Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Reset Buttons

I talk about finding balance in all things.  I do this because it is a constant reminder to myself to follow my own prompting.  How do we achieve this though? For me trying to figure out how I reset my energy levels or my mood wasn't difficult to figure out.  The trial comes in trying to find the time to reset each day.

The ocean has always calmed my high sprung soul.  The presence of trees has cleared my mind. Wind is another source of comfort to my inner self.  What I am trying to say is,  nature speaks to me.  It has a way of engulfing my thoughts, feelings and desires and making them stop.  I have a lot of chatter in my mind. My mind never stops writing.  I absorb the energy around me and this triggers a response to write relentlessly.  My kids know that when they hear the clickity click of the keyboard that I am releasing, sharing and giving my words to paper.

There are days that I need to reset myself though.  I get too caught up in the emotion of the moment, the story being told to me, and the rush of tingling exhausting rise.  When this happens I need to exit and recenter myself.

I have an odd collection in my house.  I collect beach glass.  They are all sorted by color.  I have bowls of it through out my living room: brown, white, colored, new and old.  I have sea shells that we have found along the various coast lines that we have walked.  Pieces, large and small, of driftwood rest on my pictures, against my fireplace, in piles on my piano.

It wasn't until recently when walking after a particularly hard chat with a friend that I recognized that I needed to figure out a reset button for me.  Where ever I go-- people talk to me.  Complete strangers talk to me like we are old friends.  My family is used to it.  If I don't return from a bathroom trip in a few minutes they know that I am listening.  It is not uncommon for me to reenter a room with my arm around a new friend.  A connection exist and this has brought me great joy but along with this ability to listen to others,  I also hear and feel their heartache, loss, trials, sadness, and broken souls.

Before I would take it and process it.  Never giving a second thought that I could "listen" and then reset myself.  I am learning that this is possible.  I am seeing that by me bringing the beach inside of my home that my home is a huge refuge of safety for me.  I feel the smoothness of the shiny pebbles I collect. They remind me that with each ragged emotion there is a counterpart that is smooth and soft.  The drift wood reminds me that not everyone is lost.  We drift at times in our lives and thats okay as long as we find our way back.  The wood is remarkably light when I always think and imagine it heavier than it is.  The glass is my most precious find.  It represents the spectrum of color that exists in this life.  It teaches me to love no matter the shape, color or size.  I am reminded with the aged beach glass that the water has created this beautiful piece of art work.  The glass was aged through the process of the water and the waves.  The constant back and forth motion rubbing up against the fine sand on the coastline.  The edges are smooth and not sharp.  They don't hurt when touched.

Without knowing,  I have been collecting things that I can use to reset and bring the balance back into my heart, mind and body.   As I mentioned above, I returned home from an emotional chat with a friend a few months ago.  I was sad.  My husband is great at recognizing when I need to regroup. He suggested a walk.  We walk a particular route as often as we can each week.  On this day he suggested that we go to the pier for a few minutes.  Normally I am in a hurry.  Finnley is usually sleeping and I always want to make sure we get home soon so that Rye doesn't have to baby sit for too long.   This day I listened and let him guide me to the water.

The picture before me was breathtaking.  The water was calm.  I felt as though I were seeing a huge painting before my eyes.  I felt the tears start to well up with in.   I let the water draw me to the edge of the sand.  I took the first step into the sand and heard the silence.  There were no waves.  It was quiet.  As we walked toward the water we discovered a huge log washed up on the shore line.  Inside of this log was a dip.  Inside the dip was sand.  Laying, in the shape of a circle, was a group of small white smooth rocks.  I picked them up and held them in my hand.  They were warm from the sun.  I left Cory on the beach and decided to spend a few minutes by myself.  I held onto the pebbles and released my sadness into each one.  I found comfort in this.

Continuing on our walk I felt good. I walked into my home and realized that my years of collecting from our shoreline was a way I could reset in my own home. I reentered my house with a lighter heart than when I left.

