarius = WBs (Work Besties!).  When I really think about it, Michelle and I spend the most time together of all of my friends.  We're forced to be at work, thus we make the most of it!  With inside jokes, lunch breaks, walks around the building, vent sessions and TMI-share-sessions, Michelle has become one of my closest friends.  We made going to Starbucks on our breaks a thing.  It's our little escape...!  Every friendship must have it's thing...!  It's what makes your friendship special to just you and that other person!  And I literally could not survive this crazy job (that I love!) without her!  Thanks for our Starbucks thing, Michelle!  ;)

Rule #6: You Must Hug!
I'm a hugger.  I heard a stat that said Americans are touched 5 times or less in a day... or something ridiculous like that.  That seems nuts!  I love people... especially those two in the pic!  I'm always finding reasons to hug them, pinch Jason, pet Penny, kiss J's cheek or Pen's nose.  Friendship requires hugs!  And I am so blessed to have a friendship with my doghter and my hubby!  My heart literally aches when I think about how much I love them and how much fun we three have together.  Hugging is just one little way to express that love out loud!!!

Rule #7: Be Humbled
Not every friendship cruises along without a blip.  Sar & I had a stupid misunderstanding my junior year of college.  Even now, thinking back, it still seems so weird that it got so weird over nothing.  Point is, you must be humbled in your friendship.  To know its value, to understand its imperfections (and your own), to know that it is precious and worth working for... that is humbling!  I am sooooo glad she called that Fall in 2004 to ask what went wrong. I was getting my tires rotated.  Our friendship rebounded almost instantly and we've never looked back! The smell of rubber, to this day, makes me think of the rebirth of such a special friendship, and how precious Sarah is to me!  We love chatting on the phone and pink champagne cupcakes and making it work to see each other when ever we can because most of our years as friends have been long distance.  I'm still sorry, Sarah, for that misunderstanding!  Thank you for that '04 call!  ;)

Rule #8: Integrity First
All of my friends have so many of their priorities straight and honor the previously mentioned seven rules.  And all of them have a strong sense of integrity!  For me, without Rule #8, nothing else really matters.  I have always, always, always been deeply rooted in my integrity.  It's really all you have as a person when you strip away the fancy titles, the car, the clothes and make-up... who you really are is how you value and treat others and yourself.  Integrity is everything!  Shan and Lizzy, like all my my close friends, have a lot of integrity!  And when we get together to catch up and remember when, I know that at our core, we are still those good girls from years back who were too busy playing sports and making good grades to partake in all that too grown-up stuff (and thank God because being a grown up is hard, so why rush it!?!).  Lizzy, Shan and a handful of others were part of the reason I stayed on the right track (that and very involved, strict, loving parents!).  We made it a priority growing up to have good ol' fashioned, innocent fun!  I'm grateful for the idyllic childhood I was afforded!  And like all of my close friends, I am who I am because of these girls!

Rule #9: Have Fun
For obvious reasons, having fun is crucial in every friendship (especially my friendship to my husband!).  Silly dances, made up songs, random voices, pushing buttons, concerts, mini golf, movies... go have fun!  Lots of fun.  And do it often!  Otherwise, what's the point?

Rule #10: Be Your Own Friend
Yes, a weird and awkward picture of myself because as that old saying goes, you have to know how to be a friend to have friends, or something like that.  But it's true.  And it's the hardest friendship for me to nurture.  As an adult, my self talk is pretty disrespectful.  I am really trying to be a better friend to myself.  And it takes some work.  But it's worth it.  Because like your integrity, when you strip it allll away, including all the people around you, all you really have is you.  And if I can learn to be kinder to myself, I will, inherently, be kinder to those I love.  So Lindsay, you are important to me.  I appreciate your work ethic, your integrity, your generosity and spirit, and the way you love those who are important to you!

Are you a good friend...?


Monday, August 13, 2012

sunburn solutions...

Well, it happened.  I got sun burnt.  Badly. And it freaking hurts.
Spare me the obvious: "You should have worn sunscreen!"
Yes, I know. I know! I KNOW!!!
The thing is, I have been an avid sunscreen wearer my whole life.  I usually own more than one in-code tube at a time.  I prefer 100 SPF for the face, but I use it on my whole body.
I'm fair skinned.  I know better than to not protect myself. And I  generally avoid the sun when and where I can anyway.
But not on Saturday.
On Saturday I was rushing to get into a canoe along side our family who was already headed down the river...
I screened up everywhere but my lower stems.  I forgot.  BOY do I regret that.
And so, I have what is the worst sunburn of my life.

