So Much to Love

Hi Friends!

The bloganuary (daily writing) challenge prompt of the day is:

What is your favorite part about yourself?

Obviously, there’s a straightforward response since physical characteristics come to mind pretty quickly…for instance, I like my smile. Yep, everyone has one, but I like that I can share a smile whenever I choose. That’s cheesy (get it smiles, cheese lol) but legitimately pretty cool!

I also considered this prompt in a similar way to yesterday’s…I decided to choose a character trait I like about myself.

Honestly, I’m proud that I’m always willing to try new things.

I may not always like what I try (I’m the first to admit I’m a picky eater), but if the activity is safe and my moral compass isn’t pointing in the opposite direction, I’m excited to try!

I’m always glad when I answer, “Yes, I can!” when presented with trying something new!

…even if I may never try exactly that thing again (I’m looking at you, beet and walnut burger) because I’ve discovered something new about myself or the world around me, which is always an adventure!

I encourage you to take a moment to think of a few of your favorite things about yourself!

The most joyful thing about this prompt is that it doesn’t ask us to name one thing we like about ourselves…

It asks us to contemplate our favorite thing!

I completely agree with this idea! We shouldn’t be challenged to find one thing we like about ourselves. We should love so many things the challenge is to determine our favorite!

Even if you are looking to make changes in your life, the trite message is always true: that you must love yourself first.

I also believe there’s a lot to love for all of us; we sometimes just have to take a minute to discover that!

* This month’s theme for the blog is, “Yes, I can!” I am also participating in the bloganuary daily writing challenge.

Finding My Own Strength in the New Year

Hi Friends!

Today’s bloganuary (daily writing) challenge prompt is:

“Write about something that makes you feel strong.”

Each time I see this, I read with special emphasis on the word, “you.”

This makes the prompt even more exciting to contemplate because everyone has such unique strengths!

I mean, sure, lifting weights would increase any of our muscle mass, but I’ve been enjoying considering how I personally like to increase my physical strength and how I’ve let certain circumstances shape my outlook.

For instance, if I had to go to a gym every day and lift weights to become fit and healthy…I’d actually probably become a great big couch potato (who eats mostly fried potatoes).

But I’ve discovered that I really like barre classes, especially through Pure Barre and Peloton, and I feel alive when taking brisk walks through my neighborhood with family or friends.

Character wise, I feel strong enough to face anything that comes my way when I reflect on all of the challenging moments I’ve already come through. For instance, as a young adult, I felt confident I could graduate college because I knew that I had already prepared by graduating high school and by studying throughout my higher education.

Even when I don’t have an exact model in the past, I can apply other strengths I’ve learned. If I had never paid off a loan before I paid for my car, I still knew I could reach that goal because I’ve already worked har to become an organized, dedicated person, so even if it took a little while, I knew I had what it takes not to be in debt for ever…and sooner than I expected, I wasn’t.

My challenge for you is to reflect on what makes you uniquely strong because these are the things that will help you say “yes, I can accomplish that goal”…and then discover that you actually can!

If you want to be physically strong, find what exercise and healthy food you enjoy on the way to getting stronger.

If you need strength of character, I’m sure you have your own unique experiences to draw from!

Living the Dream

Hi Friends!

Today’s bloganuary (daily writing) challenge is:

“Write about a dream you remember.”

I have decided to take this prompt a little loosely and write about a daydream I can’t seem to forget.

You know, one of those dreams that you keep coming back to and imagine experiencing no matter where you are, what job you have, and whatever else you achieve?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted a place to graciously welcome guests and share ideas. More than just a home, I want a warmly sophisticated space for celebrating life through big and small events.

That dream has become a career goal and vision for how I want my life to be.

I write more about this “Venue Vision” in the About section of this blog.

I’ve also determined to make this dream and many others a reality…starting now!

Recently, I took Tonya Leigh’s Live Like an Editor workshop through the School of Self Image, which challenged participants to create a magazine cover depicting elements from their future dream life… then begin showing up in your life right now like the person you want to be!

I’ve shared mine below!

It’s so inspiring to see some of my dreams as a compelling cover.

I highly recommend tapping into Tonya’s advice through her podcasts or workshops!

I also love the free features of Canva, which enabled me to create this beautiful magazine cover.

