02/06/17

Looking for Lovely : Collecting Moments that Matter, Vol 2

Looking for the lovely can sometimes be very hard. Difficult even. And sometimes, feel utterly hopeless. But, there is beauty even in the midst of the ashes. That’s what makes His love and grace so profound to someone like me.

A little over a year ago, I lost my first grandparent. A Nana. And she was remarkable, vivacious, full-of-life and laughter,and anything but a shrinking violet.

NANA

Nana fought Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s for 8 long years before losing the battle in July of 2015. It is, in my opinion, the most cruel and vicious death that a person can experience because it strips you of you long before you have exited this world.

Nana started slipping my Senior year of High School and the changes were slight and went almost unnoticed at first, but she noticed them. She would write notes to herself in the corner of her day planner that would remind her to take medications she hoped no to forget and sometimes would write phrases like, “keep walking to the left” or “missed a step today”. Looking back at all of it, we were all in different stages of denial. But life, and the progression of this debilitating disease is unkind and it didn’t give us very long to wise-up and clue-in.

Denial flowed quickly into acceptance.

In her latter years, Nana became increasingly quiet and painfully distant. Again, incredibly unlike her. Mom, me, or DatDat would beg her to pipe up and join in the conversations happening around her and offer us anything, anything at all. We just couldn’t bear the absence of her voice. But, she would just smile or shrug or reply simply with, “Just listening.” You could visibly see the resignation on my DatDat or Mom’s face.

This was our new normal. This distance. A heinous interlude between mother and daughter, between husband and wife, between Nana and only granddaughter.

But, one day, we were all piled on the back bench seat DatDat’s SUV enroute to one of our favorite weekend lunch spots, and without any introduction or preamble Nana pipes up, in a strong (uncharacteristic at this time since her voice had become very weak and cracking) voice as a blue truck whizzes by to our left, “That’s a pretty truck.” 

I look to my left and to my right, registering the facial expressions of those around me. Looks of disbelief, confusion, and most often, humor. I can remember, at the time, we all thought it was the most absurd comment.

Nana had never been a lover of cars or knowledgeable of automobiles and she certainly didn’t often look at trucks and assess their beauty or aesthetic qualities.

I remember DatDat looking to his right and affirming her with, “Yes honey, it is.”  All the while, he too was probably imagining that to be an odd topic of conversation as well, but it was participation at the very least. Participation is what we so desperately needed. And that floating comment referencing a truck was like a life raft.

This disease will take everything from you, even when you feel you have nothing left to give, it will take a bit more. So, you have to find those light-hearted and even laughable moments in it all to keep yourself from crying.

This moment was a moment for all of us.

I cannot tell you how many times since that day we have seen a blue truck on the road and one of us will pipe up with “That’s a pretty truck.”  We smile, we remember, we giggle, but mostly, we choose to see the lovely in that moment. That simple, everyday, seemingly insignificant moment, but now, so many years later, I still remember that tiny glimpse at lovely in a dark time in the life of my family.

His faithfulness and loving-kindness towards us is oh so sweet, if we just make sure and look for it. I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

There really is lovely in everything.

Even in the gleam from chrome glistening off an old Chevy truck.

I would encourage you to look for it.

xoxo…

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02/02/17

Super Bowl LI | Fan Food Favorites

Y’all.

Super Bowls are typically not really my thing, although I haven’t missed watching one for as long as I can remember, but this year is different. Our Atlanta Falcons are playing the New England Patriots and you can feel the electricity, excitement, and hopefulness all throughout this city. And even outside the city too. I was in Orlando, FL for a work trip earlier this week, and ran into several men and women in the Magic Kingdom with Falcon’s T-shirts and jerseys on, and I said “Go Falcons!” in passing and one man stopped, turned around, and hollered back at me, “Rise up!”

Hoping we do just that.

But, no Super Bowl experience would be complete without some delicious food for those all-important Super Bowl parties. So, whether you are still sticking to your 2017 health goals and wanting to stay on track this weekend, or you are going for the full touchdown and serving up some guilty favorites, I have you covered on every angle.

Here are a few of my favorite football-themed foods that travel well, can be served at varying temperatures, feed a crowd, and ones that will keep your guests coming back for more at every quarter break… and even in between too!