On Saturday night my legs were radiating heat.
Immediately after getting out of the boat I applied aloe vera too!
I googled "horrible sun burns." One recommendation was taking a baking soda bath.  I tried it.
Lukewarm water and two cups of baking soda, and nothing.
I couldn't sleep.  They were throbbing.  And the aloe I applied after the baking soda bath kept sticking the to sheets all night... so, consequently, I was peeling my legs off the sheets all night in misery.
That sucked.

Sunday morning was worse.  I could hardly walk.  My skin was so tight.  Sitting down or folding my legs was unthinkable.
I was doing awkward, silly dances in my undies for my hubby.  He just laughed.
More google searches and a few pins later and I was feeling inspired to brave the 102 degree heat to run to my favorite drug store, CVS.

Oatmeal bath packets, 8 for $6.
A second tube of aloe, this time bright blue and "soothing" with Lidocain, $3.
A small bottle of Ibuprofen, $2.
Vitamin water to stay hydrated, $1.
Shaving cream to fantasize about a time when I will once again be able to shave (sigh!)..., $1.99.
Spray bottle for the black tea's tanic acid, $2.
Relief: Priceless... but none yet.

Yes, two days later, my legs (of course just the insides, so the outer half of each leg is milky white) are still hue of steamed lobster.

Yea, I tried it all... except taking a miserably hot shower... as hot as I could stand.  Some people, in my google searching, said that opens the pores and releases the heat.
Wholly heck no!
I could barely tolerate the lukewarm baking soda and oatmeal baths.
So, here I sit with recently applied aloe, on top of the sheets, air conditioner and fan on, still red, hot and in pain.

I guess I can't say all the things I tried didn't help... but they weren't the miracles I was hoping for.

So yes, thank you for the afore mentioned advice.  Yes, I will wear sunscreen next time.  Or I'll go out in a full body wet suit!  Whatever. It. Takes!!!!

Happy summer... is it freakin' Fall yet?!?

Monday, August 06, 2012

falling in love with fall...

I celebrate my love affair with fall. 
Seems like we've been falling in love with each other for as long as I can remember.
There is nothing I don't love about the season... except that it's only seasonal, of course.
As Fall approaches, the weather starts to shift. 
It turns hot, dry summer days into a casual, still warmth. 
There is a richness in the air.  Not heavy, though. 
The evenings are breezy, but not cold.
The sun's light turns from bright white to saturated and golden.
The leaves changes from green to gold... and gold to brown.
The summer's hard work results in bright orange pumpkins.
And it's time to make our pick!
We pick a few big ones for carving.
A few small ones for decorating.
And pose by fence full of pumpkins or a scarecrow to feel inspired.

 And even bringing Penny to the patch, who felt inspired by all the new smells!
It's our annual thing.  Has been since I was knee high.
All because we love pumpkins and Fall so much!
Then there's the carving of a jack-o-lantern.
Everyone has their own technique.
For me, it's picking the perfect pumpkin.
Full and heavy.
Round. Or oval.
And it must have an interesting stem.
Stems usually cost extra.  I don't mind.
I don't even mind that Pen's first pumpkin doubled as a chew toy.
Then you just gotta dig in.
Cut a hole in the top. 
Scoop out the innards with your hands.
Smell the flesh. Squish it between your fingers.
Gotta getta little messy, you know?
Draw on the perfect face and bring your pumpkin to life.

