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Forming Friendships and Baking Cookies

December 6, 2016

cookies

Making new friends is never an easy task. At least it’s never been for me.

I’m not talking about building relationships and getting to know others. I’m talking about finding people who truly “get” me, and whom I can really trust.

For most of my life, I’ve played my cards close to my chest. It takes time for me to get to know people and understand what makes them tick. Part of this is my introvert nature. But part of it is also my personality and tendency to “go it alone,” or navigate what life hands me by myself. It’s easy for me to be alone. It’s harder work to be outgoing and open myself up to deeper relationships with people.

Last week, I received a text from Heather, a friend I met just briefly at one of the first Terre Haute community events we attended (just two weeks after moving to town). After that initial meeting, Heather and I started following each other on Instagram and later Facebook, and I found we had a lot in common. In her text last week, she wrote, “Are you free Saturday night, can you bake 100 cookies and do you want to meet some fun women?”

I was touched at Heather’s thoughtfulness and was excited at the prospect of hanging out with her and other nice people. Throw that in with my love for all-things holiday baking and cookie exchanges, and I was in!

So I took to the kitchen and baked 100 white chocolate, cherry and macadamia nut chunk cookies. And off we went to her friend’s holiday party where — as she promised — I  met some very nice people, enjoyed great conversation, and walked away with a tray full of delicious cookies!

Making new friends is an intimidating process for me, especially at 41-years-old, in a new town, and so many close friendships have already been formed. That was one of the hardest parts of moving from San Diego — leaving my wonderful tribe of friends I worked long and hard to build.

But I’m starting to find people here in Terre Haute that I have more in common with than not, and so many of them have been extremely welcoming to me. Sometimes it takes something as small as cookies to be the lead in to spending time with a new friend. And for that, this introvert heart is grateful.

If you’re now in the mood for cookies or want to bake something to show a friend some appreciation, here’s my full list of holiday cookies for your baking enjoyment.

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Monday Musings ~ November 28

November 28, 2016

Welcome to the one and only Monday Musings for November. The month got away from me. And for the majority of the month, the only articles being circulated were post-election fodder, which I really didn’t feel like sharing. So here we are on the last Monday of November. Let’s start with this photo of cranberry sauce coffee cake, shall we?

leftover-cranberry-bread

1. Every year I always make my Cranberry Zinfandel Sauce for Thanksgiving. I made it again this year, but forgot nobody else would eat it or take home the leftovers (my mom always kept quite a bit of it). So I had all of this leftover cranberry sauce and no idea what to do with it. That is until I found this recipe for Leftover Cranberry Sauce Greek Yogurt Coffee Cake from one of my favorite bloggers. I made two minor adjustments from the recipe. First, I used sour cream because I didn’t have Greek yogurt at home. And second, I used a loaf pan because my bundt pan is missing. While my coffee cake does not look as beautiful as Jessica’s cake, it was SO delicious.

2. I had some much-needed relaxation time over this past week, and used much of it to catch up on television. I’m almost done with season three of “The Fall,” which is better than I expected. I’m caught up on “Rectify,” a show that was a bit slow the first few seasons, but I’m really liking this final season. Bryan and I are watching “Chance” on Hulu. It’s interesting and I enjoy seeing Dr. House again, but I feel like it’s starting to derail and needs to wrap up pronto. I started “Code Black” on CBS after watching the fascinating documentary of the same name on Netflix. And finally, “This is Us” continues to get better week after week. What are you watching right now?

3. Speaking of television, when I was a kid, I was obsessed with “Little House on the Prairie.” I even had a bonnet that I wore a few (dozen) times. I loved this article of behind-the-scenes secrets from the television series. Did you know the Ingalls family was eating Dinty Moore every time Ma served stew?

4. Another great article I found is how a street photographer recreated his photo images 30+ years later. Apparently he tracked down all these individuals he photographed to recreate the exact photo now. It’s amazing how some people look the same, while others are completely different. Definitely worth a read!

5. Finally, do you keep lists? For example, task lists, movies to see, book to read, etc? I’m a big list-maker. I have work task lists, personal tasks, grocery lists, lists of meals for the month, book to read, television shows to watch, lists of blog post ideas, and probably many others. So of course I found myself nodding in agreement at this article that suggests 26 types of lists everyone should be making. I like some of her suggestions, including places to visit in your town, professional accomplishments and favorite quotes.

