Monday, April 15, 2019

Baking My Bundts Off

Hi everyone!

Spring Break is FINALLY here and Easter is just around the corner, so I am using my week to take on several projects. In January I stumbled across some INCREDIBLE Nordic Ware Bundt pans and I have been having a ball baking for my friends and family.

My Louisiana roots made Nordic Ware's Fleur De Lis Bundt Pan a MUST buy!! I have scoured Pinterest for recipes, asked  friends for ideas, and sent my creations out into the world for my friends and family to enjoy! I have discovered several things with this new found hobby. For starters, I have learned that you can make a cake and it can sit on your counter for days and you do not have to consume it all. Second, if you are diabetic, you can taste wonderful things...the key is to have them in moderation. Creating cakes from scratch...well you can just taste the love in the homemade. I have also found that when you bake from scratch it does not make blood sugar spike like the box mixes do. It is true that different foods tend to impact those of us with diabetes in different ways, but this is what I have found works for me. My daughter likes to tell me, "You do you mom." Well baking these cakes is teaching me to take it one creation at a time.


For this milk chocolate bundt cake I decided to try a coffee glaze. Community Coffee's King Cake flavor seemed to be the PERFECT fit, once again drawing on my Louisiana roots!! This time though, my years spent living in Bavaria, made Nordic Ware's Bavaria Bundt Pan another must have! I absolutely loved the years I spent in Bavaria, so teaching the kids about where they were born and the Louisiana roots of their family is always fun and makes for a festive time.  
     
With each new cake I am learning new things about baking, trying new ideas, and allowing the process to slow down my life a bit. For example, when making a cake from scratch the order and process that must be followed is critical. I even came across a recipe recently that made sure to state that the process of creaming the butter and sugar should not be rushed. We have become such a fast paced society that the idea of slowing down or it could impact the outcome of something we are creating...well let's face it, we really don't give that much thought any more. We look at prep time, but do we ever stop to think about what we learn in the process when we are prepping food? While I carefully added one ingredient after the other into one of my cakes I could not help but think of the perfectly orchestrated steps God has for our lives, steps that sometimes we want to rush through or skip all together. Often times we want the prepacked, processed product to yield a homemade taste. In other words, we do not stop to savor each layer that He adds to our lives. Each lesson He is bringing our way shapes us and mold us, and turns us each into the beautiful creations that He designed for us to be.

Baking and teaching my kids to entertain made Nordic Ware's Heritage Bundt Pan a piece that not only allows me to bake incredible cakes, but also create desserts that can also serve an beautiful accessories for any table. It thrills me every time I use this pan. Because the beauty of this cake when I am finished. The gift, or heritage, that I want to pass down to my kids from my baking is that if we slow down enough to savor the simple things in life, like baking a bundt cake. We will find that we can savor the goodness of sharing beautiful thing with others and our own family. And that, in the simple things, we can find incredible beauty.

Until next time...

Hugs!
Jen

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Celebrating Spring

Hi Everyone!

A new season is upon us, and with the new season, came the exciting opportunity for me to bring my Curiosity Cottage to 318Central. I have been writing about my curiosity for life for years and the opportunity to share this with you truly brings extra excitement into my world. Being a true creative at heart, you may find that my pieces are about everything from cooking to creating. You will just have to visit each month to see what I have decided to share.


Several months ago, there was an article on social media that talked about how people no longer know how to set a dinner table. I am right at the “empty nest” point in life, but both of my boys have developed an interest in cooking. This gave me the perfect opportunity to teach them how to set a table and prepare to entertain. My mom loved to make Crawfish & Saffron Rice Casserole, and it has always been one of our favorites. People always ask me for the recipe, so I thought I would share it, since this is crawfish season. It is super easy to prepare and can feed so many people. 



Crawfish & Saffron Rice Casserole 
1 large package of Saffron rice, cook according to directions 
Sautéed onions, celery, & garlic in olive oil.
Add the following:
2 packages of crawfish tails
1 can crème of shrimp soup
1 can crème of mushroom soup
1 can Rotel tomatoes
Combine mixture with rice. Add to casserole dishes and top with cheese.
Heat in 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted.



