Monday, November 19, 2012

Is It Almost Christmas Yet??? PIE!!!

Every year, both a pecan and pumpkin pie makes its appearance to our table on Thanksgiving. I am a sucker for tradition, but I also like to add a newbie every now and then to change things up a bit. I could not decide what dessert to introduce this year but I knew I defiantly wanted to add something that included cream cheese. I sat in bed with my laptop and  watched a few of my favorite Target Black Friday videos with the crazy blonde lady decorating the storefront gingerbread house and it inspired me to add this to my concoction as well. I channeled my inner Maria Banford & Martha Stewart and headed to the kitchen in my Christmas themed fuzzy socks and hit both the fridge and spice cabinet. I zipped back and forth between mixing bowls and ingredients with a crazed look on my face and hummed my favorite holiday tunes as my newest dessert unfolded before my eyes. After adding some cream cheese, whipped topping, marshmallows, cranberries and a variety of spices to the mix, I knew the gingersnaps would bring this whole pie together AND bring all the fam to the yard. After one bite of this yummy pie it also made me stop and think.. Is it Christmas yet???

For Crust:
  • 1 bag of Gingersnaps - crushed fine in food processor
  • 1 stick of salted butter melted
For Filling

  • 2 packages of cream cheese - softened
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (do not use fresh cranberries, they will bleed into filling and cause filling to be runny)
  • 5 oz of small marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup of milk + 2TBSP
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 tub of cool whip 
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extra
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinammon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/2/ Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves

Step 1 

Pour bag of gingersnap cookies in a food processor and chop until fine. you will need about 3 cups for a nice thick crust. Add crumbs in a medium sized bowl and melt one stick of butter in a microwave safe bowl. Let butter cool for about a minute and add to crumbs. Using a fork stir together until butter is incorporated and a ball can be formed with the crushed gingersnaps. Remove about 3 Tablespoons of  mixture and set aside, this will be used to sprinkle on top of pie as a garnish. Press mixture into a glass pie dish making sure to include the inner sides. When pie crust is made sit dish in refrigerator and allow to chill as you begin to make the filling.

Step 2

Bring milk to a simmer on stove top careful not to boil. Add marshmallows and continuously stir with a whisk until melted. Be sure the heat is not to high because marshmallows will burn and stick to the bottom quickly. When melted, remove from heat and sit aside. In another small pot, add dried cranberries to a cup of water and boil until they have plumped back up. Drain cranberries and sit aside.

Step 3

In a medium mixing bowl add 2 packages of softened cream cheese plus the sugar and beat with a mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute. Carefully pour the marshmallow mixture to the mix and beat on medium speed for another minute. Add cranberries, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and mix again at a low speed for about 1 - 1 1/2 minutes. Fold in 1/2 of a small tub of cool whip into filling being careful not to over fold. Using a spatula, pour filling into chilled gingersnap pie crust. Spread the top of the pie with a metal spatula and garnish with remaining crumb mixture, fresh cranberries, and cinnamon sticks. Chill for 4-6 hours or overnight. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hold The Yolks Please!!

 With the holidays starting up soon, I am always down for a quick tip to make cooking and baking a little easier. If I can find a way to incorporate my sons help in  the kitchen, I am all for it. I was taken by surprise a few days ago, when my he came across a quick, fun way to separate raw eggs. Together we went through about a dozen of those babies as we stood and watched in aww at this simple easy trick. If you are anything like me, you might have several recipes that call for only the whites or the yolk of an egg, and lets face it, when you are doubling or tripling up a recipe, it gets pretty boring flip flopping the egg yolk back and forth between the shell. I know, I know, that's how grandma would do it. How else did she have those strong arms to smack our dirty hands away when she was baking? But let's face it, its the 21st century and if she had plastic water bottles back then, you know darn well she would be passing this little tip along to all her bridge playing, recipe swappin, clothes pin hanging gals!! So, grab your kiddos, an empty water bottle, some eggs, and a bowl and lets get to CRACKIN!!

Items you will need:
1 medium sized bowl
1 small bowl
1 empty water bottle or soft drink bottle

Step 1

Step 2 

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6 


Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Beautiful Tragedy

Have you ever stopped to think how the time in our lives are actually spent? How much of our precious time is actually spent without family and friends? When I sit and put the pen to paper on my particular weekly schedule which includes a full time job, part time work, and sleep, my calculations add up to 142 hours are spent on just that, WORK. The remaining 26 hours are spent with my loved ones. It just doesn’t seem fair when you add everything but unfortunately this is what I along with a majority of others have to do to survive. So I thought.. 