Put a candle in the middle and light it for the trick-or-treaters to message: WE GIVE GOOD CANDY!
And of course it isn't Fall without sweets and treats!
Making white chocolate truffles with my Poppa.
(He hates having his picture taken. But loves me enough to tolerate a quick pic.)
And the summer's harvest lends itself to ample apple desserts. 
Momma's favorite: apple pie.
Apple season reminds her of her childhood.
Her Momma making pies. 
Working the Pie Loon as a teenager.
Her own long-standing love affair with Fall.
And treats.
Like making caramel apples with my cousin, Ally!
Or having a pumpkin beverage and pastry at our favorite coffee shop!
Another annual tradition!
A sweets & treats costume party for my girlfriends. 
I made them dress up. No entry without a costume, actually.
Costumes are fun. 
I love to be creative. Think outside the box.
I'm not a store bought costume kind-of-a-girl.
I though angel food cake was unique.
Marshmallow Queen on the left (awesome!) and Mother Nature on the right!
My Mother Nature costume was recycled from that one time Hubster & I were Jack & The Beanstalk.
I was the beanstalk. All green.  Even died a pair of jeans green and made felt leaves.
 And a pumpkin.  Pen was a banana.
Momma was a candy corn!
And one year a witch!
Fall makes me excited to decorate.
I love to decorate!
Welcome Fall in style!
Fall brings a visit from the The Great Pumpkin.
He always brings a little treat for his favorite gals!
He's been bringing treats my whole life.
Always in late September or early October.
And once with a map.  "X" marked the spot.  My always Poppa did the digging!
The present is different every year. And usually something homemade by Momma.
It's a tradition I look forward to all year!
Fall makes me nostalgic and a little melancholy.
It reminds me of my childhood.
It reminds me of growing up playing sports.
It reminds me of meeting my best friend, Lynsey, playing basketball.
When?  In the Fall!
And it reminds me that I am so lucky for such an amazing best friend.
She tolerates me. Laughs with me. And even laughs at me.
And the Fall reminds me of my other best friend, Jason, who I married in the October nearly three years ago.
We had a white pumpkin wedding, outside.  It was 80 degrees.  And beautiful!
And now every year we are blessed to celebrate our anniversary in the Fall.
Our Vietnamese wedding anniversary with Pho.
Our first wedding anniversary on the coast.
Eating pumpkin, chai, and ginger flavored ice cream.
And touring a rhododendron garden.
Although, I think that's just a daisy.

Fall is also when Penny, a two month old ball of fuzz came into our lives.
She is our world!
Speaking of babies, my best friend Lynsey had her son in October 2010.
Mason is smart and fun and spirited!
I love having him as my nephew and I love being his Mimi!
I love seeing Lyns be his Mommy!
She's a really, really good Mommy!
Mimi made Mickey Mouse cupcakes and a Mickey smash cake for his 1st birthday.
His party was so fun!
Fall makes me grateful for my family.
Family is everything.
Celebrating my brother-in-law's birthday in late October.
He loves to cook and drink.  He's fun!
And it makes me excited for Thanksgiving.
Playing Bingo with in-laws after dinner.
Not always eating turkey.  Sometimes it's chili crab!
And that's my new Thanksgiving tradition.
Lots of drinking and laughing and seconds.
Lots of love! 
And great sister-in-laws.
Linell never forgets to bring a tube or two of crescent rolls for me, because she knows I miss them at our Asian Thanksgiving.
Her thoughtfulness means so much! So does their friendship!
And it means a Friday Thanksgiving with my family.
Sometimes at our house, and very simple.
And sometimes at my parent's house with lots of friends and family.
And gourmet fixins'!
And Catch Phrase tournaments.
They always make J & I be on different teams.
We always tell them our other family is way better at Catch Phrase.
It's a spirited tournament, to say the least!
Team 2... my Poppa & all the girls!
And fall means it's almost time for my Grandma to come for Christmas!
Uncle Rick calls her "Thanks, Givin'..."  An Inside joke from our Thanksgiving birthday boy!  ;)
And, a really great Uncle.  
Grandma aka "Thanks Givin'," brings cookies when she comes for Christmas. And stories!
And always takes her four grand kids for lunch.
A date with Grandma! Every year!
I love her!

But mostly Fall makes me reflective and grateful for my blessings.
Traditions: pumpkin shopping, the Great Pumpkin, two Thanksgivings, two anniversaries, and lots of birthdays.
We are tremendously blessed with wonderful family!
And a happy, happy home filled with happy barks and scattered with Penny toys.
With dinner cooking in a crock pot and endless laundry running in the garage.
And the humorous jokes from Hubster.
His kisses on the cheek.
His compliments.
His big heart.
I am blessed always! And especially grateful in the Fall!
Oh boy am I excited Fall is almost here...!!!

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