I recently purchased a GORGEOUS Bundt pan, which I used to make a Double Almond Wedding Cake. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous trying it out, but I was so pleased with the results; I thought it would complement this meal perfectly. When I make cupcakes, I use a traditional buttercream icing, but for the Bundt cake, I thought a glaze was in order.

Double Almond Wedding Cake
1 box Betty Crocker™Super Moist™white cake mix.
            Water, vegetable oil and eggs as called for on the cake mix box
1 tablespoon almond extract

Almond Glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup evaporated milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
Whisk ingredients together until smooth. Poor over cool cake.

Having my boys help with our meal not only passed down my mom’s tradition, but gave them a new addition to add to their recipes as well. Cooking together as a family definitely makes for a fun time, and in my world, it usually involves much laughter, singing, and dancing. So let our Spring Celebration give you new ideas for your family and friends too.

Hugs!
Jen



Monday, December 3, 2018

Busy, Busy, Busy

Hi everyone!

This is the semester I teach my Blog Creation course and I have been so busy helping my students and friends write their own blogs and books that I have not updated you guys in a while. In the next few days I want to share some of the amazing work from some of my students. I cannot even begin to express the excitement I feel when I see the beauty they are now bringing to the world with their own blogs. For some, it is has not just been about completing assignments for me, it has given them a new way to express themselves.


This first site really takes us into the heart of our service members who have paid a dear price for our freedom. His transparency with us all gives us a touching view into what our freedom truly costs our service men and women and their families. It has been such an honor to introduce him to blogging and to find they way it has touched his life...well that is why teaching is a vocation and not just a job. Stop by his site at Jim's PTSD Blog

My dear friend Pauline Reneaux has been working on her books and writing for the new digital magazine here in town 318Central. Make sure you take a look at her site. In October she started writing her monthly column with a spin on the alphabet using each month to bring something new and inspiring to us here in Central Louisiana. Her first in that series is A is for Adventure. I think you will enjoy her work.

As I finish up this semester this week and visit the final blogs for my students I will be passing them along to you as well.

Happy Holiday everyone!!

Hugs,
Jen

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Walk in the Woods

Hi everyone,

The fall semester is back in full swing and that often means I have to put my creativity aside for a while. Of course this is common for most of my friends as well and with my "baby" a senior so much more is added to my plate. I'm trying to find a way to work both into the equation of my life, because to create is to breath for me. The fall weather draws me to the outdoors. I find it helps me clear my mind and focus.


In a world that so desperately seems to be searching for something, I find that my quiet devotion time brings more to my life than money could ever buy. This time lets me not only reflect about life, but also look at the world around me, to try and see what He sees so that I might be able to use the gifts that He has given me to help others. The saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees" seems to come to mind, which is kind of ironic since I am sitting outside enjoying the trees that surround me. To me personally, what this quote means is that sometimes we can be so close to a situation that we can't see how best to maneuver our way through or how best to help others that may be going through something. For me, it is in this quiet time that I can read, write, pray, and reflect to see what I can do.


For me this sacred time in the midst of a very busy season of my life sometimes involves singing and dancing, cook outs with kids, and laughter with friends. For me it may mean marveling at the deer that appear out of the wood line in my back yard or cheering for my child as his last football season passes by so quickly.

Though I know without any certainty where I want to take my creative career, I am at peace with the pace that this journey is taking. I have reached an age where I know what it means to bloom where I am planted and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Until next time...
Hugs! Jen



Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dents & Dings

Hi everyone!

Well exciting things have happened in my world since I last wrote.  I am thrilled to write that another item may now be crossed off my bucket list.  For years I have said that I wanted to have a VW Beetle convertible so I could grab my camera and go on adventures and I now am the very proud owner of one.  I have named her Sara Jayne and the power of wind therapy at the end of a long day is beyond words.  But, but…this post is about so much more than my new to me, used car purchase. 