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about on this last Monday of November?

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A Little Bit of Thankfulness

November 22, 2016

thankful

This Thursday is Thanksgiving. The holiday crept up on me this year. I’m sure all the craziness and distraction of recent weeks played a part in that. But I’m excited Thursday is almost here and I’m busy planning my dinner menu.

This will be the first time in 41 years I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without my parents and sisters surrounding me. It will be strange and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit sad. But I’m also so grateful I get to enjoy this holiday with Bryan, Sophie, our fur kids, delicious food, a warm home and cold weather. And with all that, it’s hard not to be thankful.

My friends, Megan and Wendy, posted a fun thankful tag video the other day, and it inspired me to answer the questions too. It’s a fun exercise and helps focus on happy things. And with that, here is a bit of thankfulness!

1. What color are you thankful for? Black

2. What does your spouse do that you’re thankful for? I’m thankful for his support of my entrepreneurial life. He has never once discouraged me from the work I’m doing, and for that I am grateful.

3. What does your kid do that you’re thankful for? I’m thankful for her creative, kind and resilient spirit.

4. What recent good news are your thankful for? I don’t know if I’ve received any personal good news, per se. But I’ll go with “Homeland” season six returns in January and the new trailer was just released.

5. What beauty product are you thankful for? Concealer. And my Origins lipstick.

6. What social media platform are you thankful for? Instagram. I typically love Facebook, but I’ve grown so tired of everyone’s hateful posts that it’s hard to be on that platform right now.

7. What cleaning product are you thankful for? The vacuum

8. What are you thankful for from the last person who texted you? The last person who texted me was Wendy and we discussed the season premier of “The Affair.” I’m thankful for our friendship and cross-country text exchanges.

9. What candy are you thankful for? Since it’s almost the holidays, I love those Brach’s Christmas peppermint taffies with the red stripes on the edges and green tree on the inside.

10. What app are you thankful for? The camera app.

11. What are you looking forward to that you are thankful for? Celebrating winter and the holidays in our new home in Indiana and (hopefully) experiencing snow for the first time.

What are you thankful for? Play along and use the Thanksgiving thankful tag for some gratitude this week.

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for all of you who continue to read my little blog and have followed me on my journey.

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Election Thoughts: Choosing Hope, Not Hate

November 11, 2016

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I think we can ALL agree this week has been a whirlwind of emotion and chaos. It certainly has for me.

I spent the better part of Wednesday and Thursday in tears, feeling as if I was mourning a loss. I had not been that upset about the state of our country since September 11. Listening the radio, watching television and being online feels like a repeat of the aftermath of that day, when every article and commentator trying to answer the same question: How did this happen?

I wasn’t planning to write anything about the election. What would I say? I felt like everything was already written. What more could I contribute to the conversation?

But then this post came through my Facebook feed. The author asks the question, “Why do you write when the world feel insane?”

She explains: We write because in our writing, we connect. The act of writing brings peace and the stories we write give meaning. When we do something with love, we are taking action. And writing is action. And we need to write, because we are scared.

So I began jotting down my thoughts. Because I am scared, and sad. And I want to connect and change.

*******

On Election Night, Sophie and I sat together to watch the returns. She kept talking about how worried she was about Trump winning (partly because of all the talk with other kids). She brought to the sofa a box of tissues (for tears, she said) and her copy of the United States Constitution. I told her not to worry, and put her to bed before many of the big results were announced.

As the night grew longer, it became clear a Clinton loss was inevitable. And all I could do was shake my head and think, “What am I going to tell Sophie in the morning?”

My sister gave me this advice: “Tell her that Trump will be surrounded by very smart people around him who won’t let him blow up the country.”

My good friend in San Diego gave me this advice: “Tell Sophie I have cried over many elections but eventually you figure out how little it changes your day-to-day life. Tomorrow she will still have family, friends and pets. How can you be sad with all that?” (Thank you, Tracie)

The next morning (also Sophie’s 9th birthday), I told her those things. I explained there’s a reason we have separation of powers. I told her it’s okay to be sad, but we also need to be strong. I told her not to give in to hate, and not to engage in arguments, even if other kids start them. I told her to be respectful, even if others are not. Bryan reminded her of the sage words from her granddad (my dad): “Always take the high road.”