Whatever motivates you, I hope you too begin living the dream life you can’t seem to forget!

I’ll keep you updated as my dreams take shape, and I can’t wait to hear from you as you live the adventure of following your dreams!!

An Interview in the Most Delightful Way

Hi Friends!

Today’s prompt for the bloganuary (daily writing) challenge is:

“Interview a fictional character.”

I would certainly enjoy interviewing one of my all time favorite fictional characters…but I’m not sure it would go too smoothly.

Here’s the transcript I anticipate:

Erica’s Adventure: Hello Mary.

Mary Poppins: That’s Mary Poppins. Are there no formalities anymore? Children are going about learning from home, without a nanny or a tutor! Their parents are working in pajamas in adjoining rooms. Most disgraceful. However, we were conducting an interview. I believe it is your turn to inquire about my life.

EA: Um, yes. Hello Mary Poppins. How are you doing this afternoon?

MP: Now, I think we are both too busy for such small talk. Please go ahead with your interview, spit spot.

EA: Alright, please tell the readers about your childhood. Where did you grow up?

MP: I grew up like any other child. You must know that means vertically and emotionally. I should think that’s very clear; I’m an adult, and I achieved that rather splendidly. Really, I’m practically perfect in every way.

I also never forget my manners. I wasn’t raised in a barn.

EA: But where did you grow…oh I guess we aren’t getting anywhere with that.

Alright, I have a few questions from our audience.

When was the last time you laughed out loud?

MP: Tee hehehe hehehe haha!

Well that’s a silly question. Shouldn’t life be taken seriously? We must go about our daily tasks with appropriate gravity. I should never be caught cackling like a hyena when it isn’t appropriate.

EA: Um, Mary Poppins, didn’t you just…oh, never mind.

What brought you into the field of child care?

MP: I received a letter requesting my expertise. I then arrived several days before the winds changed. So much to do in such a short time!

Also, I should think adults need care too! Families as a whole, you must understand, need as much care as their smallest components! Child care, really?! We must learn to look past the ends of our noses.

EA: To clarify, our readers are curious about your life before you helped the Banks family.

MP: Aren’t we inquisitive? Not a flattering habit. Now straighten your dress. Yes, there. That will do. We’ll have to scrub that chocolate stain later.

EA: Many thanks, sincerely.

I have one final question; what is the most valuable lesson you hope to impart upon those you meet?

MP: If you must ask, you haven’t yet found for yourself an element of fun in every job that must be done. You see, in every task you undertake there is something joyful to make it a piece of cake!

EA: Thank you. Wait, was that an answer? Oh goodness. Well, it’s been a joy to speak with you today.

That concludes our interview. Thank you, Mary Poppins.

MP: You are quite welcome. Off to work with you now.

A Daring Adventure

Hi Friends!

Today’s bloguary (daily writing challenge) prompt is:

“What is your favorite quote and why?”

The title of this blog actually draws from my favorite quote, which is,

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

Helen Keller

This quote may call some to explore far away lands. It can also serve as a reminder to find adventure where you are.

It’s inspiring to me that adventure can be many things and that you get to decide what your adventure is.

This quote also motivates me to take action on my dreams because it’s in getting up and following our dreams (even if it’s just baby steps at first) rather than just imagining an exciting, purposeful life that we can live our very own adventures!

This quote is also mentioned in the About section of the blog, and I’ll explore this theme more as the blog grows.

If I Could…

The them for this month is, “yes, I can!”

Hi Friends!

I started this year (21 days ago now) with a vision of how a successful year would appear when I looked back on December 31st, 2022.

Being able to smile when reviewing writing I had published was one of the images I added to my vision…so to grow in that direction, I have just now joined a writing challenge from the WordPress platform. This will certainly be a challenge because it involves writing in response to a new prompt every single day in January.

I’m a little intimidated and hope that I can provide quality content…and set aside enough time to publish each day. But I’m telling myself, “yes, I can,” and I’m excited to see what happens.

*I’ll let you know what I’ve learned on 2/1!

The prompt for today is:

“If you could, what year would you time travel to and why?”

My answer is: This year!

Many people have beautifully written about visiting with lost loved ones in the past or seeing how their family has grown at a certain point in the future (someone even added that they would be interested in going back to witness the dawn of time-which I’m not sure is an actual year? But, hey, that’s creative!). These ideas are fantastic. However, I chose 2022 and would like to make the argument for you to as well.