Yesterday I stopped by the car wash…yes, she is new & was detailed when I got her, but the rain lately had left some mud in her wheel wells and I couldn’t have that. J  As I carefully washed her I noticed a slight ding on her hood, which is the obvious reason for the touch-up paint in the glove box.  And since she is used I have had a few well-meaning friends voice concern over that fact that she is a VW.  But, but the beauty in all of this came to me in my quiet time this morning.  The words just kind of whispered to my soul.  If we look at the dents & dings in everyone we meet…if we look at how life has put miles on them and we worry that having them in our lives can cost more than we bargained for, then don’t we also risk missing out on more fun than we could have ever imagined.  Don’t we risk being able to sing and laugh and relax like we haven’t been able to do in years.  Don’t we risk missing out on God winks and God whispers.  Don’t we ALL use some form of touch up paint to try and hide the dents & dings that life has brought upon us.  Yes, touch up paint can keep a ding from turning into further damage, which is always a good thing, but ALL vehicles get them.  And I think that is what we must remember about our own selves.  We have to embrace the things that we have experienced in life, both the good and the not so good things, because they shape each of us into the BEAUTIFUL creations that God meant for us to be. 

Once we realize that…once it really sinks into our souls, it brings incredible peace and healing.  Yes, I bought a used vehicle with some miles on her.  Yes, she has a dent & ding here and there.  But, but WOW is she fun…she makes me smile until my cheeks hurt…she says, “Put that top down and let’s go girl!”  She has allowed me to leave the past in the rear view mirror, toss my camera in the front seat and head off to see what beauty God has in store for me next.

So I am sure you are saying, “Yeah Jen, but what if we can’t get a convertible?”  And that is not my point at all.  My point is, don’t be so hard on yourself or those you love.  Life goes by in the blink of an eye.  Embrace who you are, where you are, whether you are in a good or not so good place, because we learn from both.  Believe you me I know this from experience and if you are in doubt then let’s have coffee.  Don’t worry about the traffic when you go to work, enjoy the morning sky.  Don’t worry about the heat of the summer, buy a kiddie pool and get your feet wet.  If you don’t have a convertible you can still roll the windows down, put great music on and take a joy ride down the highway.  Don’t have a car, then bike, or walk.  My point is, no matter your circumstance you can always find a way to feel joy.  You can always find a way to use what you are going through to help others.  And you can always wear your dents & dings proudly like a new tattoo…and no I didn’t get a new tattoo, but I think you get my point.

Well there is a little daylight left and I hear the road calling my name.  Until next time…


Hugs, Jen

Saturday, July 7, 2018

And Then She Bloomed

Hi everyone!
The past week my best friend surprised me with this beautiful little tea cup.  She said when she saw the tag she just knew she had to get it for me.  It reads, “In Full Bloom.”  And what my precious friend told me was “you may not realize it, but you are in full bloom.” 
Yes I cried, but I was also able to accept this sweet complement and really allow it to sink in.  Sometimes things can happen in life that slowly, but surely start to bury us.  This may be taking care of kids or aging parents, divorce, a loss of a job, or other life stressors.  Slowly but surely the aftermath from life events can begin to bury us, slowly, some may go underground deeper than others, sometimes we may think we will never see the light of day again.  But then one day it just happens.  One day things just start to change.  Friendships start to water our soul and their smiles act like the sun sending down the fuel needed to start our growth.  Slowly, but surely the shells that we once used as walls to protect ourselves start to open up.  It often begins to happen so slowly we don’t quite realize that impact of the changes taking place.  It may be small steps, baby steps if you will, at first.  Maybe we start to take better care of ourselves. 
Maybe we quit singing to the squirrels in our backyard and start singing in on a Praise Team, for the first time EVER.  Maybe eating healthy and exercise aren’t just New Year’s resolutions, but something we actually enjoy doing.  Maybe we start to have our nails done again and change our look.  Changes, little changes start to help us sprout and grow.  Life didn’t bury us really, but it actually allowed us to grow and mature, and the tough times actually just fertilized us.  And then one day it just happens.  Oh people may have been noticing for a while.  But maybe we just brushed it off.  And then one day we look in the mirror and we realize we REALLY do glow.  We really ALL are uniquely beautiful creations that God created for a special purpose so others can see His handiwork in us.  It isn’t a conceded or overly confident thing.  No it’s a beautiful gift when we start to bloom.  It’s a beautiful gift when we can look in the mirror and accept all of our flaws and imperfections, not viewing them as flaws and imperfections, but as precious pieces of mosaic that He has used to best illustrate the master piece that is each and every one of us.  
Once this happens, THE most amazing thing starts to transpire.  For me personally, I have found that my faith has become so much more than my mustard seed pendant.  I have REALLY started to believe that He will give us the desires of our heart.  BOLD prayers are written in my journals with excitement and anticipation, because for months He has been gently whispering “write down the desires of your heart, every last detail.”  And to be quiet honest I think I have been a bit afraid of this exercise…after all, there is a reason I am writing books. lol But I have been watching God Wink at me for so many years, hearing His voice, and doing the things He has guided me to do…so why was this so scary???  What am I so afraid of???  THIS, this is what I have really had to lean into this week.  And I keep being drawn to my copy of the book Fervent, so I decided to look up the definition on Google.