Reseting after a bad day, bad year or even after a few bad minutes is a skill that I believe is important and one that I am only recently understanding the unique roll it plays in my own life.

I think that with the essence of nature I also connect and find joy in quilting, drawing and cooking. These are all activities that lend themselves to me expressing my emotions and desires into something else. I don't have to keep everything bottled up. I am able to pour it into something else. Maybe that is why the water is so clearing for me. I see myself "pouring" myself into my family, my work, and most recently my writing.

Do you have certain things in your life that you would associate with the idea of a reset button?  I am curious, if you are willing to share, what they are.  Or maybe it is just one thing or a person.  It could be anything that allows us to center and move forward.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gingerbread Cake #grainfree

Bread and cake are two things I don't eat very often and yet here is a recipe that has both words used to describe a Paleo inspired or grain free dessert.   The cake is grain free but our whipped topping in the photo is not dairy free.  The Watson kids don't have dairy issues and so I saved myself a bit of work and used a quick homemade whipped topping I use for my chocolate roll.  The chocolate roll has a gluten free version too.  You can use a coconut based whipped topping to make it completely Paleo.  I also made the coconut caramel sauce from scratch but you can easily use a regular recipe or even a store bought caramel sauce.  It's a busy time of year--make the parts of the cake that you have time for.  I actually left out the Brandy sauce because after 4 pages of instructions, one full page of ingredients, I figured the kids could do without the Brandy.  (wink wink)

My kids start to dread the month of December because this usually means that I am thinking about making a gingerbread house.  I thought about it for about 2 seconds this year and decided I would pass for these two reasons:

A.  We don't need the sugar in the house from the store bought candy.

B.  My nerves might shatter with one more failed attempt at making a gingerbread house from scratch added to my already long resume dating back to 1986 without a single successfully constructed and decorated gingerbread house. I am pretty sure Martha Stewart had something to do with my drive to make one every year...LOL

If you are new to my blog then this recipe is not typical of what you will usually find here.  I try to keep the recipes simple BUT every once in a while I need to make something fabulous and this cake was a great place to start our holiday baking.  I guess this cake is the gourmet part of the blog.  Don't let the long list of ingredients deter you from making this absolutely delicious cake.  I didn't have to buy one thing at the store because I already had every thing in my kitchen. When I visited NYC in October I bought myself the Wilton 5 piece layered cake set. The cake pans are about 8 inches round and 1 inch thick.  This cake is small but very very tall.

I never make cakes anymore and my kids miss it.  I want to start making a few more cakes in 2015 using this cake pan set.  I like how small the cake rounds are. The tall cake just looks awesome for the kids.  We can eat this cake, a family of 6, a bit easier than if I use regular round cake pans. It seems I was always throwing cake away--can you believe that--but I really did.

I found the original recipe over at Wicked Good Kitchen.  She has all of the instructions for the Brandy Sauce and the Coconut Cream Whipped Topping.  Below you will find my interpretation and the three components I used to make this awesome cake.

It requires time, I won't lie.  I made this cake while I taught Isabella school. It worked out perfectly because I was already in the kitchen area and had time to bake and teach while Isabella did her work.  I might even suggest that making the caramel sauce the day before will save you some time.  It took almost an hour and a half for me to make it and to allow it to cool.  The total time for the cake, sauce, whipped topping and assembly was about 2.5 hours.  And you know what?  I plan on spending that amount of time this week making it again--it was delicious!

This cake is a show stopper and one that will knock your socks off when you take your first bite.  To cut the cake you might have to have Ninja Knife Skills but having a sharp knife and a spatula helps a lot. I used the spatula or another knife to hold up the cake and the second knife to cut the slice.  The cake fell onto the spatula and I was able to transfer it to a large plate.  If you have extra whipped topping or caramel sauce, you can drizzle more on the slices.  To be honest--I used it all on my cake below--so next time I may save a bit for presenting the slices to my family.