This is a wonderful year.

Of course, I would like to re-live many things in past years, and it would be pretty cool to see what I achieve in the years ahead, but I read the question as, “which entire year would you time travel to?”

While I love to think about all of the great moments, no year is without it’s difficulties as well.

All years are different, but no year is intrinsically better than another…except for the year surrounding you, everything you’ve learned as well as your hopes your dreams are here right this second.

If it hadn’t been for all of the years in our pasts, we wouldn’t be where we are today, with all of the lessons learned and all of the potential in store.

I encourage you to feel the warmth of joyful memories and hopes for a distant year and to reflect on all you’ve discovered during relaxing and even difficult years… then really embrace where you are right now and make each day part of your best year yet!

Instead of asking myself what would happen if I could go to the past or future, I’m challenging myself to ask what can happen if I rise to challenges this year.

Say, “yes, I can” when presented with challenges, and you will be enjoying yourself too much to consider traveling to a different time.

Leaping Past Fears

This month’s theme is, “Yes, I can!”

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

When I remember my foray into the Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park, I have a very distinct image of myself leaping across a bottomless cravass, arms flung wide, wind in my hair, sailing joyfully through the breeze.

This is NOT how I looked though. I’m 100% positive of that.

In real life, when faced with a gap between two rust colored boulders, I made it across, essentially carried by my sister’s fiance, while reaching frantically for my sister’s outstretched hands, with cheeks damp from tears, and a behind covered in dust…decidedly less glamorous.

You may be asking, “Um, Erica, how did grungy real-life terror translate into the effervescently confident leap of your imagination??” “Did you actually hit your head on one of those rocks?!”

Nope!

I faced my fears, so in my understanding, I was soaring!

The Back Story:

Moments before crossing what I call a bottomless crevasse, I found myself sitting in fear, repeatedly sobbing, “I can’t do it”…and perhaps even flinging my arms at my sister and her fiance as they offered help.

To provide context, I am scared of heights. I’m not talking, like oh gosh, I’d never go skydiving. I mean, others need to climb the eight foot stepladder to place the star on the Christmas tree for me. I also have a bum leg, which amplified the potential danger of landing wrong on the other sloping side of the small gorge.

My family had also learned earlier in the week that the NPS means serious business when identifying an excursion as difficult, and at that moment, I was two thirds of the way through an “extremely difficult, non-ranger-lead hike”for which my family had just sat through a mandatory safety and environmental awareness video.

The beginning of the hike was a fascinating step into a side of nature none of us had ever really experienced. Life in these canyons thrives in a delicate and harshly beautiful echo system. We were all thrilled by the unique discoveries and views at every turn.

The Fiery Furnace had also presented several challenging moments, requiring us to scramble over sandpaper boulders and shimmy through canyons narrower than some of my purses, all while experiencing the very definition of baking in the desert sun.

We were a good bit more than halfway through the unmarked (of course, it was unmarked, why make this easier?) trail when I reached the crevasse, a fissure wider than my laptop between two mammoth boulders. A rust colored wall rose up to the right, and to my left, the boulders curved into the darkness of an abyss, presumably several stories deep.

I froze, pretty literally petrified. I went through every emotion, stubbornly insisting I was going back the way I came. However, though everyone else tried to reason through it, I knew turing around wasn’t an option with no trail markers and less than an hour till sunset. My parents, sister, and her fiance had already carefully taken wide steps over to the awaiting boulder. I couldn’t get across to meet them though. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. Surrounded by everyone urging me onwards, I still could not and breathlessly insisted on this as I sat ugly crying on scorching stone with terrifying images of the result of a single misstep racing through my mind.

Several moments of sheer panic passed, and I realized that I had to move forward. It was a simple fact. Back wasn’t a real option and neither was spending the night in untamed wilderness, so I stood up. I willed my legs to stop shaking and allowed for Dean to steady me as my sister waited to pull me toward her.

It was a horrible experience.

I have never been so excited to see civilization (our lone rental car in a deserted parking lot) after rounding the last turn.

However, this experience challenged me to see that I can do far more than I sometimes give myself credit for, and I have been able to carry the lessons of this moment into other areas of my life.

