Month: July 2015

25 Reasons Why I Love My Life

25 Reasons Why I Love My Life

It’s easy to get caught up in all the stress and negativity that permeates our daily lives. Gut-wrenching news stories, family drama, financial struggles…the list of things that can drag us down is endless.

We’ve all heard about finding at least one thing you’re grateful for each day as an amazing way to counteract that. While I do find this exercise helpful, I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, so I thought it would be a good idea to make a longer list.

Originally, the list was just for me. However, as I read back through it, I thought it would be nice to share it here and maybe encourage others to do the same.

My life is far from perfect and struggles certainly abound, but it’s not all bad either. So without further ado (and in no particular order) here are the…

1. Morning snuggles with my daughter. She’s so busy now, it’s nice to have some quiet time with just the two of us. I know she’ll outgrow this routine eventually and I intend to soak it all in while I can!

2. My morning workout. It’s amazing how much more clear-headed and energetic I feel after I exercise. I never thought that I would be the kind of person who looks forward to a work-out session, but here I am!

3. This blog. While I do my fair share of complaining about the technical issues that crop up from time to time, this blog is what maintains my sanity. Having a space to explore my thoughts and engage with others is amazing. Writing is as essential to me as breathing, and having a place to share my work ensures that I keep at it!

4. My nearly completed novel. Okay, it’s a first draft…but it’s almost done! Knowing that I’m close to the finish line is a wonderful feeling and to be honest, I have had so much fun writing it that at times it has been hard to pull myself away from it to do other important tasks–like putting away the laundry!

5. Music time. Whether it’s helping out in the studio, playing my guitar, or just singing along with the radio, getting in some music time everyday is something that always makes me smile. Everything is better when the tunes are cranked up!

6. Lazy afternoons with my family. This may just be my very favorite thing.  Just lounging around with Almost-Husband and The Princess doing absolutely nothing is sheer bliss.

7, The new house. I never thought we would ever have a home as nice as the one we just purchased. I never thought we’d actually be able to purchase a home! The security of knowing that it is ours has taken a huge amount of stress off my shoulders, and the freedom to really make it our own is fantastic!

8, Our new puppy. Seriously, though. This guy.

He may be huge but he’s still a pup! Although he’s only been in our family a short time, he is already one of my best friends. He has done wonders for my anxiety level, and he makes me feel safer. He’s pretty much the coolest dog around!

9. Beatlefest is coming up! I am so excited to be counting down to a weekend of peace, love, and the company of my amazing family. It’s always the highlight of my year and I can’t wait to get away, relax, and recapture a bit of myself.

10. Electricity. I know it sounds hokey, but how often do we take things like this for granted? With all the financial problems we’ve had, knowing that we’ve never had to go without electricity is a blessing. Plus, it powers all our cool stuff!

11. Water. Honestly. How great is indoor plumbing? It’s another thing we take for granted, but I am thankful that we have this luxury when there are many people in the world who do not.

12. My partner. We’ve been through a lot in our 9 years together, both good and bad, and our relationship continues to grow stronger each day. As much as he can drive me nuts sometimes, he is also an amazing source of support, friendship, and love and is such a fantastic dad! I’m incredibly lucky that he supports our family and I’m sure I don’t thank him enough for what he does for us.

13. My ninjas. One of the perks of blogging is all the wonderful people you meet along the way. These 4 lovely ladies in particular have been a godsend. It’s amazing to me how the five of us can come from such different backgrounds and still be so similar. I’m thankful for the bond we’ve developed and the unwavering support we have for one another.

14. My besties. There’s nothing like sisterhood…especially when they’re sisters you got to choose for yourself! These two wonderful ladies (you know who you are!) have always had my back and have been there through thick and then. Knowing that I always have someone to turn to is invaluable. I love you both!

15. My Mommy. I could write a thousand words on why my mom is such a blessing. She’s been my teacher, my cheerleader, and one of my best friends from day one and I am incredibly lucky to have the bond we share.

16. My siblings. We may not see each other as often as I’d like, but we always remain close. Having people who can share in your earliest memories is something worth celebrating!

17. Hell, this could go on forever–all my friends and family. I am incredibly blessed to have such a rich network of people who care about me and my family and whom I love deeply. Thank you all for being there for us no matter what!