The gingerbread cake is rich in flavor with the molasses and maple syrup. I wouldn't say the cake is super sweet (and I like that) but the caramel sauce and whipped topping balance nicely because they are sweet.  Make adjustments according to your family's likes and sweet tooth.

AGAIN--don't panic by the size of the ingredient list or steps.  It is not a hard recipe and is much easier than it looks. I promise!  Also, read through the instructions SEVERAL times before you make the cake.  I am always here to answer any questions.  Send me an email or comment and I will get right back to you.  It is worth the work!

Please share this recipe on Twitter, Facebook, Stumbled Upon, Pinterest or Google +.  It helps to spread this recipe with friends and neighbors.  THANKS!

Gingerbread Cake  #grainfree
Makes enough batter for 5 small round cake pans

Ingredients for the cake: 
I used the weight (grams) measurements to make my cake in the pictures.
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (144 grams) arrowroot starch
1 cup (112 grams) blanched almond flour (I made my own in the Vitamix)
½ cup (56 grams) organic coconut flour
¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking powder 
¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking soda 
1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) kosher salt 
2½ teaspoons ground ginger 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
½ teaspoon ground allspice 
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
6 large eggs, separate the whites and the yolks into two bowls
½ cup (168 grams) organic maple syrup (use the real stuff)
½ cup (144 grams) unsulphured molasses
 ¼ cup (56 grams) organic virgin coconut oil, melted, plus extra for pans 
¼ cup (60 grams) organic ghee or grass fed butter
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
¼ cup (60 ml) full fat coconut milk (use the milk only--the rest will be used later)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar 
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (use more if you love nuts, the crunch is great)

Ingredients for the Coconut Caramel Sauce:

Use the remaining can of coconut milk from the cake recipe above-roughly 3/4 of the can should be left. (15 oz can was used)
6 oz of real maple syrup
2 tablespoons grass fed butter or ghee
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flake salt (reduce if butter is salted)

Ingredients for whipped topping:

For coconut whipped cream see the original recipe HERE.
For dairy version use:
1 small carton of heavy whipped cream
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup (this can be replaced with plain sugar but you may not get the deep caramel color as seen in the pictures).

I recommend making the caramel sauce first.  This allows the sauce to cook, cool and be ready to work with when the cake is done.

To prepare the coconut caramel sauce:

1.  Use a heavy bottom pan. I used my 10 inch cast iron frying pan.  It worked great!  Set heat to medium high.  In the frying pan, add all of the coconut caramel sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Heat caramel sauce until small bubbles appear--gentle boil.

2.  Use only a wooden spoon to stir for the first minute.  Reduce heat to medium low and try not to stir too often until the end. I set my stovetop to 3 and it was hot enough.  The caramel kept a slow boil going for 35 minutes.  Watch sauce so it does not burn.  The caramel sauce will start to turn from a creamy pale color to a caramel color.  The sauce will reduce and become very thick, coating the back of the wooden spoon nicely.  

3.  When caramel is thick and not too dark, remove from heat and transfer to a glass bowl.  Stir and let set to cool.  The color with cloud slightly once it is completely cool but when warmed again, it will return to a nice caramel color.

To prepare the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 325.  I sprayed each of my five pans with cooking spray or you can use coconut oil.  The pans are so shallow that the layers pop out quite nicely.  If you are using larger cake pans, then see Stacy's site for instructions.

2. In a medium bowl combine all of the dry ingredients.  Stir to combine.

3.  In a large table top mixer (I used my Kitchenaid) add egg whites and cream of tartar.  Whip until egg whites are stiff.

4.  In a separate bowl add wet ingredients: egg yolks, coconut milk, maple sugar, molasses, and vanilla.  Whisk to combine.

5.  I added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mixed together until combined.  I then added the egg whites and gently folded them into the cake mix. This reminds me of when I make our chocolate roll cake--kind of the same texture and process. Let the cake batter sit for 5 minutes.