My bet is that you too can hardly imagine what you can do when you stop sitting in fear. The best path forward may not even be clear cut; both directions could be fraught with frightening difficulties, but sometimes, you just have to choose one anyway. Then as you are being as strong as you can be, accept some help too…you may even be surprised to find who is around to help you.

Even when you can’t easily say, “Yes, I can”…try!

You’ll see that you can do so much more than you expect! You may even feel like you’re flying afterwards, and that’s what you’ll remember later!

Yes, I Can!

Yes, I Can” is January’s theme and a great start to a new year!

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Happy New Year, Readers!

You may have noticed a few advertisements telling you that this is the perfect time for a refresh…a time to refocus on your goals. Well, I couldn’t agree more!

However, before you can start working towards the dreams you see in your future, you need to have an inkling that you can achieve them. Spoilder alert: I think you and I both can!

I’ve also noticed that knowing (or at least being really sure) that you can achieve something is a good foundation for actually getting up and achieving it.

So how do you say, “yes, I can!” if you’ve never actually done the thing you’re trying to do?

I’ll share what works for me:

Once upon a time, a friend challenged me to list two things for which I was thankful each day for two weeks. The objective was at the end of two weeks to feel more of a sense of joy than I had a the beginning because I would end up being able to clearly see many of the blessings in my life written on paper.

After a few days, I started adding “prouds” beside my “thankfuls.” I then defined the two: “Thankfuls”as beautiful gifts in my life.” “Prouds” as “positive things I do with the things I’m grateful for.”

Here are some examples (big and small):

Thankfuls Prouds
I have two healthy eyesI made a healthy choice, wearing sunglasses on my car trip.
My Loving GrandparentsI took them to enjoy their favorite activity today, a visit to Dairy Queen.
Working for a company with opportunitiesI worked hard and earned a promotion.
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

I’ve realized I liked the cause and effect nature of these lists. At the end of two weeks, I wasn’t just passively thankful. I was motivated because I saw so many things I was proud of. If I could do all of these “prouds,”over the last two weeks, I could certainly do them again…and even add a few next week!

It was a lightbulb moment! I had evidence of things I can do, and I told myself I can do more!

I challenge you over the next two weeks to try listing your own thankfuls, followed by prouds. Grab a pretty journal, and see where you end up! I’ve seen beautiful gratitue journals at Anthroplogie or Novel in Memphis that should allow you to add a “Prouds” collumn. Honestly, my journals are lined notebooks. See what works best for you!

Let me and your other fellow readers know how this works for you, or better yet, share if you’ve discovered your own way to apply this to a specific goal.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

An Easy Snow Day Recipe

Make these quick pizza rolls to celebrate an unexpected snow day🙂

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What is all this cold stuff?

Quite a few years ago, my family started the tradition of eating Pizza Roll-ups on snow days.

Snow days are a precious time in Memphis. They’re fickle at best and very rarely happen. Actually, the higher the forecasted chance of frozen precipitation, the less likely it will actually fall from the sky. Honestly, you’re more likely to see a polar bear within the city limits…since there is actually a polar bear at the zoo. However, on the few days a year when we wake up to backyards blanketed in two inches of white, we Memphians are prepared for the unexpected.

At the first whisper of snow, the whole town breaks into a palpable panic. The commute home takes twice as long, and every parking space at Kroger instantly fills. Since all Southerners know their cities don’t own snow plows, the fear of being trapped at home or work without food seems real. *Actually, we even apply this understanding to legitimately snow covered lands. I’ll never forget my family worrying by the windows one night watching snow fall in Aspen. We wondered how we would get to the airport the next day only to be astounded when a snow machine had cleared the driveway before sunrise. *

We also know that this frozen world never lasts long. Sometimes all accumulation melts by noon, so anyone wanting to sled has to start early and not waste time slipping and sliding on uncleared streets. This fleeting wonderland also doesn’t leave much time for cooking or eating a meal, which is why Pizza Roll-ups are the perfect solution.    The comfort food combo of pizza and crescent rolls couldn’t be any cheaper, easier to prepare, or yummier…how could anyone turn down this cozy snow day fuel?  Also, cleanup is a breeze, so even grownups can get outside for a snowball fight!

Memphians, if you’re already on your way to Kroger to stock up on milk and bread for the snowpocalypse, I would totally recommend adding the ingredients for snow day Pizza Rolls, too! For you non-Memphians, I’m sure Pizza Roll-ups taste great in any climate!