18. Shorts. I hate pants. I hate skirts. I hate the heat. Shorts solve all these problems.

19, Being barefoot. Nothing makes me happier than feeling the earth beneath my feet. It’s my favorite part of summer and I have been taking full advantage of that!

20. Good food every day. We may not be able to go on fancy vacations or buy ourselves a lot of “fun” stuff, but we always have good food. I love to cook and I love knowing that my family is never hungry. In a world where so many go to bed on empty stomachs, the fact that there is always food on the table is something to be grateful for.

21. Netflix binges. This is one of our few indulgences. Nothing beats re-watching your favorite show, beginning to end, over the course of a day or two.

22. Coca Cola. I can’t start my day without it! It may not be the healthiest beverage, but it puts a smile on my face. Not only does it taste good and give me my caffeine fix, but it also brings back many happy memories of my grandmother.

23. My cat. He may be antisocial and spend his days hiding from us, but that makes it all the more sweet when he finally decides to give us some attention!

24. My SUV. I love my 2003 Sante Fe. It’s the nicest vehicle we’ve ever owned, and the freedom to just pick up and go is awesome! After spending considerable amounts of time without a car, it is not something I take for granted!

25. My bed. Honestly, at the end of the day nothing is better than collapsing into my big comfy bed. It may be full, with 2 adults, a toddler, and a dog, but it’s one of the happiest places I’ve ever found. Falling asleep and waking up with my loved ones is truly a blessing!

If there’s a lesson to come from all of this, it’s that the key to happiness is learning to take pleasure in the simple things in life.  We only get one shot, why not enjoy it?

How To Deal With Writer’s Block

How To Deal With Writer’s Block

Over the past few days, I have found myself struggling to write. Every night, I open up my laptop, stare at the screen for who knows how long, and type out a few sentences that ultimately lead to nowhere. Since the move, I’ve started 9 posts, all of which I have given up on for the time being.

It seems, my friends, that I have a crippling case of writer’s block.

For me, writers block isn’t so much about having a lack of things to say. It’s more like being mentally constipated. Tons of ideas crammed together in my creativity tube that just won’t come out, no matter how hard I push. My brain’s just all stopped up. It’s uncomfortable, it’s irritating, and it’s slightly painful.

Much like being constipated, the worst thing you can do is try to force it.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do is try to loosen up all those backed up words. I know, I know. Easier said than done. Here’s three methods I’ve found that can get those ideas flowing smoothly.

1)Switch gears. Try writing something different. For instance, instead of writing about the things I learned while moving, I am writing about writer’s block. Take your mind off of whatever it is you are struggling to create. If that doesn’t do the trick, try doing something unrelated to writing. Draw a picture, sing a song, rearrange the items on your desk. Stepping away from the project at hand can give you fresh perspective, and if you’re like me, once you’re focused on something else your brain will go back to whatever you were trying to do in the first place in a bid to procrastination.

2) Try free writing. Grab a sheet of paper and just write the first words that come to mind, even if it is as silly as “I am writing. Watch me write…” continue this stream of consciousness scribbling for a few minutes. Don’t worry about things like grammar or whether or not it makes sense. The point here isn’t to create great content (although it’s always a nice surprise if you do!), it’s about getting the creative juices flowing. Once you get in the writing zone, it’s hard to get back out of it!

3) Have some story juice. If all else fails, pour yourself a glass of whatever adult beverage you prefer and relax! Sometimes all it takes is a nice buzz and a peaceful setting to make those words come pouring out! Pro tip: edit sober!

Now that you’ve conquered your writer’s block, let’s look at some ways to prevent it in the future.

1) Don’t wait to write. Just like you should refrain from holding in bodily functions, the longer to put off writing the harder it will be to get the words out. Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse to capture your ideas as they come, or jot down some quick notes in your phone’s memo pad. You never know when inspiration will strike, be prepared!

2) Flex your creativity muscles. Do you usually write romance? Try writing horror instead. Get outside of your comfort zone! Try other forms of art, do various puzzles, visit an art gallery, read something challenging, try to understand viewpoints other than your own. The key to keeping your creativity high is to keep your mind engaged. Give it the food it needs to stay active!