*******

To me, this election wasn’t necessarily about electing the first woman president (of course, that would have been amazing). It was about stopping a bully. I cannot condone a candidate who is not kind, who is a bully, who makes fun of those who are different, and degrades women and minorities. All while I tell my daughter to not engage in those exact behaviors. I am deeply disturbed and saddened that half of American found this behavior presidential.

As I read through all the Facebook comments, tweets and articles, one thing became very clear: We have to stop this hate (from both sides of the fence).

Someone posted on Facebook that as a result of this election, she will never set foot in a red state. I live in a red state. I voted for Hillary Clinton, and so did many people around me. Every day I spotted Clinton/Kaine yard signs proudly displayed on lawns. My neighbor, a local pastor, told me he refused to give the morning prayer the day Trump visited his Terre Haute church several months ago because he wouldn’t condone hate. And this is in Indiana folks (Pence’s home state)!

When you start making blanket assumptions about red states and the people in them, your behavior isn’t any different than the person you despise.

We can be angry and sad. We can take action: write, mobilize, or run for office. But we can’t hate. We can’t model this anger for our children.

*******

For quite some time, I’ve been feeling the need to do something bigger with my life; something that really makes an imprint. I don’t exactly know what that something is; but the feeling is there, calling me in different ways.

In one of my favorite “West Wing” episodes — “Take This Sabbath Day” — President Bartlett’s priest tells him a parable about a man who lives by the sea when the town is flooding. The man is convinced all he needs is faith, and God would save him from drowning. He ignored the signs that were sent to help him escape. When the man reached heaven, God said to him, “I sent you a radio report, a helicopter and a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here!?”

Over the last several months, I was sent a radio report and a helicopter (subjects for a future post). And I thought, “I need to do something different. I need to make a greater difference.”

But I didn’t act on it. I didn’t change.

This election was my rowboat. I can no longer sit back and wait. I need to step up and leave my daughter a legacy she can be proud of.

One of my favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin, wrote a beautifully penned post-election letter to his daughter. The line that struck me the most was this:

“America didn’t stop being America last night and we didn’t stop being Americans and here’s the thing about Americans: Our darkest days have always—always—been followed by our finest hours.”

Although it feels dark right now, I know there is light on the other side. I have hope, and not hate. And I’m ready to do my part to bring us to our finest hours.

19 Life Goals from 19 Years Ago

November 8, 2016

path-to-forward

As many of you know, I spent the better part of the summer sorting through everything in my house and packing up our belongings to move to Indiana. While the entire process itself was overwhelming to say the least, the hardest part for me was packing my home office. That was the room that — in many ways — contained all the contents of my entire life. Sure, the people and pets were not there (well, the dogs were). But all my things — memories, scrapbooks, journals, keepsakes, letters, yearbooks, photographs, CDs (yes, I still own actual music), newspaper and magazine clippings — were in that room. Even if you’ve had a good life (which I believe I have), there’s a feeling of bittersweet and melancholy when going through your entire existence. I think it had to do with seeing all the life that already passed behind me.

Some of the items I found while sorting my belongings were my old notebooks and diaries from college. One of the journals contained a list of 19 life goals I’d written in January 1997, four months before I graduated college at a mere 21-years-old. I tore that page out of the unused journal and have been carrying it in my notebook planner since the summer.

It’s been 19 years since I wrote those goals and I had not even seen them since that day in 1997. I’m surprised at how many of them I’d accomplished. Looking at the list of 39 things about me on my 39th birthday, several of these items appear on that list as well.

This past Sunday was my birthday. I turned 41-years-old. I’ve been reflecting a lot on my past and my future lately. Forty-one sounds older. Yet I also feel like I’m on the edge of much more. I’m so curious where the next 19 years will take me.

Leah’s Goals in Life ~ January 1997

1. Fall in love — DONE

2. Have kids — (One and) DONE

3. Travel to Europe

4. Learn how to sail

5. Sing before a crowd

6. Publish something I’ve written — DONE

7. Learn to play the guitar

8. Get my master’s degree — DONE

9. Teach a class — DONE

10. Drive across the United States — DONE

11. Travel both the east and west coast, top to bottom

12. Work for a broadcast network in some way — DONE

13. Take a language class — DONE

14. Learn to drive a stick shift — DONE

15. Write a book

16. Write a screenplay and produce the movie

17. Write and produce a documentary

18. Write speeches — DONE

19. Deliver a speech of acceptance and thank my parents

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