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The Only Ingredients You’ll Need

Recipe for Pizza Roll-ups

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of Pillsbury crescent rolls
  • 1 bag of mozzarella cheese sticks. Cut a few cheese sticks into inch long pieces. Cut these pieces lengthwise
  • 1 box of pepperoni
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

Directions

  • Preheat oven to temperature on crescent roll tube.
  • Roll out crescent roll triangles on an ungreased cookie sheet. You may need two cookie sheets.
  • Place two or three pepperoni on the widest part of the crescent roll triangle.
  • Place one cheese stick piece on top of pepperoni (see below).

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  • Roll the crescent roll triangle into a crescent roll shape like usual, making sure to keep pepperoni and cheese inside.
  • Place rolled up mini pizzas into the oven, and bake according to crescent roll tube instructions.
  • While the mini pizzas are baking, warm marinara in a sauce pan.
  • Serve cooked pizza roll-ups with warmed marinara as a dipping sauce.

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Finished Deliciousness

Enjoy, and stay warm!

Erica

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Back to the Snow!

A Cake Pattern…or Recipe for Party Success 

Confession: my name is Erica Marchbanks, and I’m moderately addicted to patterns.  I love bright, cheerful, repeated designs. The more pattern, the better! My mom thinks it’s precious, my sister thinks I need help, but I just think about Lilly Pulitzer…and sometimes Vera Bradley…which sometimes gets me in trouble.

To be specific about my love of pattern, blue & yellow based motifs are pretty great, green & pink are even better, but I’m a major sucker for any shade of blue & red/coral images splashed across whatever product you may be selling. For instance, I’ve gone so far as to call Lilly’s She She Shells “my pattern.”

LillyPulitzerSummerSheSheShells_2

Photo credit: The Juice Stand Blog

So, it’s no surprise I was quite smitten with Vera Bradley’s Marina Paisley a few years ago. I looked at the magazine, spied that pattern, and marched myself straight into the Saddle Creek Vera store, determined to purchase something great.  This would all be well & good if I had chosen something even slightly useful…but alas, that was not true.

book 1

I bought a recipe holder. Ok, well, maybe it would be useful for other people, but at the time my cooking skills were sub par, and I didn’t have five special, go-to recipes to my name. What was I to do? My recipe holder was so beautiful. I had chosen one where my favorite part of the pattern was front and center (a vital part of shopping for the pattern lover). It was clearly the best, not overly expensive object in the store. It was looking great in its new home. I had to keep it. I just decided it would have to look nice empty. So I called my grandmother, a fellow pattern lover, to tell her all about my new recipe book.

Book 2.jpg

It was just the phone call I needed (how do grandmothers always know what to do?). Along with patterns, my grandmom shares my love of chocolate. She offered me her favorite Kahlua cake recipe to add to my new organizer and told me she would love a piece of cake if I wanted to try the recipe that night.  I tried the recipe, & to my surprise, it really was easy and delicious!   I brought my grandmother half the cake, and carried some to a friend’s birthday party.  Everyone asked how to make this dessert. I was on a roll! The first recipe in the booklet was now my go-to recipe! I couldn’t thank my grandmom enough!

Book 3

Over the last few years, I have brought this cake to many events, & with different garnishes, it has fit every occasion! Somehow, following my seemingly silly interests melded with a little grandmotherly magic and mixed into a cake for any party.

So without further ado….

Here’s the recipe for

My Grandmother’s (Very Easy) Kahlua Cake:

Ingredients:                                                                                                                        

(Remember, it’s tasty. I didn’t say healthy.)

 1 box               Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake mix                                                                

1 small box   Jello brand instant chocolate pudding mix                                                      

2 cups             Sour Cream                                                                                                                

4                       Eggs

3/4 cups        Vegetable Oil

1/2 cups        Kahlua

6 oz                  Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

 

Directions:

 Mix everything except chocolate chips. 

Mix in chocolate chips. 

Pour into a greased bunt pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

 

Decorate for the occasion if you want to….mine isn’t that beautiful, but looks aren’t everything…it’s perfect as it is.

Cake…just don’t take it to a party I’m going to…unless you want double the Kahlua cake!

Enjoy,                                                                                                                   

Erica