6.  Sprinkle the chopped pecans in the bottom of each cake pan.  Add batter to each of the five pans.   The batter came almost to top of each cake pan.  Hit cake pans on table to release any air bubbles.  Bake until firm to the touch--about 12 minutes.  These are small cake pans so the cook time is very short.

7.  When baked, let cool for a few minutes and then flip them out onto a cookie wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the whipped topping:

1.  Pour ingredients into a bowl.  Whip until thick.

I used my Kitchenaid for this process but you can easily use a hand mixer too. The whipped topping comes out slightly brown because of the maple syrup.  I like the color of it on the cake.

To assemble the cake (finally, right?)

1.  Have the cooled cakes, the coconut caramel sauce and the whipped topping ready.  Drizzle the coconut caramel sauce over the 5 cake layers while on the cookie rack.

2.  I layered the cake like this:  cake layer, whipped topping, repeat until all 5 layers are used.  I topped the cake with the remaining whipped topping and drizzled more caramel over the top of the cake so that the sides were dripping with sauce.  

Store cake in the refrigerator.  I cover the cake with two huge pieces of saran wrap.  My cake was gone in about one day but I would say the cake is good for 3 days before the quality starts to fade--dry cake, etc...

Written by Sherron Watson

I have attached links to my amazon account so that you can see the products that I used in making this cake.  No purchase is necessary. I do make a small commission from all sales but that money is put back into the blog for recipe developing.  Thanks!

I use this brand of almonds to make my almond nut flour.  I know they have the skins on and honestly this has not made any difference in my baking when I process the flour in my Vitamix.   They are cheaper to buy in bulk too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies #paleo #grainfree

This is the best grain free cookie.  Danielle Walker is the author of the blog Against All Grain and also has several cookbooks that offer recipes for a grain free diet.  Danielle has wonderful recipes and this is one example of her amazing talent and contribution to the grain free platform.

I have made this recipe on numerous occasions and each time I can't believe that the cookie is grain free.  I have made these cookies with both almond meal, almond flour (finer than meal) and cashew flour.  I have also done a half and half blend of the two flours.  The recipe calls for almond but honestly, I love the cashew flour the best.  This flour offers great flavor to the dough.  I make all of my flours in my Vitamix.  I buy raw almonds and cashews in bulk.  This is cheaper than purchasing the flours and keeps my flour as fresh as possible because I can make it as I need it.  I do store any left over flour in the refrigerator for my next batch.

On a frazzled baking day I actually made these without butter and they still turned out great.  I brushed the top of each baked cookie with melted butter to add the butter flavor to the cookie.  The dough was gooey and perfect.  I make them this way on purpose sometimes.

The only concern that you need to watch for is, when baking with nut flours they can burn on the bottoms of the cookies if over baked. I usually bake them on parchment paper and turn them half way through baking in case my oven has any hot spots.  You can also turn the oven temperature down and cook them a bit longer.  My oven is touchy so I know that I need to turn the heat down and watch them closely the last few minutes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies #Grain Free
By Danielle Walker, Against All Grain
Makes 16-20 cookies, depends on cookie scoop you use

1/4 cup palm shortening, ghee or grass fed butter (I usually use the butter)
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1.5 cups of almond meal or flour (see comments above)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Please visit Danielle's Blog to get the instructions to make these amazing grain free cookies  Continue HERE

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grain Free Pumpkin Waffles

Grain Free Pumpkin Waffles are quite good if you ask me or my kids.  We make these all the time,  even in the months that don't begin with O or N.  Pumpkin is an ingredient that we like year round.

I can usually get about 10 waffles from each batch but it really depends on your waffle maker.  Honestly, I hope that Santa brings me a new waffle maker.  Ours just stinks.  It has hot spots that make the waffles stick and the grooves are shallow.  I really like the Belgian Style Waffle Irons--just in case Santa is reading this-- that flip over.

