I so enjoyed taking up the 31 Days Of… challenge. I sat down each and every day during the month of October and wrote something from my heart (albeit not always very serious) and as much fun as it was, I’m wiped out!
So I’m taking a week off from writing and sharing here on the blog but will be back and raaaring to go next week!
Thank you friends for joining me on the 31 Days journey! If you fell behind or want to refer back to them you can find them all here:
I have so enjoyed our time together this past month, sharing my "simple things." But that's what this little space is all about anyway, sharing. And although this is technically the last day of "Simple Things", there is so much more to share in the coming months: more recipes, more diy inspirations, more gardening adventures and.... who knows what!
I have made so many wonderful new friends and my old friends continue to remind me why I love them so much. I look forward to whatever comes next around here because we are not really at the end, it's just a happy new beginning!
It’s no secret, I love to cook. I love to read about cooking, I love to watch cooking shows, I love to get in the kitchen with my friends and family and cook up a feast.
I also really appreciate it when other people are willing to cook for me. Sometimes I am just too tired to stand over the stove and those are the nights cold cereal is on the menu for dinner. So when someone offers to make me something to eat it is a really great break. And it doesn’t really matter how fancy of a meal it is, it could be a grilled cheese sandwich on Wonder Bread but it will taste like heaven to me because someone else took the time to make it.
I have some very talented friends and family members, too. Here are some of my all time favorite meals/treats they make:
Biscotti & Coconut Macaroons by Amy
Janna’s Pumpkin Cookies
Laura (Cathy’s) Apple Pie
Eddie’s Collard Greens
Dad’s Chile Verde
Aunt Paula’s Chicken & Biscuits
Grandma Shirley’s Mac and Cheese
Grandma Carmen’s Fideo
…and so many more!
It doesn’t even have to be a homemade dish. I had surgery a few years back and while I was home recovering Bree called to see if I needed anything. I can’t explain why but all I wanted was mashed potatoes and gravy from Kentucky Fried Chicken! And guess what, she brought it and it made my day.
It’s such a simple thing, feeding someone, but it is an act of generosity that never fails to put a smile on my face. And when someone does it for me, it reminds me to be generous with my cooking as well.
(Ooops, I don’t know why this didn’t post yesterday! Sorry if I threw you off.)
My friend Janna & are self-proclaimed PBS-Nerds. We call each other every time we hear of a new Masterpiece Theater special or even when an old one is going to air again. We have had this ritual for just under 20 years. Here are some of the movies we have enjoyed watching:
Pride and Prejudice- The Firth/Ehle version is THE quintessential Jane Austen adaptation, don’t even get me started about the evils of the Keira Knight version.
Forsyte Saga- This story follows the aristocratic Forsyte family and all their drama. It’s a tangled web of money, power & love. Intriguing!
Downton Abbey- Last winter was the introduction of Downtown Abbey and since they left off on a cliffhanger you knew season 2 was on it’s way. In January season 2 will begin! But that leaves you plenty of time to catch up on season 1 if you haven’t see it yet. I won’t give any of it away, but it’s a good one.
I could name so many more, maybe someday I should start a list of all of them…hmmm…
The problem Janna & I often ran into was that if we forgot to record PBS that night, we would completely miss the movie/series. And it’s not like the local video rental stores carried obscure PBS series like The Pallisers so we would have to wait a year or two until PBS ran it again.
But thanks to Netflix, we can watch all of the PBS we want and our nerdom is satisfied! Because Netflix carries just about any movie you can think of, many of the older ones available through instant online streaming, you can catch up on all your favorites or find something new.
I wasn’t trying to become a commercial for Netflix, but I will tell you it has made my life a little happier because I am not an avid theater-goer. I really don’t enjoy the public movie theater experience: uncomfortable chairs, noisy kids, people texting during the movie, expensive snacks. I would much rather be at home, in my sweats, eating delicious cheap food that I have made and watching a movie at my own leisure.
Netflix allows me to watch what I want, where I want, when I want. It’s that simple.
Every family has their own "culture" and in my family it consists of two main things: sports and cooking. We are all athletic and we all cook. We spend a great deal of time talking about food and pestering Grandma for her secret recipes and cooking up a storm.
Not only do I read cookbooks with voracity, I would choose to watch cooking shows over most movies. On a lazy Sunday morning I will roll out of bed, brew a cup of espresso, then crawl back into bed and watch a few cooking shows I have saved on the dvr. Shows like:
Barefoot Contessa- Ina Garten has the most amazing cookbooks. I really do cook from them all the time, in fact, I have made that apple tart she is making in the photo. Her show is full of inspiration and her house is gor-ge-ous!