Fervent – having or displaying a passionate intensity
....intense, sincere, heartfelt, burning, or glowing.
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, not because I was making light of this book, but rather because anyone who knows me, knows that I approach EVERYTHING in life in this manner.  So if I approach everything in my life in this manner, then why on earth would I not approach placing the desires of my heart at His feet in the same manner?  Tada, the glow, the bloom, the lightbulb going off, the angels singing….okay, maybe not angels singing, but all of a sudden it all made sense.  He has been waiting all along for me to lay my fears down, just step up to the plate, swing for the fence, and tell Him what I want.  Wow!!  Ok, so maybe I am a late bloomer, but who cares, all that matters is that I am blooming!!  All that matters is that I make sure this incredible process is documented in my writings so that other people can see that the caterpillar really does make it out of the cocoon.  Hey, no one said there was an age limit on the caterpillar to butterfly process, because it’s all about His timing in the end.  So as I start to make more exciting and incredible changes I will be sure to share, because I know some of you fellow caterpillars are wanting to find your wings too.  Until next time…

Hugs! Jen        

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Gift He Gave to Me

Hi everyone!
While everyone was out searching this weekend for the perfect tie or grill for their dad this Father’s Day, I find I am spending the day finally allowing the grief to set in.  Or maybe I have just been traveling so fast through life for so long that this is the first time in a very long time that I have allowed myself to stop.  And when I say stop, I mean stop.  My many projects have been put on hold.  The many ideas swirling around in my overly creative head have been quieted.  I have stopped.  For the past several weeks I didn’t let grief get near me, but as this holiday drew closer, I felt more and more compelled to take this time to write. 

On May 22nd we lost our stepdad at the age of 80.  Anyone who had ever met Clyde knew that he could have easily been on a meme as an example of the “Hold My Beer” guy.  We had a childhood that was filled with adventure and left me with plenty to write about.  Anyone who had ever had to work with him also knew that at times he could be a bear.  I remember when I was in college and I worked at International Paper, the men who worked for him would ask me, “Does he ever smile at home?”  If truth be told, at times he could also be a down right butt, which seemed to only get worse with age.  However, this is not a piece about what a horrible childhood I had, no this is a piece about what walking someone to the end of life taught me about love.  Or I guess you could say what we taught each other.

My brother and I promised our mom when she passed away almost 7 years ago that we would take care of him.  They had both always been a handful, but we had no idea how daunting this task would be.  Never the less, we did it, my brother and me, down to the last few hours, and even now by making sure his little dog is loved and cared for.  We weren’t trying to be martyrs or earn our angel wings, there was much more to it than that. 