I have tried this with pumpkin pie seasoning and we don't like the flavor so I just stick with cinnamon. I use an amount that is not over powering.  If you want a cinnamon punch with your waffles then you will need to add more than what I have suggested.

I beat the egg whites before adding them to the pumpkin mixture and this creates a fluffy waffle while baking.  The waffles, when cooled, feel firm but when you add your syrup they melt in your mouth.  They kind of shrivel too.  Don't let this discourage you from making them--they taste amazing!

We eat our waffles with real maple syrup, lots of butter (see the picture), molasses, apple pumpkin butter or plain.  The baby likes hers just plain-nothing fancy for Miss Finnley.

Let me know how you like them or if you have any questions.

Please share on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Stumble Upon.  Thanks! This post may contain affiliate links. I make a small amount of money from any purchases.  The money is used to maintain my blog and create recipes.  

Grain Free Pumpkin Waffles
Makes 8-10

1 cup pumpkin (I use organic canned pumpkin)
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 tablespoons Ghee or Grass Fed Butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup almond flour
6 tablespoons coconut flour
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon --use more for a stronger flavor

1.  Preheat waffle maker.  I don't have any fancy switches. Just two lights: when it turns green I know that it is ready to use.

2.  In a large bowl combine all ingredients EXCEPT the egg whites.  Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff.   Gently fold in pumpkin mixture to the egg whites.

3.  Spray waffle maker with your favorite non stick spray.  Add enough waffle mix to cover the bottom of the waffle maker.  Close the lid and let cook.  Mine take about 2 minutes to cook.

4.  Remove and let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes and then serve.

Written by Sherron Watson

This is the pumpkin I use in our home. I buy it by the case. It is cheaper than buying it by the single can in our area.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cherry and Chocolate Chip Scones #gluten free

I have been using my cast iron "cornbread pan" for making scones.  I find that when baking with gluten free flours that sometimes if they are baked in a molded pan they do better.   What I mean by this is that they don't spread too thinly across the pan like they might if baked on a cookie sheet.  I rather enjoy my scone to be thicker than a soft cookie.

I made these scones with some leftover gluten free flour blends that I had in the cupboard.  I usually break the flours down so that you know exactly what is going into your recipe.  Well, this time around, I will just mention that any gluten free all purpose flour blend will work fine.  The one thing that you need to keep in mind is the guar gum or xanthan gum. If your blend contains this already then do not add it to the recipe.

I have used both fresh raspberries and fresh cherries to make this recipe.  I love the cherry and dark chocolate combination and this is the one requested by my family.  I know that someone will email me about using frozen fruit.  I honestly have not made them this way so I don't know if they would work or not.  I know that when I use the fresh fruit and they are cooled after baking that the area around the fruit is a little damp.  By using frozen fruit I am not sure if this would require a longer bake time or not. You will really have to use experience and judgement if that is the route you wish to take.  Let me know how they turn out if you use frozen fruit.

The icing is not required but the scone itself is not too sweet.  I think the icing adds a nice pop of flavor and dresses the scones up when they are cooled down.

Please share on Twitter, Stumble Upon, Facebook and Pinterest. Thanks

Cherry and Chocolate Chip Scones
Makes 7-8 scones using a cast iron pan

1 1/4 gluten free all purpose gluten flour blend (I use this one)
1/2 teaspoon guar gum (ONLY use if not included in flour blend)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter, soft
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 coconut palm sugar (regular sugar may be substituted too)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I use these chocolate chips)
1 cup fresh cherries or raspberries, frozen may be used too

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare any muffin, scone or molded oven proof pan with cooking spray.

2.  In a medium size bowl combine all of the ingredients except the fruit and chocolate chips.  Combine well.  Add fruit and chocolate chips and gently fold until well blended.  Be careful not to over blend and break the fruit down.

3.  Evenly divide the batter between 7-8 muffin cups or triangles if using a cast iron pan.  They will be quite full.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.