Mexico: One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless: Rick Bayless lived and studied in Mexico for many years before coming back to the States and opening some of the finest upscale, authentic Mexican restaurants in the country. Watching his show is part cooking-part travel show.
French Food at Home: Most people don't know of Laura Calder or her show on Cooking Channel, probably because she hails from Canada and her show debuted there. She teaches about French cuisine and how to incorporate it into everyday life. She is sophisticated with a side of cheeky. The food is simple but elegant at the same time.
We all have them, those embarrassing little treats or actions that bring us a sinister amount of joy and we don’t want most people to know about it because sometimes it’s something so humiliating that even our best friend may not know about it. Now I’m not talking about anything illegal or immoral… just simple little “you know better” rituals that you don’t go around broadcasting for fear someone might think less of you.
Case in point: hot chocolate. Now, in and of itself hot chocolate is not so bad, it’s mostly milk, which can be lowfat or nonfat and made with sugar substitute and we all know a little chocolate is good for us so overall, not such a bad treat. However, for me hot chocolate is merely the vehicle by which I allow myself to consume ridiculous amounts of whipped cream. Hot chocolate is just a lame excuse I use to fill a rather large mug only about 1/2 way up with the hot chocolate and the other half with whipped cream. Guilty.
I’ve heard other women talk about a particular TV guilty pleasure:
I have never watched a full episode of ANY of the Real Housewives series. I do not understand the appeal of a bunch of spoiled, rude, snobby women and just watching the commercials makes me angry. But before you think I’m being self-righteous about it all I will reveal to you one of my TV guilty pleasures, and this one is really embarrassing….
It is all my friend-who-shall-remain-nameless’ fault for getting me hooked on this show and for the record, we do not condone or sympathize with polygamy. But it is kind of like watching a train wreck: it’s horrific and makes you cringe but you cannot tear your eyes from it! I find myself in amazement at the choices we as humans make and the depths to which we will go to justify it. Crazy, crazy show. Guilty!
Ok, that was really hard to admit. I hope you don’t think less of me now. If you do I think it’s only fair you share your guilty pleasure TV show with the rest of us. And then we can vote on whose is worse. I’m just kidding…sorta.
The truth is we all have a few guilty pleasures whether it be reality tv, deep fried foods or whatever else you can think of. And I guess in excess or if they conflict with your morals or health they would not be wise choices but in moderation, as a treat, occasionally indulging in a guilty pleasure can be a great pick-me-up or relaxing way to end the day or just something to look forward to.
I would love to hear some of your guilty pleasures…if you’re not too chicken
I hesitate to call it a "simple thing" because the Word of God is not trivial, but it's amazing how the simple act of reading can bring life and hope into your day.
My mother starting teaching me to memorize Scripture when I was old enough to talk. To this day I remember the first verse she had me memorize:
The Lord be merciful to us and bless us and cause His face to shine upon us. Selah. -Psalm 67:1
Next, she had me move on to something a little longer. The first chapter of the Gospel of John. I was 4. It is amazing how much like sponges the minds of children are, I had most of that chapter memorized by the time I got into school and although I haven't recited it in umm.. decades, I do still remember the first 15-20 verses:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." -John 1:1
There are so many passages of Scripture that I love to read over and over but the one that I always come back to, the one I guess I would call my "life verse" is Psalm 116:1-2
I love the Lord because He heard my voice, He heard my cries for mercy. Because He turned his ear to my I will call on Him as long as I live. -Psalm 116:1-2
I cherish my Scripture reading time and I love to study my Bible. It is my Truth in a crazy, confusing world. It is my compass and my comfort.
It is one of the simplest things you can do, sit down and open up a Bible. It is possibly the most significant thing you'll ever do.
I just might be the world's biggest nerd, but organizational products and the process of putting things in order is a simple thing that brings me great joy. That picture above gives me shivers because it is so put together and orderly. It's like catnip for Carey!
Oh, I'll put off a clean-up job like the best of the procrastinators but it isn't because I don't enjoy doing it. No, it's because I have to ruminate on it for weeks, maybe months to be certain that I've come up with the best organizational plan for the job. I have to set aside time to do research at places like The Container Store. I am probably the only person I know who got excited on a recent trip to San Francisco when I realized my hotel was right across the street from The Container Store. Fisherman's Wharf? Who cares, I'm going to The Container Store!
Isn't that pantry just dreamy?
This entire office set from seejanework.com is making me drool.