On the Thursday before Good Friday, I started making countless trips to the hospital and learning things about the medical field that I thought was only something my daughter and son would do.  But hospitals are understaffed and he needed me.  It was not the time to think I was too good or not capable of stepping up to the plate.  While it was at times very unpleasant for us, I also thought of how utterly humbling it was for this once “man’s man” to now have to depend on his stepchildren to help him take care of every physical need.  It didn’t matter what he had or had not done prior to this time, all that mattered was he needed us and we were not going to abandon him when the going got tough.  Or as our mom use to say, “When the ox is in the ditch, who is going to show up?”  I can’t speak for my brother, but for me, it was about knowing that one day I will be in that ditch and I couldn’t help but think of the countless people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities everywhere that have no one.  Was he a handful?  Yes, and he had been one for over the 40 years he was in our lives.  Did we make a promise to our mom?  Yes, and I will be first to admit that once or twice in the past 7 years we have looked to the heavens and told her a time or two just what we thought about that promise. 

But THE most important thing that I learned, that really hit home for me, was that when we get married, how many really lean in and think of the vow to “love in sickness and in health”?  I mean REALLY think about that.  I was having a conversation with a dear friend of mine at Christmas and I jokingly said, in my overly confident Jen tone, “I will never live with anyone.  At our age if one of us gets sick and I have to wipe some man’s butt, I am going to be married to him!”  End of story, case closed…or so I thought.  During the countless trips to the hospital and as Clyde’s health continued to decline I had to recount those words to my friend, noting that God often times has a sense of humor.  I don’t think that God was laughing at me really, in all honesty, however what He did allow me to see was what true love, unconditional love for another human being looked like.  I was able to put aside all of the mean, cruel, and just Clyde type things, and help this man who took us in and was the only male figure in our lives.  Did he get this wrong at times?  Yes, but as a parent myself, who doesn’t.  Were there times when we wanted to walk away, despite what we had told our mom?  You bet we did!   But it was in watching this now frail man, who had no control of his body, light up if we walked into a room.  It was in watching this now frail man still argue with us when we told him he couldn’t smoke a cigar and wear oxygen.  It was in watching this now frail man use every last bit of strength he could muster and hold on to my hands for dear life up until the very last day that taught me what real true love, the “in sickness and in health, death do you part” kind of love looked like. His last lesson as a dad to teach me. 

In this age of Social Media overload, people of all ages are so quick to want to judge others based on the pictures they post or the job that they have, while completely overlooking THE most important feature of a person.  Their heart.  What is their ability to feel compassion and empathy?   Where are they going to be when sickness sets in?  And as someone now over the age of 50, let’s be honest, sickness does eventually set in.  I have watched how my own children helped me during this time and I am so very proud of them.  Their spouses will be in wonderful hands, but the past several months have had a profound impact on me.  I remember our high school civics teacher telling us we should never date anyone we wouldn’t want to marry.  Well I think at my age that should be worded a little differently, “Never date anyone who wouldn’t stand by you in sickness and in health.”  Who is going to hold your hands when the going gets tough, look you in the eyes, and no matter the prognosis make you feel like everything is going to be okay?  Whose face lights up when you enter a room?  Who shows compassion and empathy to others when no one is around?  Who is willing to roll up their sleeves and make life a little better for you one day at a time?  I don’t want to see a picture, I want to see your heart.

Clyde was one tough cookie and now we have him and mom looking out after us from up above.  So on this first Father’s Day without him, I am sure they are enjoying an afternoon totty, looking down on my brother and me, affectionately saying, “You did good guys.  Don’t worry, Jen…you’ve got this!”  This “man’s man” who taught me to shoot and trap alligators, left this earth teaching me how to truly love.  In the end, it was a blessing to us both and the greatest gift he could have ever given to me.  So I encourage you to look at your own heart and ask the very tough question, “Can I love those around me in sickness and in health?”  I can promise you this, if you can, if you can love them with complete and total unconditional love, you will receive the most precious gift that life can ever offer.


Happy Father’s Day Paw, we will miss you!  Love, Jen     

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