4.  While still hot drizzle the scones with your favorite glaze.  I use a simple glaze recipe of 2 tablespoons milk to 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Written by Sherron Watson

NOTE:  I have attached affiliate links to my Amazon account. A purchase is not necessary.  This is a good way for me to share with you what I use in my own kitchen.  If a purchase is made, I do make a small percentage that goes right back into the kitchen for new recipes.  Thanks--Sherron

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday: A few pictures from my week.  

I got my third Stitch Fix box in the mail and I loved it all.  
I only kept two things though.  The earrings and the black top.

I used to knit.  I always thought of myself as more of a crocheter. It has been fun revisiting this craft.  My grandmother was a fabulous knitter and she first taught me when I was about 8 years old.  My first scarf was simple: just a knit stitch.  I am almost done with my second piece: knit and purl for a seed stitch.

We had some work done on the house and in the midst of digging they clipped some lines.  We were without power for a few hours.  Our neighbor, Tom, saved the day and got us back up and running.  Thanks TOM!

My first Hawaiian Applique wall hanging.

I pulled my flute out.  Christmas always has me in the mood to play.  

I made a few things this week:



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Apple Pumpkin Butter

This is the best apple butter I have ever made and I have made a lot of recipes trying to find the perfect texture and flavor.  I really really wish that I had tried adding pumpkin years ago; really, I do.

If you have read my blog then you may have heard me mention some apple butter that I had in a small town name Talkeetna.  It is the stuff that keeps me up at night trying to duplicate it and dreaming about the consistency.  I remember it being thick--very very thick and full of flavor.

This is just like THAT apple butter only THIS butter has pumpkin and I LOVE it.  I really really love it very very much.

It's late and I am loopy--LOL  Anyways this apple pumpkin butter is amazing. It is super easy too because you throw the ingredients into the slow cooker and let them cook, stir and sweeten.  We sampled it while the butter was still warm but I think it taste best after it has cooled in the refrigerator.

I thought this would make it until Thanksgiving day-NOPE. I have to make another batch this week. We have decided it is a tasty addition to our homemade multi-grain gluten free pancakes. It is--I won't lie.

The apple butter will be cooked with a sweetener but I always add more when it is done cooking.  This way I can make sure I don't get it too sweet.  While the butter is still warm I will add brown sugar until it is perfect for my family.  I have also used honey and coconut sugar to sweeten our apple butters in the past. My kids like the brown sugar.  I don't bake with it that often so I don't mind using it here in this recipe.

Please share on Pinterest, Faceboook, Twitter or Stumble Upon.  Thanks!

Slow Cooker Apple Pumpkin Butter
Makes about 2 to 2.5 cups

1(15 oz) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3-4 medium size apples--Granny Smith's are what I use
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie seasoning
1/3 cup palm sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (sounds weird, but I like it with just a bit of salt)
optional--add brown sugar to sweeten when finished --to taste

1.  Prepare apples by washing, coring and quartering them.  I did not peel them either.

2.  Add ingredients to slow cooker, stir well and cook on low for 4 hours.  I have done this on high for 2 hours but you need to watch it. The edges get very dark and you don't want the butter to taste scorched.

3.  When apples are soft use a stick blender or potato masher to mix the butter when finished cooking.  I like mine with a few chunks so I don't blend until smooth.  This is just my preference, you do what your family likes: chunky or smooth.

4.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Written by Sherron Watson

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Am I listening?

Sifting Through Life segments are about my life and how I have dealt with certain situations.  The topic changes weekly and they don't always include food or recipes.  It is a segment that allows me to talk honestly and openly.  All opinions are my own and are just that, my opinions.  This is my voice talking about my life.  ENJOY!

Looking out my window I can see that the leaves on our trees are thinning.  As I look at my computer screen my eye will catch the slight movement of one leaf falling slowly to the ground. One at a time. Right on cue, as I type these words, one slips to the ground.  One leaf lets go and then another and another and soon I will have a ground covered in crispy, dried leaves.  Then what?