Now don’t get me wrong, my part time job is my photography which I absolutely adore and was in hopes to eventually pursue full time, however that changed about a week ago, when I realized once again, to STOP. SLOW down, and enjoy LIFE. Enjoy the MOMENTS.

Moments where a weekend can be just hanging out watching television, with piles of finished laundry waiting to be folded.
Moments where I delay doing the dishes in hopes my fiancé will come in and realize my procrastination and pick up where I left off.
Moments where my son just has to show me a hilarious video he found on YouTube despite my attempts at watching my recorded show uninterrupted.
Moments where my love will cancel out my recordings to watch a sports game and not tell me until I go to watch it and then acts like he didn’t do anything even though the DVR shows it being cancelled out after a minute of recording.
Moments where my youngest sister asks me to help her remember a certain memory she has forgotten, or if she had already asked me the question she is going to ask.
Moments where I come home after a long day of work to find my middle sister and 3 year old nephew have just left, and once again forgot to pick up the trail of toys scattered from one room to the other.  
Moments sitting talking with my mom as she opens up and tries to make sense of why this had to happen to my sister.
Moments outside the office of our family business I spend with my dad and step mom which are few too many.  

How did I come to this conclusion? Lets rewind shall we..

Last March of 2011 we moved my mom and youngest sister Holly who was 18 at the time in with us. They were going through some hard times financially and we had a spare room to offer. By doing so we sacrificed a lot but its family and you do what you can do no matter what, at least that is how we were raised. Holly was back and forth between her boyfriends house and ours and I can literally count on my hands how many times she actually stayed the night at home. During 2011 I was in the process of building up my photography portfolio and found a new hobby making mini top hats for photo props and turned that into a semi-successful Etsy/Facebook shop. By the beginning of 2012 my life as a part time photographer & part time mini top hat  maker/designer was going in the direction I was hoping it would be. Actually, tiny hats were taking over the photography and almost every night when I would come home from work I could be found sitting at the table with needle, thread, fabric, and wire creating custom creations for my clients. 

On March 29th, I had a several orders that came in and I was ecstatic as I watched the numbers in my Paypal grown higher and higher. That evening as I sat and stitched my son came in to ask me what we were going to do over the weekend. I told him I was going to be sewing and he turned around and walked back to his room. As I think back now, I am 100% sure as he was walking away with a frown. Not long after, Holly came in and asked me if I could fix her favorite necklace that was tangled before tomorrow. I told her I would after I finished doing what I was doing and to lay it on the china hutch. I finished my bases a couple of hours later and realized I needed to edit a few photos. I sat at the computer, continued to work until wee hours in the night. 

March 30th.  _ This day now replays over and over in my head and heart. My mom and sisters were going to Winstar late that afternoon to celebrate my cousins birthday and Holly was going to follow, stay for a bit, then head to a town near Elk City, Oklahoma to see her boyfriend who was doing some temporary work for relatives who lives there. That morning, I sat in my office and watched for Holly to come through and leave with my dad to go to the dentist. Upon their return, hours later I had every intention to catch her before she left to tell her to be careful and to drive safe but became distracted and never did. Later on after I got home, I continued where I left the night before with my hats. While working, my phone rang on the counter and as I got up to answer it something shimmery caught my eye. It was Holly’s necklace on the hutch. I forgot to fix it. I made it to the phone and it was my other sister, Jen calling. I thought she was going to tell me they just hit it big on a slot machine and before I could say Hello all I could hear was screaming. This was not a scream of joy but a scream of panic, terror, and worry. I knew something was wrong and my mom finally managed to scream out between the words of “My baby, My Baby”, “Holly is in trouble, they are careflighting her and won’t tell me if she is alive or not.” I never thought for a second that something like this would be happening. Our lives had just changed forever. Holly’s vehicle was struck by an 18 wheeler at speeds of 70 mph. She suffered multiple injuries, including a Traumatic Brain Injury.

During this time, of not knowing what our future with Holly was going to withhold, I had made a promise to myself, to her, to my family that I was no longer going to live the way I was living. All of  time being spent making extra money was over. I was going to rebuild memories so I would not have any regrets as to what I wished I would have done differently. (I plan on doing another post in the future that will go in more depth about the accident, her recovery and the struggles on us all as a family.)  As Holly progressed I managed to allow myself to slowly go back into my photography, and dabble a bit again in my hats. Being away from Etsy for so many months my shop had stalled. That is okay, I told myself, my photography was picking up. Just recently I noticed my free time was extremely limited as I penciled in one more client.

