Top 5 Takeaways from 2020…

So not to be redundant with… well, the WORLD

…but WOW!… What a year!!!

Once we made it to the end of the last school year, I needed a serious sabbatical! All of the humans in our house have processed the year differently… between working & studying virtually from home and trying to remain socially responsible in all our comings & goings, I don’t know about you, but I feel blessed just to be breathing in & out each day.

So because gratitude is important and does the mind & body good, these are my top 5 takeaways from 2020…

#5 Chalupas from Taco Bell!…

Did you know about these? I discovered them in December, but they totally made the list! First, it’s important for you to understand that I recently realized that I subconsciously attach some specific meal or culinary experience to most of my best memories… honeymoon, vacations, road trips… and this is no different. Chalupas transport me to growing up on the Pow Wow trail and looking forward to the fry bread deliciousness coming from the food vendors. If you have never had fry bread, it is similar to a carnival funnel cake. But Native American fry bread is SO much better and usually comes in a powdered sugar, fruit, chocolate or honey topped dessert option… or my favorite, the Indian Taco. Oh yeahhh… and the Chalupa is a pretty close second, if there are no Pow Wow food trucks to be found. Thank you, Taco Bell.

#4 Covid, You’re NOT the Boss of Me!

I’m not sure how your pre-Covid life played out each day, but mine was incredibly hectic and dappled with a lot of errands, to do lists, appointments… that led to a whole lot of exhaustion. When the Life-go-round came to a halt, and I woke up from a week long daze, and like most of the world I found myself gripped by fear-induced precautionary safety measures every time I stepped out of my house. I mean, there was a lot we didn’t understand at first, I’m diabetic, a tiny bit over 50, and well… I’m sure you get it. I had to make a choice… spiral into despair or put my big girl pants on. I decided to do what I could to help people who were more vulnerable than me for as long as I could… I didn’t know if that meant a month before I succumbed to the virus or never, but I knew I needed to be part of the solution. With the concern of pre-existing health risks prevalent in our family, thankfully, no one has tested positive for Covid.

#3 Purpose is Powerful

As I pondered how I could join the pandemic-fighting effort, I decided to tap into my creative skillset by making face masks. With one kid in college and 3 more enrolling in the Fall… yes, THREE high school seniors in our house this year!… I needed to figure out how to replace an old broken sewing machine & purchase materials. My sweet husband had gifted me with a beautiful bracelet on the previous Christmas, but the clasp had broken and needed to be replaced. Now I love the bling as much as the next girl, but my husband & I agreed that a refund on the bracelet could pay for a heavy duty Singer instead, and more importantly, could help save lives. That was a no brainer for me. Then we were able to use some of our stimulus check to purchase fabric, elastic, thread, ribbon… and so it began. To date, I have sewn over 600 face masks, donated most of them and intend to sew 400 more to meet my 1000 mask goal this year… insert high-five here! Even my amazing 88 year old father-in-law repaired a sewing machine he bought a few years ago at a yard sale to sew & donate about 500 face masks so far… and he is STILL cranking those things out! We are thankful for finding and being able to earn the resources necessary to help others in need.

#2 Forgiveness Feeds the Soul

We are a blended family of 6… my husband with his twins and me with my 2 daughters, which in and of itself brings a host of challenges to a home. My husband’s first wife passed away from breast cancer more than 10 years ago, and I endured a painful and difficult marriage that sadly ended in divorce… suffice it to say, the members of our family have all lived through some serious and life-altering traumas. Through mandated self-quarantines and lock-downs, while we have enjoyed spending more quality time together, we have certainly had our share of tension. It’s great when situations can be diffused with a good comedy on Netflix or a well-planned road trip… but then there are times, inside and outside of our home, that require forgiveness. It is almost always a process depending on how deep the injury or the wound may be, but it is so very necessary. Anger and resentment can be the worst kind of self torment that hold us captive and affect our health, our relationships and our life choices. When we allow ourselves to forgive, we not only stop the hatred from growing within us, we open ourselves to truly healing. Forgiveness is not saying ‘what you did is okay’, and doesn’t have to be accepted by the person who hurt you. In my experience, and particularly in the most serious cases, it is rarely a neat & tidy process tied up with a bow and a group hug at the end. When I forgive, either directly spoken to the person or by a decision I make privately, I am saying ‘I do not allow what you did to define how I feel or live anymore.’ And in the most severe and abusive situations, healing may require physical and sometimes permanent distance from the abuser. In fact, it’s important to say that if you or you know someone who may be encountering any kind of abuse, please find help yourself or through a friend, family member or pastor you trust to get you to a professional who can help you assess your situation and provide the protection and critical care needed. I am grateful for the daily strength and courage it sometimes requires to forgive those who have hurt me and the people I love.

#1 Life is Short… Pray Hard!

Despite learning about painful losses and health challenges over the past year from family and friends and experiencing some of our own, it didn’t take a pandemic for us to appreciate how unexpected life can be. Every day is an opportunity to choose how you walk through your circumstances. Some days it may take all that you have inside you to put some fresh clothes on & come out from under the covers. I have definitely been there multiple times… but I have also found that in the moments I have felt the most hopeless… and in some cases even breathless… when I cry out to God, He is always there. In fact, these are the times I have grown closest to Him, when I find a way to trust and rest in His loving embrace. I have learned that the meaning of life is not all about us. It is about all the choices we make in every situation and how it affects those around us. This can be as obvious as verbal or physical interactions and as seemingly insignificant as self care… taking a moment to pause with a cup of coffee and just breathe can entirely alter the direction of your day. We cannot and were never meant to do it all alone, even in the times when we feel most isolated or even abandoned. I know that pain all too well and have come to realize that true strength and fulfillment begin with a prayer. The prayer does not have to be formal or formulated… it’s simply a conversation from your heart to your Creator who adores You. Thank You, Lord, that in our weariness, You strengthen and sustain us when we choose to walk in Your way.

So as we say goodbye to 2020 and stand at the starting gate of 2021, I pray that you are blessed with health, vitality and a passion to bring light into the darkness… wherever that may be. God be with you & bring you restoration each morning to rise up & shine!

Easter Gratitude

As many of us are emerging from a time of fasting and bible studies in preparation for Easter, this is truly a joyful day… the symbol of Amazing Grace and hope, and here in Maryland that’s something that we could all use right now as our Coronavirus cases are growing into ‘hotspot’ status. I have been blending patterns, watching YouTube videos and working out my face mask prototypes with my new sewing machine, so I can go into mass production in the coming weeks. But before all of that begins, I just want to acknowledge that despite all of the quarantining, the COVID-19 facts and figures we are all navigating and the uncertainties that we are faced with each day… there is so much for which I am grateful…

❤ I am grateful that my family is together under one roof, safe and for the time being, healthy.

❤ I love having my oldest daughter home from college. This was her first year at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. While I was so proud of her and excited for this time in her life to spread her wings, I missed her SO much!

❤ I am deeply grateful for the many ‘essential’ people who go to work, day in and day out to carry out their part in the mosaic of frontline workers treating the sick and dying, comforting families, stocking the shelves, operating the cash registers, making deliveries, tending the farms, working in factories, cleaning our communities… SO many incredible people! Thank you so very much!

❤ While I know his days are fraught with teleworking technical difficulties for his work team, I love having my husband working from home, reminding me how much I appreciate all that he does every day to provide for us and how much he genuinely cares about his employees.

❤ I am thankful that we are able to stay connected online with our loved ones and how blessed we are to have so much entertainment and educational opportunities at our fingertips while we follow the directives to slow the spread of this pandemic.

❤ I had been exhausted for months since the school year began, between caring for my youngest daughter’s post-concussive symptoms and constantly driving to doctors’ appointments, school, other activities, college road trips, weekly errands… while these were all necessary, this time at home has helped me regain some of my sanity, some much needed quality time and some normal sleep.

❤ No matter what happens over the next few weeks or months, God has been so very gracious to us and I wish you and your family abundant blessings, moments of gratitude and Heavenly protection in the days ahead.

Peace! ❤

Oh So Many Fabrics…

So I’m finally coming out of my self-quarantine after returning to Maryland from my daughter’s college in Hyde Park, NY, fifteen days ago. I have been anxiously waiting to break open the box with my new sewing machine, replacing one that has been in disrepair for a few years. With the current needs of our incredible healthcare workers and essential personnel who are keeping us all safe, I am looking forward to contributing my efforts to the great face mask commission of 2020. It’s also a much more productive way for me to put my love of fabrics — okay, true confessions… years of fabric hoarding, let’s call it what it is — to a much more constructive and worthwhile use. Let the pattern cutting begin!

Sunday Stills: Fantastic Florals

As Spring showers bring my sleepy garden back to life, I have been out excitedly taking pictures of the plants I just put in the ground last season. Today’s Sunday Stills Photo Challenge gave me the perfect opportunity to share some of my new blooms…

This tiny Almond flower is no more than maybe an inch in diameter. It’s one of my favorite bushes in my yard, as one of the first blossoms of the Spring and last year it even put on a repeat show in November! The Flowering Almond symbolizes “Hope”, something we could all use a little more of these days.

Then there is my Flowering Quince… I cannot wait for this beauty to take off and fill out into a gorgeous shrub in front of our house, but for now I will enjoy its early beginnings. Flowering Quince represents “Sincerity” and symbolizes “Love”, both of which were my inspirations for planting them last Spring.

Lastly, are my Lupines. They have not begun to flower yet so this photo is from last Spring, but oh how I love them! Most of my family lives in Canada where my favorite gardens are full of tall purple lupines. I was ecstatic to find this miniature variety in the nursery, so I’m praying they come back since our planting budget is a bit pinched this year. Lupines represent “Happiness, Creativity & Imagination” – Amen to that!

On Top of the World

Top of the Hill in Ogunquit Beach, ME

This is my first submission to The Life of B Photo Challenge. This quarter’s “April Squares” challenge is a celebration of ‘Tops’, so as a nice transition from her January ‘Light’ challenge, I’m entering my Hilltop Sunrise photo taken from Marginal Way in gorgeous Ogunquit, Maine. Ahhh, how I would love to be sitting on that bench with a cup of coffee right now! This particular weekend in March, we were on a college road trip to visit a first choice university up North. It was just after the bomb cyclone had settled off the coast of Cape Cod, so the ocean was incredibly powerful…

...and on Top of the Rocks!

When you experience that kind of power in nature, it’s a reminder that there is something… rather SomeONE greater than all of us, who created this universe and is able to handle all that we cannot control… especially now in these days of uncertainty.

I especially love the third picture in this challenge with the waves crashing against the rocks and my youngest daughter is standing in the front confidently, almost defiantly… unmoved by the thunderous surf. To fully appreciate the significance of this image, you have to understand that this has been a particularly tough season for my daughter. In January 2017, she sustained a concussion during a normal PE class at school. Another student threw a basketball across the gym, that struck her on the side of the head, and dramatically changed the course of her teen years. What we thought would resolve in a few weeks, evolved into considerable loss of her vision for the next six months. Our world completely shifted as I dropped everything to adapt all of her lessons to her academic needs at home with the help of a home teacher assigned by the county, just so we could get her across her academic finish line. Once her vision returned that summer, following intensive medical therapies and treatments by teams of doctors, nurses and various therapists, at Sinai Hospital and Kennedy Krieger Institute, her daily migraine headaches began to intensify. Finally in June 2018, after 3 days on ‘migraine cocktail’ IV’s at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Hospital, she experienced her first 24 hours of migraine relief in 17 months… Since then, she has continued treatment at Hopkins, Krieger and Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital to try to navigate her new life in the aftermath of her traumatic brain injury… still pushing through and managing the pain, still looking for solutions.

As her mother and her primary caretaker, you can imagine the range of emotions I have experienced. So in an odd way, with all that has recently rocked our world, I almost feel like I was prepared for this COVID-19 wave to hit. I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness or the impact this virus has had on individuals, our country or our world. I have simply learned how to roll with the challenges of unexpected happenings and unfolding circumstances. This is where we are… and we are all in it together. The sun will rise tomorrow, and we will start over with the new day, hopefully moving forward. And if we need to stop to take a breath, it’s okay…. take a moment… just don’t live there, and I mean that with love in my heart… Put on your fuzzy pajamas, eat a bucket of popcorn while you watch a movie that makes you laugh until you cry, then let it out, Sister… or Brother!… Let the rain… fall… dowwnnn… Then without touching your face with your ungloved hands, wipe your eyes with a tissue or your sleeve if you’ve run out of tissue… run a comb through your hair or polish that shine, slap on your good looks and step into the next day! You can do this… We all can do this… We need to do this for each other.

Sending you so much love, beautiful sunrises & healing prayers! XO

Comfort Food Friday!

Finally made it to the end of a looooong week and felt it was time for some French Toast Casserole action. This is a HUGE favorite for our family, so I thought I would share it with you in case you could use a little warm comfort casserole goodness for your weekend, as well…

If you would like to skip the steps & head straight to the recipe, click on the title for a printer-friendly version:

Heavenly French Toast Casserole

This is a super simple recipe – just keep in mind that you need at least 8 hours of refrigeration to get the light and fluffy consistency – 24 hours if you can be patient enough for the melt-in-your-mouth version.