The big question at my house is do we rake or do we not rake?  We are torn.  The process of trees shedding their leaves is natural.  The piling up of leaves on the ground is natural.  The process of releasing and letting go is also natural.  

Our arguments range as to how we should take care of our HUGE leaf problem. One child mentions that we should leave them because the ground needs the nutrients provided by the leaves when they break down.  Another disagrees because of the amount of leaves.  She states that too much of anything tends to create an unbalance spectrum.  The wind will take them is another thought that gets tossed around.  Oh, but then our neighbors have to deal with our leaves and this makes me uneasy.  

The falling leaves are something that we can't avoid each year unless we cut down the huge leaf bearing trees in our yard.  Will that solve the problem though?  I don't think so.  Our neighborhood is full of these beautiful trees that provide us with an exceptionally amazing Spring.  They offer homes to the birds and squirrels during the cold Winter months.  I would miss them.  They have come to be a part of our yard and landscape.  

I gain great joy from seeing the trees in my yard.  The texture of the bark.  The changing color of their leaves.  The rustling the squirrels make as they hop through the piles.  I would miss watching the trees shed each leaf as it makes and finds its final resting place in my yard. I would miss the gentle reminder that our lives ebb and flow like the seasons or the trees in my yard. 

I imagine myself as a tree.  Am I shedding the leaves of my soul as this change is coming over me? I feel wonderful.  I am opening to my true self.  My mind, body and soul are enlarging to accept more. My heart is softening.  Changing not who I am but actually listening and turning with a greater desire to realizing that I am finding my path in this life.  I am finally able to navigate through the piles of leaves that I have discarded with the anticipation of what is before me.  Knowing that as the trees in my back yard will once again bud, bloom and become full; so will I.  

Shedding a few leaves isn't a bad thing.  It opens up a chance for us to grow.  To start over.  To refresh.  To live.  I have fought this change for quite some time.  I can't avoid it anymore.  

I didn't realize how closed I had become.  Protecting my inner self became a full time job.  Wearing an armor, like the bark of a tree, to protect my heart, my feelings, and eventually my sensitive soul-- instead of just being me-- caused me to be distant, aloof, and vague.  I have made the decision to stop hiding.  Stop blending in.  Stop fighting the urges, the small whisperings,  and of late, the strong desire to listen.  I won't hide behind a tree anymore. 

Writing about my experience of quitting Facebook was a challenge for me to understand at the time, but I couldn't fight the urge anymore.  I had to listen to the prompting.  The reality is, it turned out to be one of the most honest pieces that I have ever written; with great responses from friends and readers that were feeling the same vibration too.  I connected to a group of like minded people because I let my inhibitions fall to the ground.  The desire to act at that moment was inspiring.  I listened and I poured my heart out in my post.  

The events of this week have only confirmed to me that listening and acting and following through are an important part of who I am as a Mom, Wife and Writer.  I can't worry about what others might think or say because all the matters to me is getting the message out.  I sit at my computer and the words just come.  Hope, love and kindness are messages that are needed in this world of hardship, loss and struggle.  Finding the balance in our lives is important.  There is a beacon in my life that I have avoided for a long time.  This innate sensitivity, that I have had since I was a small child,  to offer love, joy and kindness is too overwhelming for me to hide anymore.  I need to listen and share through writing my thoughts.   

I started Sifting Through Life as a way for me to write honestly and openly.  Even with the knowledge and prompting to keep this as authentic as possible I have still been holding back: afraid that some will find me different, crazy or weird.  Too forth coming with information and an honesty that makes others feel uncomfortable.  Honesty that comes from a place of love and longing to share that we are all unique, valued, of worth, and sacred.

The falling leaves, floating pass my window, are gentle reminders that shedding
my old self is only preparing me for a better experience in this wonderful life I have.  My journey to this point has been filled with pebbles, stones, rocks and even boulders tossed with great force in my direction.  Those will no longer be the deciding factor as to my freedoms to write what I think and feel.  My knowledge comes differently than for most.  I can't fight it anymore.  

