At the end of each month, I take stock of the previous month. What went well? What did I learn? What brought me a simple joy? These monthly reports are a way to encourage myself to take delight in the littlest of things. I find that Ten Things I Loved allows me to always see the silver lining, even when there are hard moments in a month. And taking joy in the simple things is paramount to how I want to live, making 10 things an invaluable tool for me. Here’s this month’s simple pleasures.
Things I/ We Did
1. Family Dance Parties I came across my iPod speakers and, well, now we have the volume for our tunes to inspire us to move like Jagger. So we do. A lot. After dinner and before and during bath time. Happy’s partial to Adele right now, especially Rumor Has It.
2. Renaissance Festival The big event around here in the fall is the Renaissance Festival where people of all ages dress up like knights, maidens, and the like and put on a great show. We saw a joust, ate fudge, rode human powered rides, and just had a good time at this quirky festival.
3. Celebrating Papito. We have a lot of significant family birthdays in November (4 of our family members celebrate in November) and it is always a ball to celebrate our loved ones but perhaps the celebration that most touched my heart this year was my dad’s 75th birthday celebration. We threw a quaint, surprise dinner party for him (and he and my mom were totally surprised which was awesome) and invited friends from back in the day. It was so lovely to honor my dad with these people who had loved him for almost as long as my family has been in the United States. It has been such a tough eight years for my dad from cancer to a coma (unrelated health crises), and it wasn’t lost on us how lucky we were to be able to celebrate.
4. Panthers Game For my birthday, Happy, BF, and I headed to a Panthers game. We went to the Play 60 Kids Combine on the practice field beforehand and then headed on over to the game. You know how every single stadium section has a rowdy, mouthy, not so appropriate fan (or three) in it? Well, that guy sat directly behind me. I was getting a little bit worried about it and then Happy started REALLY paying attention to what this guy was screaming and wanting to echo him and I said something like, “Buddy, you can’t say what he says.” I didn’t say it all that loud, I thought that I had murmured this in Happy’s ear, but the guy was suddenly so apologetic and embarrassed and totally just flipped his whole demeanor. He started screaming Charlie Brown and Big Bird when he wanted to say something else and came up with a little system of when he and Happy could pound on the seats to celebrate. It was cute and such a relief, and I was so, so thankful to him for switching his whole approach to the game.
5. Thanksgiving We were fortunate to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with both of our families. In addition to good food, some good laughs were had. In fact, there were two different points where I had to lie down on the floor from laughing so hard because I was scared I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen.
6. Cutting our own Christmas Tree We started cutting down our Christmas tree last year and it was loads of fun. This year, we ventured even further away from the house and went up to the North Carolina mountains to get a Frasier Fir. Happy picked out our tree, and she’s gorgeous and smells fabulous.
On the Plate
7. Sweet Potato Gruyere Turnovers. Unbelievable. We didn’t have the swiss chard so I used spinach, and it certainly didn’t hurt the outcome. So, so good. Make these STAT.
8. Mexican White Bean Soup. Navy beans, orange zest, and salsa verde sounded like a quirky combination. Nope. It’s culinary brilliance.
9. Pumpkin Bread I have been making pumpkin bread for just about everything and everyone.
Here’s my recipe:
3 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 cups pumpkin
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 t salt
3 1/3 cup flour
2 t baking soda
(I hate raisins but you can totally put a 1/2 cup in there if you like ’em).
Mix all ingredients well with mixer and pour into lightly greased (I just use cooking spray) loaf pans (this recipe will make 3 normal size loaves and about 8 small loaves if you want to make this for gifts). Only fill 2/3 of the way as it will rise significantly. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes and use a toothpick in the middle to check for doneness.
For frosting (you can absolutely do it without frosting but if you want it to be more desserty, go for the frosting):
1 package cream cheese (I use low fat)
1/4 cup margarine/ butter (again, I use a low or no fat version like Smart Balance).
1 t vanilla
1 package (16 ounces) powdered sugar
Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Add sugar gradually.
On the Bookshelf