I am a firm believer in the simple fact that no football party or tailgate is complete without some type of chip n dip combo. I crave chips n dip almost constantly. I can kill a bag of tortilla chips and a small bowl of salsa without even thinking.

Maybe not something to brag about?!? 

Here are a few of my favorite dips for the dippers of your choice!

Who can beat a classic 5 minute fire-roasted salsa? All the ingredients are piled into a food processor or blender, whirled away, and then topped off with a fresh sprinkling of cilantro for extra flourish. Can’t beat it!

Fire-Roasted-Tomato-Blender-Salsa---11

I have shared this Hot Corn Dip recipe before, but I think it certainly warrants a second look. Every time I serve it, people just go crazy! Beware… it is highly addictive!

Trisha Yearwood Hot Corn Dip Recipe ;) ****this is YUMMY!! Used all low fat ingredients, half of the mayo, added a block of cream cheese, only one can of chopped green peppers, added a can of rotel, sliced jalapeños on top!!! Seriously gooood:

7 Layer Dips typically show up on a Super Bowl game day spread for a reason. They are easy. They are delicious. They are crowd-pleasers. My motto, when it comes to game day food, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

This version is slightly updated and uses fresh(er) ingredients than some other recipes. It’s chunky, bright, colorful, and really delicious.

7 Layer Dip -- a fresh recipe for this classic dip that's always a crowd-pleaser! | gimmesomeoven.com:

And then, this one is a little nontraditional, but my cousin made this last year as an appetizer for a family gathering and it was smash hit! It is Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips and it was fresh, cool, and the perfect amount of sweet. A perfect compliment to all the spicy and savory on the table.

Fruit Salsa with Baked Cinnamon Chips by the girlwhoateeaeverything #Snacks #Fruit_Salsa #Healthy:

Now, moving on to other things… we need some protein, don’t you think? And absolutely nothing says football season quite like buffalo chicken wings.

When September rolls around, I literally start craving that family buffalo, spicy flavor.

For the traditionalists, these Crispy Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings are a bit lighter than their fried friends, and full of spicy flavor!

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings

And, for those non-traditionalists, always trying new things, check out these Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Pinwheels for easy, bite size party food.

Buffalo Chicken Tortilla Pinwheels Recipe

Aren’t those cute?

Something salty and crunchy is always what I enjoy snacking on while I am watching the big game, and I think snack mixes are just perfect.

This Parmesan Ranch Cheez-It Snack Mix “bakes” right in your slow-cooker! Full of nuts, crackers, and pretzels, there is sure to be something for everyone in this mix.

Crunchy, savory and completely irresistible! This crock pot snack mix is made with everyone's favorite Cheez-It crackers, cashews and a Parmesan ranch seasoning, its the perfect snack for any occasion! #MVCheezIt #ad:

And for a sweet n salty, no bake version? Look no further than this Best Sweet n Salty Snack Mix.

M&M19

Finally, let’s round out the menu with something sweet.

Love, love, love classic apple dips. Always one of my favorite party foods! And this is a 5 Minute Salted Caramel version that is just perfect when you are in a time crunch. You might even already have all the necessary ingredients right in your pantry and fridge!

5 minute Salted Caramel Apple Dip. so easy and so tasty! bigredclifford.com:

I love a good bar cookie. You can make a big pan of them, don’t have to individually scoop out little mounds of dough, and it is a simple one-time baking process. And these Absolute Best Blondies as vetted by America’s Test Kitchen is sure to be the perfect hit to everyone’s sweet tooth. Chocked full of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and roasted pecans, they are a perfect way to celebrate each touchdown.

Best Ever Blondies! Using white chocolate chips plus semisweet chocolate chips gives these blondies a rich, full flavor. Recipe from America's Test Kitchen. . plus a cookbook giveaway! #blondies #baking #holidays #cookbook:

So, there you have it! Some inspiration for your game day table. I think you are really going to love these.

Hope you all have the most fun at your Super Bowl parties reveling in every gasp-worthy catch and thrilling offensive run. Sure to be an exciting game.

And… Go Falcons! Rise Up!

xoxoxo….

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