I can't tell you how many of these storage bins I own. I keep buying them in all different sizes! I use them for things like this:
Yes, I am the goober who took the time to make labels to make her organizational storage bins even more organized. Big...time...nerd.
Being organized puts my mind at ease and there is something about the method of putting things "where they go" that is calming and therapeutic for me. Almost like doing a jigsaw puzzle. It takes patience and determination to get everything to fit but the payoff is the relief of knowing that when I am looking for my pinking sheers I know exactly where they are: in the closet, first storage bin, 2nd drawer.
Some organizational jobs can take a long time and are not simple, like the bedroom closet. That one takes some serious planning.
But some are small projects with big payoff. You know you have a junk drawer in your kitchen, admit it. Well what if you dumped all of the contents of your junk drawer out and put some drawer dividers or baskets in there and rearranged things a bit so you could actually see what was in the junk drawer? Maybe toss out all the pens that no longer work and takeout menus from 2004. It wouldn't take long and I promise it will make you pretty proud of yourself every time you open that drawer looking for AAA batteries.
Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful we possess. It has the power to make us hungry, ease our stress and recall deep memories. There are even studies that show scents such as lavender and jasmine can encourage longer and more restful sleep.
Certain smells remind me of all kinds of things: the smell menthol reminds me of my Grandpa Dee because he always had Hall's or Vick's cough drops; the scent of pine reminds me of Tahoe, my happy place; jasmine reminds me of walking out our backdoor, where it bloomed every spring and filled the air with perfume; leather reminds me of my dad's work boots.
And there are certain scents that just make us happy... or not so happy. My favorite scents are citrus: lemon, lime, grapefruit, mandarin I love them all! The smell of citrus is supposed to energize you, which I suppose it does but it can also relax me just because I like it so much. Just cut open a lemon and I'm a happy girl. But keep musky perfumes or colognes away from me, Carey-no-likey.
But there are all kinds of flavors and scents I like to smell from time to time. Lucky for me, my sister is now selling Scentsy products.
Have you heard of Scentsy? It's like scented candles without the worry of an open flame.
You buy a pretty warmer, like this one (this is the one I have plugged in right now):
Then you put a specially scented parafin wax bar in it to melt and the scent is released. Some of my favorite fragrances are:
Growing up on the farm and the only child for at least a mile, well let's just say it could get dull. But besides being a nature lover the other thing that saved me from dying of boredom was my love of reading. The only problem was there weren't enough books on the ranch. We had a small library of books, some too old for me, so after reading my own books at least 3 times and then reading all of my Grandpa's National Geographic's and lastly mom's Reader's Digests, I would finally resort to taking down a volume of the encyclopedias stuffed in the back of my closet. There are never enough books.
Now I'm all grown up and not only can I buy my own books, the internet provides 24/7 reading fulfillment. But I still love to hold a book in my hands so I always have a little stash of books waiting to be read and people (especially cousin Jill!) buy me books for my birthday and holidays because they know I love them so much.
Cookbooks are their own "simple thing", I read them as prolifically as some people read trashy novels. So does my Grandma Shirley (read cookbooks, not trashy novels!), I came by it honestly. Rick Bayless is an American authority on authentic Mexican cuisine and I love all his books. This one focuses on quick, simple, healthy Mexican dishes and every recipe I have made from it was delicious.
This book is sitting on my nightstand, waiting to be devoured. My high school English teacher (Verlaine Stoner McDonald) wrote it! It is about organized communism in Sheridan County, Montana in the 20's. I bought it with an Amazon gift card I got for my birthday (which is probably the perfect gift).
I've been wanting to read this book for quite some time and I think my cousin bought it for me for Christmas. It is the tale of the 1985 sale of a bottle of wine that supposedly dates back to 1787 and allegedly was owned by Thomas Jefferson. If you are a wine enthusiast you might be interested in this book as well as The Rise and Fall of the House of Mondavi which I found fascinating.
This book caught my eye at first because I thought it was a historical fiction book (my favorite genre), then I realized it was in fact a memoir but "dark and humorous", which is right up my alley. It also gives a sneak peak into a society I would never know of otherwise.
There are also books that I read over and over. No big shocker here, but Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of them. Here is another one I go back to time and again:
A Sweetness to the Soul by Jane Kirkpatrick. It is historical fiction based on the story of Jane Sherar and her husband Joseph who was responsible for many of the bridges throughout Washington state. I love Jane Kirkpatrick's ability to weave a story and this one brought me to tears the first time I read it. Folks, I rarely cry so that was a big deal. I've read this book so many times that I have to get it rebound.
Reading books is one of the simplest ways I know to make me happy. Now what should I read next.....