3) Try new things.  While it would be awesome to just pick up and visit a new country, you don’t need to do anything quite that drastic to reap the benefits of new experiences. Try a new food. Visit a nearby town you’ve never been to. Take a different route home from work. Say yes to that invitation. Pick up a new hobby. The more experiences you have, the more you have to write about!

4) Create a routine. What time of day do you feel most productive? Schedule yourself some writing time as close to that time slot as possible. If you can, write in the same place everyday. If that’s not possible, create another constant (use the same pen or drink coffee from the same cup each time). The idea is to train your brain to recognize a symbol that this is writing time and draw in your focus. Give yourself a goal. Set a timer, for example, or set a daily word count. Even if what you generate isn’t usable, just getting some practice and developing the habit is a win!

5) Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Eat good food. Get some exercise. When you feel good, it’s easier to be productive. Don’t forget to tend to your emotional, mental, and spiritual needs as well. The healthier and happier you are, the better!

While I wouldn’t say that I’m an “expert”, these are the things that I’ve found help the most. Now, let’s hope I can follow my own advice and keep the writer’s block at bay for awhile!

Do you have any tips of your own for beating writer’s block? Tell us about it in the comments!

Ch-Ch-Changes (Adventures In Moving: Part Three)

Ch-Ch-Changes (Adventures In Moving: Part Three)

As I stare at the blinking cursor on my computer screen, my mind is filled with a million thoughts, most of which center around the pile of boxes across the room that still need unpacked and the stack of dishes sitting in the sink. I feel torn between writing about all the new changes taking place in my life and getting a handle on my never-ending to-do list.

After typing, deleting, and retyping the opening paragraph about 30 times, I almost give up. Maybe I just can’t write anymore. The thought is frustrating. There is so much I want to tell you, but I don’t even know where to start. 
The sound of Almost-Husband playing with our new dog on the living room floor is distracting. I think about heading up to my new office, then remember that there’s no air conditioning up there and it feels like a sauna. Still, the thought makes me smile. 
My own office. In our own house. Our own house!

After nearly 10 years of rentals, living with friends, living with parents, and more rentals…we finally have our own space. A place to call home. 

I’m not sure I can put into words how much a relief it is, especially after all the hoops we had to jump through to get here. A year of fixing our credit. Another year of looking for houses. And then weeks and weeks of sending paperwork, followed by a period of time where we were told the bank was backing out due to a bad landlord reference, which was eventually determined to be unfounded (as we knew it would be). 

With closing pushed back on us three times, when the actual day came we were more than a little nervous when they told us they needed even more paperwork and verification. We got that squared away quickly and we were told to meet them at 3 o’clock. 

Once we got there, we were told there was another issue and we had to run to our bank to get copies of a check and race back to the bank handling our loan, where we were told that it might have to be put off another day. At 4:55 PM, with five minutes to spare before the banks closed for the day, they called us back. They were willing to stay late to get us in. 

In the end, we wound up with no closing costs, no down payment, and actually walked away with a check. After all the craziness that it took to get us done, the outcome could not have been better!

It’s been 13 days now since we’ve moved into our home, but it feels like it was yesterday. I don’t think my mind has fully processed that it’s really ours. To have an entire house to ourselves is surreal. It’s so much nicer than anything I thought we would ever be able to afford, and there are a few times that I’ve found myself feeling as if we’ve stepped into someone else’s life. It’s a crazy feeling to go from a beat-up apartment with sewage in the basement, bats in the walls, and any number of other issues to a clean, safe, beautiful home in the blink of an eye.

The Princess has transitioned wonderfully, although we do need to get back to some sort of routine. She’s suddenly decided that it’s time to use the potty and to sleep in her own room, which is fantastic! She’s also started to play more independently, which is a godsend with all the work it’s taken to get the house in order. 
Saturday, we added a new member to our family, a one year old Akita/ German Shepard mix named Kuma.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried at first about bringing such a big boy home, but he just fit right in. It’s like he’s always been here! He’s already protective of The Princess and has been great playing with her. He’s already housebroken and knows a few commands, which eliminates most of the work I thought was ahead of us. And most importantly, he seems so happy here! I’m so glad we found this guy!

