Simple Thinking

This past year has definitely been a roller coaster of events for myself along with my loved ones. We have experienced great loss, and in the most unexpected and worst possible way. But there are so many things that I learned throughout the whole process.

1. Stop Blaming Everyone Around You

Sometimes, things are meant to happen. As awful as that sounds and as much as I hate to admit it, everything happens for a reason. Bad things happen to good people, and although I cant possibly wrap my head around the concept, I have to believe that there are better places out there. Having said that, this past year I learned that I cant blame the bad events that happen on the people who are closest to me. I find that I am always trying to find the shortcut out of things instead of dealing with it head on. Nobody can ever tell the future. So I need to be there for them, like they have always been there for me.

2. Love Myself

Yeah, I have made my fair share of mistakes. But this past year has helped me to realize that I need to forgive myself, and move on. I may not have to forget about what happened, but I should always stay true to myself and love myself for all that I am. Now that I can truly love myself, I can fully let others into my life, the way it should be. It seems like such a simple concept, if you think about it. But really think about it. How many of you are harder on yourselves than any of the others around you? How many times have you made a mistake and not been able to shake it off? I know I have. This sounds like a big fat cliche’, but in order to love someone else, you need to love yourself first.

3. Change is Good

This is definitely one of the hardest things I have had to find the truth in. I know that, without a doubt, nobody should make you change who you are, and you should never try to change someone else, but we are all a work in progress. By allowing yourself to make mistakes and to grow from them, you will be able to be the best version of yourself. Not anybody else, but yourself. You are going to have bad days, and you are going to have great days, and there will always be people there to go through it with you.

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Home for the Holidays

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One of the biggest things I miss about being home is the smell of my house. I am pretty sure my mom has something baking or on the stove at all hours of the day, because that is just who she is. She has a knack for cooking and baking, and someday I hope I am as talented as she is.

My favorite is when I come home and I smell cookies baking in the oven, especially around the holidays.

So for this post, here is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe found on pinterest!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (use cream cheese in a block or spreadable, don’t use fat-free, light or whipped)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
2 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1 cup chips and 1 1/4 cups chunks)

DIRECTIONS:

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, cream cheese (measure it by smooshing it into a 1/4-cup measure), sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (or use an electric hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes).

Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
Add chocolate chips and chunks, and beat momentarily to incorporate, or fold in by hand.

Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, form heaping mounds (I made 28). Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly with your palm, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.

Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat or spray with cooking spray and place mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet). Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center. Do not bake longer than 10 minutes as cookies will firm up as they cool (The cookies shown in the photos were baked with dough that had been chilled overnight, allowed to come to room temp for 15 minutes, and were baked for 8 minutes, with trays rotated at the 4-minute mark. They have chewy edges with soft, pillowy centers). Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.
Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.

This is not an original recipe, although I wish it was.

ENJOY

Ceramic Mechanic

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Over Thanksgiving break, while I was visiting my boyfriend, we had the pleasure of meeting this older man who worked at an impound lot in Jersey. The man looked like he lived and breathed cars, and he spoke of an old 150 that he was fixing up for a friend to drive. He smelled of grease and looked very tired, but he had the sweetest smile, and the warmest of personalities. When we walked into his garage to make our payment and get on our way, it seemed as though it was their as his hideaway. See, there was the main lobby where most everyone worked, but he was in the back, where he kept all his tools and work equipment for his job. So here we were, thinking we were going to be paying our bill and going on our way. But as we got further into the garage, I started noticing all this clay and what seemed to be plasterwork on the walls. They were absolutely beautiful, so I asked him where he got them.

It was like the air in the room changed, and something kicked in, because the man grew a couple inches taller, the color in his cheeks came out, and his crooked smile went from cheek to cheek. He popped up from his dusty desk filled high with paper work, and ran over to me. And this is where his two hour artwork rant began. I have never seen anything as special as what I saw in that garage. He went through each and every one of his boxes, which by the way were covered in dust, so I knew he didn’t bring his work out for a while. He pulled out all his favorite pieces that he has ever done, from vases, to jewelry, to finally the plaster artwork on the walls. This guy was really something.

I don’t think it was the talent though that really stuck out to me. This man, who seemed to have been through a lot in his life, had stories for each piece of work. He had reasons, and I think that is really beautiful. I could tell that each time he showed me something else; his eyes would light up, like this was something that truly made him happy. He spoke that ceramics and artwork such as the pieces that he has done, has really helped him become the person he is today. I couldn’t help but think, “What has this man been through?” I kept looking at my boyfriend to see if he was feeling the same way I was. It wasn’t that he was so talented, it was that I couldn’t believe that this man, who has been through so much, can still be so passionate about something. I am envious of people who can put aside all of life’s obstacles, and continue to do something that makes them happy.

I learned something very valuable that day. That life most likely will get rough at times, but to always continue staying positive, have compassion, and be passionate about something. Whether it be a sport, singing, family, or ceramics; stay passionate, because that might be the last thing keeping you going.

I sit here typing away with a smile on my face because all I want to do is go back to that day. We left not only having met an incredible man, but he also gave us both bracelets and me a piece of his artwork from the walls. He noticed from the start that those were what really stood out to me, and he gave me something to hold onto forever. I will always remember him for his love for life, and selfless personality.

The last thing he said to my boyfriend and I before we headed on the road was, “I think I was supposed to meet the both of you. You guys made me feel so great today, thank you..”

16th Random Act of Kindness

Act like a duck

My homage to ducks…

I thought this was the sweetest thing as I walked through a park and noticed they had actually constructed a ramp for ducks to easily get into the water fountain. In everyday life we can find the beauty in bridges, ramps and just simply your hand. I have certainly used the analogy of a duck many, many times and I have been told, “Laurie, when you walk, you waddle “like a duck”! I do have a certain style and if it is a duck walk, then I love it because it is me…

You know you love ducks.  How many times have you said this?

“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck”

“With a rubber duck, one’s never alone”

“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.”

“A few feathers short of a whole duck”

And my personal favorite!

“Let it roll off, like a duck”

15th Random Act of Kindness

Memorial Wall

58,286 Names But Not Just Names

These were Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters, Brothers, Friends and Family of so many.  The average age of these beautiful souls that gave their lives for all of us was 19,  just a child, a year older than my son Zachary. Most of them never got the chance to experience how it felt to hold their own child, true love or even the challenges of just life itself.

I stood in front of this black shimmering wall with white block letters looking, wondering what they were like. How it must have felt to stare death in the eye. I have been to this memorial several times and I have just passed it by without regard, without really thinking about these actual people who have sacrificed so much.

As I look at this image, an ordinary woman amongst thousands of names, it made me realize just how insignificant our small, mundane problems really are. I am alive with three beautiful children, living a life many dream about. We can all say in the moment of these genuine thoughts, spiraling through our mind, that we want to do something significant. But, do we really?

Would I be brave? Would I be courageous? Would I step in front of a bullet to save another? 

Sacrifice, brotherhood and courage is what I felt looking at these letters formed to names, names molded to frames, frames into faces, faces into souls.

I will hold my children, be “in love” and embrace my challenges.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial