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Home stretch of our new construction build

Preparing for our new home has sucked up most of my mental space and time these last few months. I’ve not been able to blog as much which I’m bummed about. Interwoven with work, I’ve spent most days packing, visiting the house, and planning with a little shopping in between. I’ve been on YouTube incessantly watching “Empty House Tours”, interior design videos, and the like.

We started packing in January so we would be ahead of the game. Since I despise moving, I definitely didn’t want to torture myself further by waiting until the last minute. Our two children have boxes piled in their rooms too. The downside of packing so early is our cats have been terrorizing some of the boxes – peeling off the labels and digging holes. Now, they both just seem overwhelmed with all the boxes and new packages. They know something is up.

Beignet having a serious talk with himself and my new purchases.
Beignet atop of Bryan’s new side table in the midst of the garage mess. Cannoli walking towards me.
Kitchen metamorphosis. LPC

If you’ve never had a home built, it is an exciting and fun process. It might not be for everyone because it’s a long process requiring attention to detail and planning. Our process has taken about 6 months. An added bonus is in that time, our credit scores have increased substantially which puts us in a better position at closing than when we started.

Some people may want/need to move in more quickly. If you have time, a new construction build may be the option for you. It was the best option for us although it wasn’t in our initial plans.

Once you’ve determined affordability for your budget and the best location, the main things you need are patience and imagination.

You need patience for the process – anywhere from 4 months to years depending on the type of home.  There are also many decisions you need to make (depending on your builder) which will challenge your patience,  especially considerating your budget. We signed our new construction home contract in August 2020.

Me on our freshly cemented foundation….maybe not so fresh😉. LPC

Your healthy imagination is needed to help you envision your home. There are usually model homes built with all the bells and whistles (i.e., upgrades). Those upgrades come with individual prices and they can add up quickly. It’s up to you to know and stick to your budget.

Freshly laid ceramic tile. LPC

We’ve been fortunate to have experienced this process with our first home circa 2000. With life’s twists and turns, we sold our home during the housing recession of 2007/2008. My husband, Bryan, was laid off work from the job that brought us to Texas. Things were tight for a couple of years before deciding to sell. Although it was painful, it was the best decision we made for our family. For almost 14 years, we’ve been renting a duplex.

Renting isn’t bad when it fits your needs. I’ve heard the perspective that renting is like throwing money away. It’s only been recently I’ve been hearing more advice to the contrary. I was tired of being house poor. I was tired of worrying about how we were going to pay the full mortgage each month. Although we downsized, renting a duplex was the best option because it was what we could afford and eventually allowed us to live below our means. Looking back, it was some semblance of the lifestyle we had been living in the house in that the rental had a huge back yard for our children to play, the same amount of bedrooms, and a garage for storage.

Master bath under construction. LPC

Our lives have evolved so much in 14 years and now it’s time to move on. In a few years, we’ll be empty nesters which was a very important factor in planning for our house. Our children are 15 and 20 years old. This will be our retirement home. I’m hesitant to call it our “forever” home as I often hear on home improvement shows.

My favorite space. LPC

What side of town do we want to live? How much space will we need? Do we want to walk up and down stairs? How much yard do we need? What rooms/features are essential for our lifestyle? Which builder will maximize our needs/wants within our budget?

With so much to decide in the planning, we are so pleased our structural and design selections have come together beautifully. You’re just not sure because you pick your selections at one time (or more depending on your builder) from pictures, swats, and samples. Also, the budget is the main factor in making the selections.

Once we ruled out other builders and selected “the one”, we selected a floor plan which was not the model home. We made extra efforts to view this particular floor plan to ensure it “SPOKE” to us and was OUR home. We found the floor plan at different communities outside of ours and made arrangements with that communities’ sales office to view.

We chose a single story, open floor plan with 3 bedrooms, a study, a large kitchen open to the dining and living rooms with a laundry room, pantry, and 2 car garage.

The boxes are multiplying

In less than a week, we’ll be closing. We encountered a plumbing problem at the walk through which delayed our closing by a few days. I’ll share what happened in a future blog post. I plan to post more detail about this new construction process in the coming months. I’ll even share video footage I recorded. I’m determined to learn how to record great videos!

The day after the walk through, 3/17/2021 🤯😱

Stay tuned…

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Top things February 2021 had me doing for the first time in my LIFE

The 3rd month of 2021 feels more like the 6th month considering everything that’s happened in the world thus far. I do welcome March with open arms and hope for subdued weather, productive packing, a smooth move to our new home, a healthy family, and reconnecting with friends. If you don’t know about the winter storm in Texas the week before last, you can catch up in my blog posts Is this Texas? and Is this Texas Part Deux? It took about a week for me to process what happened. Just when I thought I experienced mostly everything in life, I was wrong. Here are the top things February 2021 had me doing for the first time in my FREAKING LIFE!!!

  1. Dress for freezing weather inside the house – We went without electricity for over 50 hours. For us, no electricity means no stove and other electrical appliances, no heat, and no hot water. Everything in the duplex operates on electricity which translates to we were sorely at a disadvantage. Some homes have gas and electricity which will be the case in our new house. The weather was in the single digits outside. What I know about the cold having grown up in Chicago (where winters are long and miserable) is to LAYER UP. I put on so many clothes at one point it was uncomfortable to lay in bed under the blankets so I had to take some off.
  2. Collect snow to fill buckets and the bath tub – Well, it was my husband, Bryan, who filled the buckets. We picked up on that tip from Facebook and talking to our neighbors who were in the same situation. One thing about a natural disaster or any stressful situation, is that your creative juices start flowing at some point. Mine kicked in early. On the 3rd day of no electricity the water shut off. This means we could not flush toilets, wash the dirty dishes in the sink, do laundry, wash hands, take a shower….YOU GET IT. The purpose of collecting the snow was to help with flushing toilets. Within an hour of no water, my son said he had to do a NUMBER 2. Of all the weeks, he decided to consume protein shakes daily so he could bulk up his physique. It wasn’t pretty and the snow didn’t help. My husband cleaned up the mess.
  3. Poop in a plastic bag – I probably should have included a disclaimer that this post might be a little TMI (too much information), but since I already typed #2, I might as well continue along in the same vein. I was really worried about not having water to flush the toilets, especially after my son’s experience. The snow wasn’t working out. My bowel movements are very regular since I eat lots of produce and fiber. Bryan had been searching for gallons of water for a couple of days now. All the stores were sold out. I slowed down my water intake hoping that would cause my bodily functions to slow down. It worked for a little while but then the inevitable happened. It was right before that moment the idea came to me to poop in double plastic bags. I thought it would be less messy and it was. I was a little grossed out but I did what I had to do. I shared my experience with my family and made sure they had access to plastic bags, disposable gloves, cleansing wipes, and disinfecting wipes.
  4. Melt snow and ice – One things for sure…we were trying to make the best use of the snow. The electricity came on at 11:54 pm late Wednesday (electricity went out Monday afternoon). A few hours earlier, the water was shut off. We had plenty of individual bottles of water; however, none of the stores had gallons of water or water PERIOD. In order to wash the dishes that were in the sink, I gathered all the ice cubes from the freezer compartment and boiled them. I successfully washed the dishes. We boiled the snow for the toilets. It was a smooth operation: collect snow in one bucket, pour the snow in the large pot on the stove, once the snow starts boiling, pour the boiling water into the toilets, fill bucket with snow and start all over. We did that for a few hours.
  5. Not taking a bath or shower for a week – When the electricity went out, so did the hot water. When the electricity came back on, we didn’t have water. Thankfully, we were able to buy a box body cleansing wipes from Costco mid week. We were all so relieved to be able to take showers by the weekend.

It’s amazing what we experienced in February. Never in a million years would I have imagined this. During the ordeal, I was keenly aware that we were experiencing a collective trauma here in Texas. My husband and I banded together to keep our children as comfortable as possible during the circumstances. By the weekend the weather was in the seventies which reminded me why I love living in Texas.

I’m grateful I didn’t have to go through this alone as some people likely did. I also know we had more resources than others and I was grateful for that too. People were helping each other all over the state. A couple of friends even offered their homes to us. However, with COVID, we didn’t want to take any chances. We knew the power would be back on eventually. We just had to withstand the discomfort and we preferred to do that with each other. It was definitely a bonding week for us.

I’m looking forward to March with a little hesitation though. We’ll see what it’s store. I’ll keep you posted.

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Is this Texas Part Deux?

What a week! It’s so surreal it’s difficult for me to describe. If you haven’t read my post from Tuesday, you can get the background here at Is this Texas? As I spend the next few days gathering my thoughts, I want to share my posts from my Facebook feed so you can get a picture of what it’s been like with no electricity for 48 plus hours and no running water since yesterday. These posts are as I posted them on my page including the pictures, though I’ve added more description here for some of the pictures. This is something like “a week in my life” during a national weather disaster.

Where ever you are in the world, I hope you are warm, safe, and have enough food to eat.

Monday, 2/15/2021: View from our backyard! ❄❄❄ What’s up with this weather??? The hubby & I moved from Chicago to Austin to get away from this record breaking ish!!! The lil girl has already been outside playing in the snow. We can take it for about a week, but no more please & thank you. 🌬

Picture taken from my backyard

Monday, 2/15/2021 after 6pm. Y’all!!! We’ve been living our BEST lives over here during this weather. I managed to get a workout in & my dinner cooked before our POWER went out after 5:30pm. Got some delicious chicken & rice casserole with roasted bacon wrapped asparagus on deck. I hope everybody is staying warm & cozy. I guess we’re going to bed early tonight.🤷🏾‍♀️✌🏾

Dinner before power outage
Chicken & rice casserole
Bacon wrapped asparagus per my husband’s request.

Tuesday, 2/16/2021 morning. We are so cold!!! Power has been out since yesterday at around 5:30 pm, which means no electricity, no heat, no hot water, but we’re MAKING DO. It’s 50 degrees in house and maybe 20 degrees outside. I’m eating a healthy bowl of cereal – brown rice crisps, homemade muesli, chia seeds, fresh organic blueberries, banana, a little maple syrup, & almond milk. If you have no power, please hang in there!✌🏾

Cereal with all the fixings

Tuesday, 2/15/2021 afternoon.We’re headed for another night of no power…translation: no heat, no electricity, and no hot water. It’s been over a straight 24 hours…others on my team have gone over 40 hours. Even the cats know something’s up so they cuddled with us when they weren’t chasing each other everywhere. Shout out to hubby for waiting for hours to get us some hot subs, to the manchild for shoveling snow, & to the lil girl for sitting in the warm car to charge my phone. We have plenty of blankets, warm clothes, food, toilet paper, water, etc. BUT prayer works especially for those who have to work during this stuff and those who don’t have shelter. 🙏🏾 I’m not looking forward to tonight but I’m truly with the loves of my life who have each other’s backs…we’ll be OK. Oh & 2021, JUST STOP IT in my cat momma voice.💕

Beignet all cozy on our bed.

Wednesday, 2/17/2021 late morning. Y’ALL we still don’t have power since Monday!!! BUT we’re making the best of it. I’ve already exercised for the day 💪🏾🏋🏾‍♀️and am working on completing my 2021 vision board. When times are hard, tap into that creativity! That’s what I do! Hubby actually got my phone charged to 99% in the car. Caleb found out Walmart is open but he’s going to pass on going into work. Elise already had a tuna sammich & Caleb & I had protein shakes. Hubby is a big baby & prefers to have a standoff with himself when he doesn’t have his preferred options (aka hot food). I bet he’ll eat a PBJ sammich soon. Don’t tell him I said that ok. 😉😉😉You know we’re moving next month to our new house & have been packing. WELLLLL, last month I found an old Essence magazine from May 2014 (my bday month)!!! Lots of beautiful brown women in here who’ve been inspiring me. This is only a peak at my vision board…it will be organized a certain way. We’ll see if we get power today. Laters!✌🏾

Dressed for the outside in the house but having some fun
I still haven’t finished my vision board! Boxes in the background…🐈🐈on the bed.
Love these images. I’ll continue to work on them. I need MORE.

Wednesday, 2/17/2021 early afternoon. Anybody ever tried smoked oysters? This seems like an opportune time to try with no power in the house & all.🙃 NOT BAD! I doctored them with hot sauce & chives…added a few slices of pepper jack cheese & crackers for a snack. I ordered these from Thrive Market (online health food store). I also have plenty of canned sardines and pouches of tuna and chicken. If you find this disgusting, keep scrolling.🍱✌🏾

Doctored canned smoked oysters, pepper jack cheese, and crackers
Purchased from Thrive Market. I thought they were alright for my first time. I’d eat them again.
Nutrition information

Wednesday, 2/17/2021 in the late afternoon. So not only was there a boil water notice for SW Austin, we now have no water. PERIOD. I have nothing else to do & thought I’d feel better if we had a few extra gallons of water to flush toilets & maybe a couple extra flashlights/candles. We have plenty of everything else including ind bottles of water. So hubby took me on a trek to get gallons of water. We got out here in these streets! And guess what??? Stores are closing early. Sprouts – closed early despite a line earlier. Got in line at the “big” Randalls on Mopac/William Cannon & they turned us away cause they were at their limit.We got to Costco at 2:43 & they were closing early at 3pm. We were in line by 2:55 pm. Bought flashlights, cleaning wipes, body wipes, & case of ind bottles of water (limit one per person). Now, I’m in the car waiting for hubby who is in Target. It’s a mess out here but I’m looking at this as an adventure. Do you know it feels warmer outside than in our house? I think I’m building a tolerance for the cold. Elise said “I like the snow but it’s not worth it if we can’t have electricity.” Y’all stay safe & warm!P.S. Hubby walked out of Target with no water. Oh well, snow in the tub will have to do.

Thursday, 2/18/2021 in the morning. Update: Our electricity was finally turned back on at 11:54 pm last night after over 48 straight hours without. Thank God for that. Still no water in the pipes though.

Thursday, 2/18/2021 in the early evening. It’s really no joke not having running water but thankful we have electricity again. It’s been a busy day of using our creativity to figure out how to wash the dishes and other crazy things but we did it. This is probably my 1st food post presented on paper plates & on my bed but LISTEN, we not using real dishes & cutlery til we get running water & it’s my business to eat on my bed after this freakin week. Shout out to hubby AGAIN for spending hours in them streets & coming back with the paper plates, plastic cups, & plastic cutlery. I enjoyed cooking again: beef pasta, with broccoli/ cauliflower au gratin, garlic toast, & cucumber slices. I’ll worry about carbs after this catastrophe is over. Yum! 🥘🍲🥣

It really is like reliving these moments as I gather them in one place for this blog post. Each day was getting worse mentally and physically but I’m so thankful the weather will be better in a few days. As my sister and I discussed yesterday, this is a piece of history that will be talked about for years to come, just like 2020 and the pandemic. We are ‘living’ history and I want to capture it the best way I can.

Let me know what you think about my experience. I’d love to hear how you are doing.

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Is this Texas?

2021 isn’t going to disappoint us is it? On this Tuesday, February 16, 2021, my household has been without power since 5:30 pm on Monday. This means no electricity, no heat and no hot water….no hot food, no hot tea or coffee, and no warm showers. It was cute when we were scrounging for candles amidst the sea of boxes because we’ve been packing for our move to the new house next month. We found a flashlight for which we have no batteries. We have plenty of matches. When I woke up this morning after an uncomfortable night of sleep, to say the least, it was 5 degrees. The 5 or so inches of snow that had fallen on Sunday was still frozen on the ground. This is no longer cute. We’re FREAKING COLD!

Let’s face it…Texas isn’t used to this kind of weather and we’re in for it at least until the weekend. Almost half of Austin is without power. This weather has broken 30-year old records. Growing up in Chicago, the only way the city would shut down was due to a blizzard which was rare. Here, most everything is shut down, at least on my side of town. People are furious! I’m not going to bash the electric companies and the like. My heart goes out to those who are aging, young babies/children, and those who are ill. I’m not angry…just trying to survive until power is restored.

I warmed up this morning by getting dressed in warm clothes including my winter hat and fuzzy socks. I was so pleased to catch the last bit of warm water in the pipes to wash my face. I put one of my exercise DVDs in my laptop, put on my gloves, and racked up some steps and zone minutes (Fitbit). I cleaned up the kitchen area a little after my husband, Bryan, and son, Caleb, warmed up in their vehicles. Caleb has heated seats in his car. Nice!

I’ve decided to have a positive outlook. My agency closed our offices across Texas. I generally appreciate being forced to slow down. Also, it’s almost like we’re camping indoors. Keep in mind, I’ve never been camping. We have plenty of non-perishable foods, toilet paper, water, and general necessities. I’m not worried about the fridge and deep freezer defrosting in the garage because it’s very cold out there. It’s about 50 degrees in the house. The fridge in the house is losing cool air but it’s fine for now. I can always move items to the garage.

So as I lay in bed under 3 blankets, I’m making lemonade out of 🍋s. The good news is that this will all go away by the weekend! I may have a different perspective if we have to spend another night without power. I’ll let you know how it goes.

How are you faring in your neck of the woods?

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Happy Self-Care Weekend

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with packing for our move to the new house next month. I had a rough week and was determined to do some serious self-care this weekend. I did all of the things in this post except go to a farmer’s market. I also managed to get some great deals on items for the house. I’ll share all things “new house” soon.

Normally, on Sunday night, I spend a couple of hours prepping for work, but not this Sunday. I made a promise to myself to start work earlier on Monday morning. This Sunday was for self-care.

enlightenedsocialworker

Just what I needed…a 3-DAY WEEKEND to rest and recharge. I’m taking advantage of every minute. The intensity has been high at work for a couple of months as we implement programs across the state. How fitting it is to AMP UP my self-care routine during Labor Day weekend! I’ve been working hard at work and home. I strive to be a shining example to my team, colleagues, and family of managing IT ALL while simultaneously taking care of myself. My constant reminder to my team is to “take care of yourself”.

Self-care entails so many different things, but in my blog site, I share what works for me. I like to keep it simple. I do things within my budget, if money is involved. I hope you pick up some of my ideas to create a self-care plan that works for you.

Bubble bath

I kicked my Friday night…

View original post 1,097 more words

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Do hard things

On this last Monday of January 2021, the first day of my work week, these three words have been ringing in my ears for weeks: “DO HARD THINGS”. I know it’s easy to do “familiar things” and “comfortable things” but what about “hard things”? Well, silly rabbit (nod to the Twix cereal commercial from back in the day), there’s a reason why doing hard things is hard, but there are also benefits.

A couple of months ago, I received notice I was asked to present on one of the programs I oversee at a stakeholder meeting in the last week of January…this week. Nothing unusual here. This was a task I could delegate because despite the fact that public speaking on occasion is part of my job, I do not enjoy it. I’m mostly an introvert who likes to be behind the scenes. However, I’m strong in representing my programs so when duty calls, I often perform.

There are people on my team who don’t like public speaking more than me. I decided I would do the presentation with backup. As I was reviewing the presentation content with my backup, in our discussion, I literally said ” it’s because I do hard things”. I don’t remember the exact thought that led me to say that, but she agreed, with relief. Otherwise, she would be the speaker for the presentation.

Some may look at me and think it’s not difficult for me to do public speaking because I do it well, but OH CONTRARE. I’ve learned long ago if I wanted success (as I saw it because success is subjective), then I couldn’t stay stagnate, where I was, without trying. Doing hard things doesn’t mean it gets easier over time either. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it’s hard every single time.

Every time I’ve done the exercise DVD in the cover photo, it was hard. In all realness, I haven’t done that DVD in a few months, but when I was doing it a couple times a week, I did it because I wanted the benefits of a stronger body. About a month ago, in my blog post “Shaking Things Up in 2020”, I wrote about my experiment with changing my exercise routine because I felt my routine was stagnate. For a while, I’ve gravitated towards “familiar” and “comfortable” exercises, but I was getting bored and no longer seeing results like I had previously.

As you embark on this new week whether it be the start of your work week, school week, or whatever, think about what hard things you will tackle. The hard things may lead you to what you’re looking for or need.

I “do hard things”…things outside my comfort zone (such as public speaking) because I want to increase my strength mentally, physically, and spiritually. My return on investment is much greater than if I decide to stay mediocre or stagnate.

If you want to excel in any area, “do hard things”. Your hard things may not be hard for someone else but that’s not the point. They have to be hard things for you and no one can tell you what that is but you.

What hard things will you be tackling this week or year for that matter?

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Why I’m fasting social media

January is the month for setting the stage for the new year. It’s the month to decide on new habits and habits to let go. I selected the word “decide” because it is a simple decision when the emotion is taken out of it. I’ve identified some things I’m going to be intentional about in 2021 (you can read about here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021). I’ve listed my goals in one of my phone apps and am still working on my vision board (completion by the end of January). I’ve identified some pictures and decorations for my vision board. I just need to put everything together.

Every January, Pastor Randy Phillips from my church LifeAustin (https://life.family/) challenges us to set the tone for the new year by fasting for 21 days.  I’m not going to go in depth on the principles, but fasting, (i.e., giving up something you love for a set period of time) allows you to focus what God has done in your life and what you want God to do in your life. Abstaining from a thing, especially when you want it or are used to having it, causes you to reflect on why you’re sacrificing the thing. This is the simplest way I can explain it.

Truth be told, I’ve had a love/dislike relationship with social media for years. I love I am in contact with family and friends from all over the world. I likely would not know what some of them were up to if it weren’t for Facebook. I love seeing their updates. I love being creative with my page and posting what I want. I love sharing inspiring messages and pictures of myself and family. I love seeing inspiring messages, pictures, and comments. I love accessing all of my favorite magazines and following sites that interest and inspire me.

I dislike being exposed to hateful and thoughtless comments. I dislike not being able to control what comes across my newsfeed until I “unfriend” or “unfollow” the offender. I dislike the constant advertisements. I dislike the strong potential for comparing your life to someone else’s newsfeeds. I dislike certain posts which are triggering for me. I dislike messages of wanting more, being more, and doing more. If you’re like me…attempting to be content in this life, then social media can be a difficult place to be.

A few months ago, after about 11 years on Facebook, I decided to join Instagram which I still haven’t fully learned how to use. I’ve said numerous times I could only handle one social media account at a time because it can be all consuming. However, once I learned my teenage daughter had an Instagram account, I had a nagging need to join so I could keep tabs on her. It turns out that she doesn’t post that often, but still.

What I discovered, to my surprise, is that just about everybody I know on Facebook also has an Instagram account. Go figure! There are only a couple of friends/family I know on Instagram who are not on Facebook, so I’m glad I can keep up with them. Overall, Instagram is not that triggering for me like Facebook. But then again, I gravitate to Facebook more since I’m used to it.

While Pastor Randy was stating possible ideas of what to fast, a light bulb hit me when he mentioned social media. I had been annoyed by some posts lately, anyway. So, I decided to fast social media for one day a week through January. I’m also fasting meat consumption for one day a week. This is my second week.

The fast evolved to abstaining from social media five days last week instead of just one. I was encouraged after the first day to see how long I could go. I started on Monday thinking I would set a positive tone for my week. Another parameter I set for my fast was social media specifically refers to my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I’m not sure if my blogging site is considered social media, but I didn’t include WordPress or YouTube.

Some initial observations on the first day are: *Scrolling on social media is a habit. *Scrolling is a mindless activity for my hands. *Scrolling is a mind numbing activity that can suck hours from my day.

It was on the second day I abstained from opening the app at all. I thought I would have to uninstall the app from my phone for lack of self-control, but no need when I became conscious of my actions. Another observation was fasting from more than one thing at the same time/on the same day was too much for me. On day one, I prepared my lunch as usual and included meat out of habit. I decided to change my meat fast to Wednesday. I just realized I forgot to meat fast this past Wednesday so I’ll change it to Friday. Oh well. I’ll give myself some grace. In life, you’ve got to be flexible.

Update: My fasting also includes daily prayer and bible reading.

I’m believing God for a lot of positive things in my life this year. This makes me look forward to 2021 and all the possibilities.

What are your thoughts about social media? How does social media impact your life?

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Festive feasts

Happy New Year all! One thing that’s not changing in 2021 is my love for cooking. It’s day 10, a Sunday, and here’s a TWIST… at 8:00 p.m., I made a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles for dinner. Sunday is the day where I usually put forth effort to make something a little more extravagant. I almost didn’t make the grilled cheese sandwich. I ended up seasoning my 2 bone-in chicken breasts a little later than intended because I’d spent hours packing. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re moving into our new home in a couple of months and I don’t want to wait until the last minute. I was on the fence about what to make with the chicken breasts anyway – chicken tortilla soup, a pasta dish, chicken and rice, or chicken pot pie. I can use each breasts for a different dish.

We had a wonderful Christmas at our household. In my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020 , I indicated that I would be making rib roast for the first time at Christmas. When I think of Christmas dinner, I think people tend to make something special. Well, I was NOT feeling that rib roast and it was probably the most special meat I had in the freezer, so I changed my mind. Chicken enchiladas, shrimp fajitas, and black beans sounded like a winner to me.

Chicken Enchiladas 2 ways ready for the oven: red sauce with corn tortillas and green tomatillo sauce with flour tortillas. LPC

On Christmas day, my niece on my husband’s side visited us from her Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. She didn’t want to be alone for the holidays so she joined us in Austin. She loved my enchiladas. I was especially pleased since I rarely make them.

Vegetables for the shrimp fajitas. LPC

My husband bought a huge tub of pre-sliced vegetables from the grocery store. I don’t normally buy pre-sliced vegetables because it’s much cheaper to buy the produce and slice it yourself. However, one thing I’ve learned in 2020 is to give myself a break. Those pre-sliced vegetables made my life easier on Christmas.

Homemade black beans. LPC

My son, Caleb’s, comment after he confirmed the food was delicious: “Why did you make so much black beans?” I don’t know. I got excited I guess. They were so good. One of my goals for 2021 is to reduce my cooking portions. I have a heavy hand. I inherited that from my mom. You can read about some other goals I’m working on in 2021 here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021.

Black bean and cheese quesadillas with jalapeños and avocado. LPC

One thing I’m getting better at is repurposing leftovers. I’m proud that my daughter and I ate up that big ole pot of black beans because I hate to waste food.

Black eyed peas with smoked ham hock. LPC

It’s an American southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day for good luck. There is also a Haitian tradition to make soup joumou on January 1 as this day is also Haiti’s Independence Day from France. On the Haitian American sites I follow on social media, I could see many Haitians were preparing to make this soup. The main ingredient is pumpkin or a vegetable in the squash family. A few years ago, when my mom was still alive, I asked her if she had ever made soup joumou. I don’t recall her making it growing up. My mom didn’t know about the soup which I thought was interesting. I shared some leftovers I made with my mom and she didn’t like it. I think my aunt on my father’s side made a version of this soup. One day, I will ask her. Whatever the case, I decided to go with the black eyed peas instead. They were delicious.

Prime rib roast, well done. LPC

After watching a few YouTube videos, I felt confident about making the Prime Rib Roast. I think I called it Chuck Rib Roast in my Fall Food Chronicles 2020 post. For my first time, it came out pretty good. I’m so glad we had a fairly small piece because it turned out to be a lot. Would I make it again? I can wait until next Christmas, maybe.

Pan fried Brussel sprouts with sautéed onions and pancetta (not shown). LPC
Freshly sliced organic gold potatoes soaking in salted water for potatoes au gratin. LPC

My husband loves to buy me gadgets. One day I will write a blog post of them all to share. I used the mandolin he bought me for the first time to make potatoes au gratin with our Prime Rib Roast dinner and my life changed. Why has it taken me so long to use that thing?

New Year’s Dinner 2021- Prime rib roast, black eyed peas, corn bread, brussel sprouts, and potatoes au gratin. LPC

New Year’s dinner was special indeed. My plans for food in 2021 are to make new recipes, create new recipes, eat simply, eat more plant based, and foster a healthy relationship with food. What about you? What are you cooking up this week?

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Hindsight is 2020

What a year…though 2020 has not been a miserable year for my household. We received closure on some very important financial matters that had been looming for years. My small family of four spent more countless hours together in 9 months than we ever have. It’s been mostly enjoyable and comforting. In an unprecedented move, the state agency I work for sent thousands of employees home with laptops in March. I love the experience of teleworking. In April I took the COVID-19 test and the results came back negative. It turns out I came down with a very bad case of bronchitis. You can read about experience in my most read posts of 2020: COVID-19 Chronicles: I took the test and COVID-19 Chronicles: Test results are in. In August, we signed papers sealing the deal to build our new home which is an experience we’re having for the 2nd time in our lives. The plan is for this house to be our retirement home. I’ve written about these experiences all year. Thank you for being there with me as I navigated 2020. If you haven’t been there, WELL, you’ve got some catching up to do on my posts.

2020 has revealed some very ugly and unfathomable views and actions of people in America. From my perspective in my 47 years of life, this is the most politically divisive I’ve seen the country. People have gone so far as to ascribe God to a political party as if God is American and takes sides. I generally tend to avoid politics on my blog, but 2020 has shown me anything goes. I still won’t dwell on it in this post. The deaths of people who are black at the hands of law enforcement caused thousands of people (around the world) in sheer FED-UP-NESS to protest, mostly peacefully, during a PANDEMIC. Thankfully, normal, every day people are able to capture the atrocities on their cell phones; otherwise, how would we know and how would we know people are being held accountable? I’m too young to have grown up in the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras. While attending my all black high school in Chicago, we learned about civil rights and the works of many notable people who are black during the movement such has Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and many others. I’ve seen countless video footage of speeches and protests. 2020 was eerily similar, which begs the question: how far has this country really gotten?

I feel a great deal of sorrow for all the lives lost and for those suffering. Heroes also emerged in 2020, particularly in the healthcare industry. The grocery, restaurant, and delivery workers also came through for all of us. I know people are ready to put 2020 behind them and move forward. I think it’s healthy in times of uncertainty and global unrest to shrink into your corner of the world…to the things you have more control over. For 2021, I think instead of “goals” and definitely not “resolutions”, I want to use the term “manifest” to describe what I envision for my life. I might change it but it sounds good to me for right now. I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 for a few months now and thinking about what I want to manifest. Some of it is already in process. I find that when I’m thoughtful about what I want to manifest and go as far as to capture it on a Vision Board, it’s more likely to happen. There maybe some research to support this, but I’ll save for another time.

If you have never put a Vision Board together, I think you will find that it will help divert your attention from the sorrow in the world to something that will actually be beneficial to you. Creative activities tend to have that effect. It’s also a great tool to keep you accountable and focused. It takes some planning to create a Vision Board though, so if you’re considering it, I hope you’re up for it.

You’ll need to ask yourself some practical questions and make several decisions on the following such as:

  1. What are your goals or what do you hope to manifest?
  2. What will you use for the board (poster board, cardboard, etc.)?
  3. Where will you get the pictures (old magazines, newspapers, online pictures, etc.)?
  4. Do I have enough supplies (scissors, glue, tape, poster board, glitter, etc.) and where will I get them?
  5. When will I work on my Vision Board and when do I want to complete it?
LPC 2020 Vision Board

I created 2020’s Vision Board in January 2020. I purchased most of the supplies from the Dollar Tree, Hobby Lobby, and I used old magazines for the pictures. Of course at the time, I had no clue how 2020 would materialize. Several times throughout the year, I did review my Vision Board and contemplated progress. I even wrote blog posts about my financial progress which you can read about here: 2020 Personal Finance: You can dig yourself out of a hole and Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE. In 2020, I was most successful in accomplishing financial goals. I also kept up with my exercise goals and cooked/ate healthy most of the time. There are a couple of pictures of women who signified that I would put more thought into my wardrobe selections for a more polished appearance…not that I struggled with that previously. I accomplished this goal also.

There were some things I didn’t accomplish, one of which was travel. You probably can’t tell because of the lighting, but there are two pictures of tropical beaches. My plan was for my family to vacation on a Caribbean Island somewhere. The pandemic threw that dream out the window…at least for 2020. Also, there is a phrase “care more, stress less”. I did demonstrate caring more in 2020 by donating finances to different causes I don’t normally contribute to. This was not planned or reflected in my Vision Board but 2020 inspired me to help more people when I could. However, I still need to seriously develop a plan for managing stress. In my last post, Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021, I shared some of the areas where I struggle regarding stress.

I asked my husband, Bryan, to buy a poster board for me while he was at Walmart, so I have that. I’ll probably start on my 2021 Vision Board in the next week. I’m still asking myself what I want to manifest.

I’d love to know if you plan on creating a Vision Board if you haven’t already. I know some people start early. What do you most appreciate about the experience? What goals did you accomplish in 2020?

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Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021

Be proud of yourselves folks. We made it to 2021! Making it through 2020 means you can overcome anything. Well, in Texas, we still have a few minutes, but I’m counting it early. I was trying to explain to someone this morning that 2020 felt like it flew by rather quickly, yet was excruciatingly long at the same time. How could that be?

How could a year that was traumatic for so many people worldwide, be one of the best years of my life? Only God knows. There is not much I control in this world. What I can control are goals I set for myself and my attitude. Every year, I strive to be better and grow, which entails taking inventory of my life. I came up with a short list of things I’m letting go of in 2021 and I’m sharing with you. I hope my list inspires you to let go of some things no longer serving you too.

  1. Offense
    • I was introduced to the book the “Bait of Satan” through my Life Group in the fall of 2020. A Life Group is comprised of a small group of couples from our church who gather for several weeks to study a lesson together. The book really opened my eyes to offense, how it manifests, and destroys relationships. The concepts are totally counterintuitive to how most people (i.e., Christians), including myself, think. This is a must read, especially if you are a Christian.
    • I will forgive people immediately, whether they are aware or not, and move on.
  2. Stressing
    • On my 2020 Vision Board, I glued the phrase “Care more, stress less”.  I’ve been practicing not caring too much about what people think of me for years now. I need to work on the stress less.
    • I need to stop stressing over my work “to do” list. I put in ample hours. It’s a never-ending list. I will put in my daily hours and then cut it off.
    • I need to stop caring so much about my family having a homecooked meal every day or leftovers of a homecooked meal. I live with two teenagers and a husband who loves fast food. They don’t care.
    • I will instead cook smaller portions of mostly healthy meals I want to eat.
  3. Bad sleep habits
    • I will not slouch around until 10:30 pm to get ready for bed.
    • I need to be ready for bed by 9:30 pm during the work week. Period. “Being ready” means I will have taken a shower, my pajamas are on, and I’ll have a book in hand and am in the bed by 9:30 pm…no phone or laptop.
    • Getting enough sleep is a cure for just about everything.
  4. Underestimating myself
    • It doesn’t happen often as I’m usually very confident, EXCEPT in situations where I’m with people who I PERCEIVE are very knowledgeable. I’m surrounded by smart people on a daily basis, but it’s certain people. Time to unpack that and let it go.
    • Also, no more second guessing or doubting myself.
  5. Weight
    • The physical weight that causes me to be overweight and puts me at higher risk for certain diseases.
    • The mental weight of perfectionism.
    • The mental weight of anxiety.
    • The mental weight of things I can’t control.
    • I’m developing a plan to be much lighter.
  6. Guilt
    • For not being the parent I think I should.
    • For not being the wife I think I should.
    • For not being the sister, aunt, friend, cousin, etc….I think I should.
    • For not doing everything everybody else thinks I should.
    • For taking time for myself.
    • I will work on more positive affirmations and self-talk and acceptance.
LPC’s 2020 Vision Board. I’ll start working on 2021’s next week.
This book and study guide continue to blow me away. I have a lot of growing to do. LPC

I’ll follow up with a post on my vision for 2021. What are you letting go of in 2021?

Cheers to another year full of opportunities, the unknown, joy, peace, blessings, and light lessons!