After all the ups and downs that life has thrown at us over the past few years, things finally seem to be evening out. I know the road ahead will still have a few bumps and unexpected curves, but it is also bound to be a beautiful path. Once we get our bearings, I have no doubt that this is the road that will take us to our dreams.

Brandyn Blaze’s World Famous Pizza {Recipe}

Brandyn Blaze’s World Famous Pizza {Recipe}

I believe that every woman should have a signature dish or two; just a handful of recipes you can pull out for a variety of occasions that you know is going to kill every time. For barbecues my go to is a killer Italian potato bake, for super special moments I’ll pull out the steak with red wine sauce, when I know I’m having company I have an amazing pork roast–all of which I hope to share with you as this blog goes on.

Today, however, I want to tell you about the one dish I’m really, really proud of : my homemade pizza.

I believe we’ve covered my extraordinary love of pizza before. I’ve even told you about this wonder-food’s enormous role in my childhood. What I haven’t told you, is that I have big plans for me and pizza in the future.

One of my dreams is to own a bar and grill, where one of the menu items will obviously be pizza. More specifically, you’ll be able to order up my specialty pizza and naturally, it will be the best selling item. It will be raved about by all the food critics and people will come from miles around just to grab a slice. It will be heaven on a crust.  In fact it will be:

Since perfection doesn’t happen overnight, I’ve been tinkering with my recipe over the years. I’ve still got to develop my own crust and sauce, but the basics are there. So, without further ado, I give to you the current incarnation of my world-famous pizza.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of crust mix (yes, you will need two for one pizza, since this thing is loaded with toppings.)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Italian Seasoning (divided)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 6.5 oz. can of mushrooms
  • 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce (I prefer the type with herbs included)
  • 1 1/4 cup 5 Cheese Italian Blend (divided)
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
  • 1 6 oz package pepperoni
  • 1 green pepper
  • Parmesan cheese 
  • flour (for hands)
  • cooking spray (for cookie sheet)
  • 1 cup water (or as directed on your preferred brand of crust mix)

Tools:

  • 15 X 10 cookie sheet
  • Pastry brush
  • Paper Towels
  • large bowl (to mix crust)
  • microwave safe bowl 

How It’s Done:

1.)  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, or as directed on your package of crust mix. 
2.) While your oven is heating up, combine both packages of mix, garlic powder, 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, and water (as directed by package).

3.) Cover with a damp paper towel (to prevent it from drying out) and let it stand for a minimum of 5 minutes. I usually place the bowl on top of the stove (between the burners to prevent any mishaps!).

4.) While your dough is rising, put the butter in a microwave safe bowl and add the minced garlic and remainder of the Italian seasoning. Melt it in the microwave (about 1 minute on high). If you haven’t already, use the remaining time to dice your green pepper, open your jars and packages, and grease your cookie sheet.

5.) With floured hands, press the dough into your cookie sheet, taking it all the way to the edges.

6.) Brush your garlic butter onto the crust, concentrating on the edges and then blending into the middle.

7.) Brush on your sauce, leaving about a half inch of buttered crust exposed around the edges. It is best to sort of dab it on and then smooth it out. It will blend with the butter and seem a little watery. This is normal.

8.) Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over the sauce.

Now it’s time for the toppings!

9.) Sprinkle about 1 cup of the 5-Cheese blend evenly over the sauce.

10.) Add your pepperoni in a single layer, leaving as little cheese exposed as possible.

11.) Sprinkle 1 cup of the Mozzarella cheese on top of the pepperoni.

12.) Add your mushrooms, spacing more or less evenly to cover the whole area.

13). Add your diced green pepper, again, trying to evenly cover the pizza.

14.) Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Mozzarella over the pizza.

15.) Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup 5 Cheese blend.

16.) Top it with the 1/2 cup of Cheddar cheese.

17.) Bake at 450 for 13-18 minutes (or as directed on package of crust mix). You will want to keep an eye on out as it bakes, to ensure that your crust does not burn.

18.) Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes before you attempt to cut it, otherwise you risk losing your toppings.

19.) Enjoy!!

A word of caution: this is not a low carb food. Nor is is a low calorie food. This is pure indulgence. Deliciously fattening indulgence. Plan accordingly.

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Cape Town, South Africa