I am going to be open and honest for a second and share with those who are taking the time to read this that the last few sessions I had, my heart and passion was just not there. It was as if I had lost my motivation or at least the enjoyment of being behind the lens. As I tried my best to capture smiles and memories for another family my heart attained a feeling that something was wrong. I should be at home not here. While finishing the session, I hid my tears and guilt behind a smile as I replayed the nights and days of sleeping on a blow up mattress in the ICU waiting room at the hospital, waiting for the doors to open so I could see my sister. As I captured the moments of the smiling children I became sad inside knowing that the only smiles I captured of my own son were the ones on our vacation back in July.

Last Friday night, after I hugged and kissed both Holly and Colby goodnight I laid in bed watching TV trying to fall asleep because the weekend was going to be busy and full of booked sessions. Not long after I started to drift off, I rolled over to hide my face from D.J. and cried. How did I let the lessons I learned at Holly’s expense go away so fast in just a short amount of time? Suddenly, I had the Oprah  Ah Ha moment. No longer could I look at the accident and recovery as being this “horrific” time in our lives. I needed to take what has happened, and make this event as it was, something beautiful. A beautiful tragedy I would say. I was personally given a lesson from life that would show me how quickly a loved one can be taken away, but was lucky enough to have it returned back to me with patience.   

Each day for the past 7 months I have had been given the opportunity to see and learn to never take a person for granted. I was crying in my pillow even harder now because I had easily allowed myself to fall back into the old routines I once had and pushed aside the time with my family. No longer was I going to allow myself to be a part time mom to my 13 year old son who now needed his mom more than ever as he faced the cruel world as a middle school student. I wanted to enjoy watching him grow and capture his moments behind my lens before he is off and away to college. I was realizing in that short amount of time crying in the bed, once again that our time spent with family is what is important. Nothing else no matter what. My dreams and photography career can be put off until some time in the future, but  memories and time shared with  family cannot. I needed my life to feel complete but did not know where to begin. 

D.J. was supportive through all my tears and asked me two question.

“What do you want to do? and “What is it that makes you and only you happy?”

The words poured out of my mouth without any hesitation, “I don’t think I want to do photography anymore at this point in my life. I want to be home at nights, not editing photos but cooking and enjoying dinner with all of you and spend our weekends at the park, hanging out, or going on walks. I want to be able to make our photo books of the past 3 years vacations that I have yet to make. As far as what makes me happy, my family, cooking, crafting, photography, and painting is what makes me happy.”

“There you have it” he said, “Do what makes you happy, and don't worry about what anyone thinks." 

Those simple words he spoke worked as a crane pulling the heaviness off my shoulders. We talked more and I found myself smiling reminiscing on some of my most  happiest moments which included the times, I would cook a lavish meal and decorate our tables with homemade décor and invite the family over for a wonderful evening of quality time. 

The next thing I had to do was tell all of my clients both new and old that I was not going to be able to fulfill my photography duties. Oh gosh, I thought, how am I going to do this when I have several sessions in less than 12 hours. I knew it was unprofessional and I should have sucked it up and at least followed through on that weekends bookings but I couldn’t. I had to fess up, let my clients know, refund deposits and be prepared for the responses that would be coming in from the other side. Early that morning I contacted all of them through email, text, or phone calls to let them know a little about what was going on. Many were totally understanding and asked for referrals to which I sent, some never responded, and some actually reached out to offer additional help if I ever needed to talk to someone or needed just everyday friendly advice. My heart broke for each one who had relied on me, trusting me with my talent and their photos, as I laid it out but I knew this was for the best. 
I hate to think of it as quitting, but I guess you could say that.

Yes I quit my clients. I can however live with it. What I cant live with is quitting my family.

So what did I end up doing with the rest of my weekend? That morning D.J. and I went grocery shopping together and bonded with one another as we found deals at the local grocery store. Later that evening I made homemade flautas, hotsauce, rice, guacamole, and we all sat at the table where we talked and shared laughs. Sunday we loaded up in the car in search of a hidden waterfall in Tarrant County and enjoyed peaceful moments with nature. I watched my son skip rocks for the first time in 13 years with his dad and each time allowed one more skip. I laughed as my nephew Mason drew circles in the dirt with a stick, and held on to Tinky's leash as he led our group. A serene moment in a pasture drew my attention to a large white dog sitting under a tree as he guarded the livestock. It was beautiful and I captured it.  Continuing our walk through the fall breeze made me want to cry all over again. As the yellow leaves were falling to the ground, I realized we were doing something the doctors told us would never happen 7 months ago. We were walking together through the tree lined path with Holly and the sister I have always had was and still is with me. I ended that weekend beautifully and fulfilled a promise I had made to Holly. We found perfect spots to take the pictures of her and Tinky that she had been wanting long before her wreck.