#WordlessWednesday: Isaac, Age Four.


On Top Of The World

This past weekend, our family trekked to the Grand Canyon for the second time in less than a week. Why? We just needed to bear witness to its greatness again. When we embarked on the initial trip, it was hurried, harried, and over far too soon. Before we knew it, we were on our way home with virtually nothing to show for our efforts.

No, no, that wouldn't do at all. We had to return and give the Canyon the proper reverence.

This time, we stayed in Flagstaff overnight, ensuring a decent night's sleep before continuing our journey the next morning. With stomachs full and souls bursting with anticipation, we lingered at the park for several hours, filling our eyes with vastness, our ears with glorious stillness, and our minds with the humbling knowledge that, despite what our culture would have us believe, we are not the center of the universe. When our appetite for natural, untouched beauty was satiated, we clambered back into the car, ready to tackle the rigors of life back home.

I generally don't love Mondays, but today, I'm on top of the world.



 



  

Nablopomo: I Wish I Were More Organized

Nablopomo Prompt: What is the one skill you see in other bloggers that you wish you had?

At the moment, I envy just about everything successful bloggers are doing! Lately, I've been in a sort of "refining phase", which is a more pleasant way of saying things aren't exactly falling into place for me. I recognize the very real, extremely important life lessons I'm learning, but it's a grind! 

Anyway, if I had to pinpoint one strength I see in every single blogger and vlogger I admire, it would be consistent organization. These women and men know what they're going to publish weeks (maybe even months?!) in advance, and each and every post is excellent from start to finish. I appreciate and admire the time, effort, and skill it takes to bring fresh content day in and day out for years. I'm working on it, but um, it's not something that comes easily to me (definitely part of that "grind" I mentioned earlier.)

Still, I'm learning to find the good in each day I have, as well as the importance of finding my own version of consistency. I don't know if I'll ever be able to map out an entire month of posts, but I'd love to try! I figure as long as there's action behind my words and good intentions, I'm moving forward, getting that much closer to a better me.

  

The Importance of Being Present.

Image Source


NaBloPoMo Prompt: If you could permanently get rid of one worry, what would it be?

I was planning to skip this one since today is my oldest son's birthday and I wanted to make sure I was fully present. As luck would have it, though, the baby needed to get home for her nap, so I have a few minutes to spare while the boys have lunch. 

Initially when I read this question, I thought I knew precisely how I would answer it: If I could permanently rid myself of one worry, it would be my fear of losing a loved one prematurely. That concern looms so large in my heart and mind that I often cannot sleep. I know I'm not alone in this, either. 

Yet, the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that ensuring my dear ones would be around might not have the desired effect. Honestly, I believe it would make me complacent. I know this because I've wasted so much time already. In this day and age, it is especially difficult to be present all the time because there are so many forces vying for our attention. More often than I'd like to admit, those outside forces triumph over the seemingly-insignificant moments that occur throughout my day. In fact, very recently, my lack of presence has been an issue. My husband pointed out to me that I was missing out on these important moments in favor of connecting with others online. And it was hurting him and the kids. 

I was shocked because I had no idea, and I had no idea because I wasn't paying attention! This was precisely his point. 

I've since taken steps to limit my time "away" from the family, making sure to keep it structured so as to minimize the mindlessness. It wasn't easy at first, and I absolutely resented it. Now, having several weeks under my belt, I can see and feel the changes in myself as well as my family. I'm noticing the physical world around me,  feeling real connections, and creating lasting memories. It has been an indescribable experience; the longer I do it, the more I want to continue to push myself further. For the first time, the question of "where will this take me?" doesn't fill me with fear or anxiety, just excitement. 

My Very Favorite Brownie Recipe.

{Note: This post was originally published in April 2013, but I thought it was a nice fit for today's Nablopomo prompt. Enjoy!} 

Prompt: What knowledge do you have that others don't? Write a "how to" post about anything you've got skills for, small or large.

Image via In Good Taste
About ten years ago, I stumbled onto this brownie recipe in...Glamour magazine?! I know, I was completely surprised, too. But, seeing as how I was a newlywed and hellbent on getting my Martha Stewart on, I decided to give it a try.

And it was good. Like, seriously, ridiculously, heavenly good, folks. Upon trying it and receiving all kinds of approval from my new husband, I tore it out of the magazine and put it in my accordion file o' recipes. It was one of the first successful recipes I'd undertaken post-nuptials, so it will always have a sentimental place in my heart.

Awhile back, however, I thought I'd lost the recipe. NOOOooooo!! Suddenly, I couldn't find that weathered, dog-eared piece of paper, and Glamour had no record of the it on their website.

All seemed lost.

Thanks to a fateful Google search, I stumbled onto this post by Sweet Cheeks In The Kitchen, and all was right with the world. Hooray!

But then I became paranoid. 

What if Sweet Cheeks shuts down her site? 

What will I do at that point? 

How will the people come to know the decadent treasure hidden within these chocolatey morsels?!

On a whim, I searched one last time in my now-dilapidated accordion file, a "hail Mary" attempt, really. Much to my surprise, I found the recipe in its entirety. It was in the wrong section, naturally, which is why I missed it all the other times I'd looked for it.

Anyway, here it is:

The Ultimate Brownie: courtesy of Glamour Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 14 tablespoons butter (2 sticks minus 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate bars/blocks or chips (if using bars/blocks, chop or break into small pieces)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13"x9"x2" baking pan with foil (Note: I use an 11"x7" for a thicker brownie, similar to the picture above); grease the bottom and sides of foil with butter or cooking spray. Melt butter, olive oil, and chocolate pieces in double boiler or heat-resistant bowl suspended over simmering water. In a separate, large bowl, beat eggs, whisking in salt, sugars, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir in chocolate-oil mixture. Fold in flour until just combined. Pour batter into pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until the top is shiny and feels moderately firm to the touch. Cool thoroughly before cutting. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to four days.

Four delicious add-ins:
Nuts. The classic brownie ingredient for walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts.
Dried fruit. Stir in a handful--or three--of dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, or raisins right before baking for a chewy, fruity twist.
Espresso powder. Gently fold in about three tablespoons after adding flour.
Liqueur. For a brownie with a kick, carefully stir in three tablespoons of your favorite liqueur and cut the vanilla to one tablespoon. Try Kahlua, peppermint schnapps, Frangelico, or even Jack Daniel's whiskey.