Prep Time: 15 – 20 min

Chill Time: 8 – 10 hrs or up to 24 hrs for ultimate joy

Cook Time: 40 min


  • 1/2 Tbsp softened butter, used to grease your dish 
  • 12 slices of sandwich bread, or sliced French baguette or loaf bread 
  • 8 eggs, whisked
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup cream 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • a pinch of salt

Using a piece of plastic wrap to cover your fingers, generously grease a 9″ x 12″ casserole dish or pan (or a similar size is fine) with the softened butter.

* * *

Lay your bread slices across the bottom of the dish, then arrange a second layer on top. If you are using a baguette in your recipe or another kind of flavored or uncut loaf, make your slices approx. 1″ thick, if possible. Challah bread is incredibly dreamy in this recipe!

* * *

In your mixing bowl, whisk your eggs so they are blended but not frothy. I take this step before adding the other ingredients because it can be difficult to tell if you have broken up all of the yolks once the other ingredients are combined.

* * *

Then add the remaining ingredients and continue to whisk together until well blended but not bubbly. When choosing your cream, I typically use heavy or whipping cream when I am using 2% reduced fat milk. Light cream or even Half and Half may also be substituted for healthier options.

* * *

Carefully pour the mixture over your bread slices, trying to cover all of the edges. Using your whisk or a spoon, gently press the bread into the egg mixture allowing it to absorb more of the liquid. Any slight indentations left by this process will be cooked out in the final stage of preparation.

* * *

Cover your dish with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 8 – 10 hours or overnight. I find that the longer I chill the dish (up to 24 hours), the casserole becomes lighter and fluffier in texture, almost like a custard!

* * *

The next day, remove your casserole from the fridge while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. I like to let the dish sit for a good 10 minutes or so while I grab a coffee, so it’s not such a temperature shock from the fridge to the oven.

* * *

Remove the plastic wrap & bake the casserole uncovered on the center rack for 40 minutes until lightly golden on top. Expect it to puff up in the oven as it bakes, so adjust your racks accordingly.

Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes.

* * *

Serve with your favorite maple or flavored syrups, fresh fruit or dessert toppings.

Bon Appétit!

Let Hope Rise

I wanted to share a beautiful shot of the NYC skyline that I took en route to the Hudson Valley on March 22nd. I spent the afternoon moving my oldest daughter out of her dorm when her college closed their residence halls at the prompting of Governor Cuomo’s directives. We are on Day 10 of our self-quarantine which later became mandated by our state of Maryland, and thankfully all is well with our family of six. While we hear more each day about the progression of COVID-19 in our world, we hold on to our faith and lift prayers for all of the incredible men and women putting their lives on the line each day in the hospitals and clinics, those who are working in so many essential roles and the friends and families who are fearful for their loved ones – those who are working on the front lines or those who have begun to show symptoms. We pour out our deepest sympathies for those who are grieving the sudden loss of someone dear to them in the midst of this pandemic, who have succumbed to the virus or have suffered other illnesses or injuries. We pray for the millions staying at home to help get our country through this season as safely and quickly as possible, for the countless businesses and people who are out of work and suffering through the uncertainties that lie ahead and for peaceful resolutions to domestic disturbances that erupt in the midst of so many social and personal anxieties. You are in our minds and hearts, and we pray that the hardships we experience will ultimately make us stronger as individuals, bring us closer as a community and more united as a country. May you be abundantly blessed, protected and grow in Spirit and health. Lord, flood the earth with Your Amazing Grace & Miraculous Healing Power, in Jesus’ Precious Name. God Bless America. God Bless Canada, the UK, Europe… God give us Peace between the many cultures in our World! Amen!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: #3 – Pick a Topic

I’m just jumping into the CFFC with my 3 topic picks…

Birds... in Newport, Rhode Island at the Newport Bay Club & Hotel
Whales… on a rainy day in choppy waters, a gorgeous Minke Whale
breached 3 times off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in Pleasant Bay
(wonderful time with Captain Mark’s Whale & Seal Cruise!)
Road… the long and winding Cabot Trail along the breathtaking Cape Breton coast!

Good Morning Sun

I love to watch the sunrise especially this time of year when I can basque in its glow through bare branches. I am always in awe of the beauty and the sense of calm I feel in the moment. It’s the quietest part of my morning while my family sleeps and the day is still full of possibilities. It’s my opportunity to express gratitude for all I have emerged from, and the blessings I have not even hoped for or imagined. It’s a kiss from Heaven that stirs my faith to courageously face the day.