My happiness this past week has been an awakening experience with my family.  I feel like they are seeing me for the first time.  I am not hiding anymore. I have never hidden my intuitions from them.  It is kind of a joke around our family. A secret that we share within the walls of our home.  They know and love me anyways.  Oh I do love food.  I love cooking, creating, photographing, and editing.  Food has led me to this place in my life by offering me a branch, if you will, to open up and to share thoughts of encouragement through the stories and lessons in my own life.  

I am listening.

Listening and writing, not for the masses,  but for the one.  If one person can gain a smile, a happy thought, or a feeling of value; then my efforts will be worth the few moments I take each day to write and reflect.   I have been reminded that there is a duality that exist on this earth.  When we are not in balance things have a tendency to shift and slide.  Finding a balance in our lives is important.  My balance involves writing, accepting and acting on my thoughts.  If I don't then the voice in my head does not let me rest.  Today my thoughts are quiet but only after I sat and decided to write a post.  Not knowing what would come but watching the process unfold just feels right.  The simplest of reactions to my flow of writing is listening. The words just come.

Listening is learning.  I am learning to listen and to share my thoughts with the hope that a connection is made.  Connecting with people and listening to their stories is something I have done my whole life.  Through listening to others I am learning so much.

Are you listening?  I believe that each of us has the ability to feel and to know for ourselves the plan that we helped create when we came to this life.   We have a built in data center that allows us to hear our own direction and insight.  The key is knowing the "song" that is being sung and tuning into the right frequency.  Sometimes we are too busy to hear, our lives are too noisy to pay attention, or we just need to be reminded to pay attention.

This is that reminder.  Be mindful of your life now. See what is happening.  Recognize if a change is needed.  Listen to how you are feeling at this very moment.

Listen.  Then get real quiet and listen again. In this space of deep quiet is where you will find guidance, serenity and peace.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, November 14, 2014

Turkey Inspired Vegetable Platter

Yay!  One of my family's favorite holidays is finally right around the corner. It just so happens to be Cory's birthday too.  About every 7 years his birthday falls on Turkey Day.  

Last year we went to a friends home and I was invited to bring a vegetable tray. I googled a few different versions of turkey themed trays and came up with this version which is similar to what I saw online.  

I try to balance my colors so that there are an array of colors to work with to create the turkey's feathers and backside.  Getting the face just right was a bit harder than I thought because I had to figure out how to cut the red pepper to make the gobbler.  I used one black olive, cut in half,  and two round carrot slices for the eyes.  The beak is a cucumber cut into the shape of a triangle.  The face is the bottom of a green bell pepper.

The leaf lettuce is not necessary but I do think it adds a brilliant ruffle around the edge of the tray. It gives this turkey his "ruffled feathers" if you like.

I served the tray with our favorite dressing:  Parmesan Ranch.  The recipe can be found here.

I don't believe a recipe is needed to successfully make this tray.  Use your imagination, use your favorite veggies and make it as big or small as you like. This tray is HUGE.  I made it for 30 people.

The ingredients I used in the picture below are: carrots, celery, red pepper, cherry tomatoes, black olives, cucumbers, green leaf lettuce and romanesco.

You could also use:  red onions, green onions, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, mushrooms...I think you get the idea.  Go and have fun creating your next turkey platter.

Please share on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and StumbleUpon.  Thanks!

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday


 Our week has been a full one.  We are in the final days of good weather before the cold weather finds Maryland.  We spent time in our yard raking and playing.  Not a single leaf has been bagged--YET!   
A glimpse into our lives.

Baby Cheeks are so kissable.  I can't believe she is one.

This recipe is posted on the blog. It came out yesterday.

I said good bye to a friend on Monday.  She is moving.  We walked every Monday.  This was our last walk before she starts the next phase of life.

I shared an experience I had with Cory while out on one of our walks.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Link here

Written by Sherron Watson

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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