Friday, November 25, 2016

The Secret to Having it All is Believing That You Already Do

Hi Everybody!

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving yesterday.  I am picturing everyone I love gathered around crowded tables with family and close friends.  The tabletops littered with steaming dishes.  A glistening turkey, pillowy stuffing heaped in hilly mounds within a casserole dish, green beans shining with butter, mashed potatoes like whipped cream, platters of colorful pies abound (ideally three in the flavors of pumpkin, Oreo and sweet potato), a pile of rolls tucked inside of a bright gingham cloth and served in the very-New-England wicker basket.

While Thanksgiving is not my very favorite holiday, I certainly enjoy it a lot.  Mostly for the food and for the feeling thankful part.  Last year, I went out on a whim and hosted a Thanksgiving themed dinner party entirely on my own (having decided, if I wasn't where the holiday was celebrated, I would bring the celebration to me) and was surprised by how outstanding it was!  Eight of us crammed in around the tiny island in my cozy kitchen.  Everyone brought awesome food.  The conversation was engaging, stimulating, loads of fun, lots of laughter.  And the game we played, Who Am I? was a blast!!!  Oh my gosh.  I wish I could hit rewind and do this night over again.

But then, how many moments like this do you have in your own life?  Moments you think back on as your heart swells with nostalgia.  Periods of your life or memories that you would love to re-experience just once more, now knowing the fullness of how precious they really were.  I imagine a LOT of people, if being honest, would admit to having loads of moments like this in their lives.

In the nature of giving thanks, what are you thankful for within your own life?  Both with regards to past and present.  What are the things you have experienced, seen, done, for which you are filled with thanks?  Who are the people you have met which have changed your life in incredible ways?  The people you have loved?  What are the things in your current life that fill you with joy, satisfaction and happiness? 

I think all of these are important things to think about, not just on Thanksgiving of course, but far more often.  Who are the people that have filled your heart?  The ones who left footprints inside of it?  The awe-inspiring places you have seen?  The awesome things you have accomplished?  The general things in life (food, scenery, moments) that are just AWESOME?

These are a number of the things for which I am incredibly thankful.  Which have made my life fantastic and infinity greater.  Which bring me joy and excitement.  Which have fulfilled me and added brightness and purpose to my life.  (This is of course, not an exhaustive list.  There are far more than I could possibly list.  So this is just a small sampling):

1. Cheesecake.  Oh man.  One of my favorite desserts on the face of the earth. Chocolate cheesecake, my recent creation of an earl gray lavender cheesecake (keep an eye on Sweet. Raw. Free. where I will post it within a few days time ;-)), pumpkin cheesecake, traditional cheesecake, Matcha cheesecake, the list goes on.  The tang, the texture, the crust.  All of it.  Drool.  It would be safe to say I am a cheesecake fanatic.

2. Books.  I dont know where I would be, nor who I would be, without books.  I have no clue exactly how many I have read in total but I am certain its well above 1,000.  I feel like within books, I have found myself in bits and pieces throughout the years.  As well as have discovered new parts of myself or happened upon different ways of being and thinking.  Books have opened and changed my heart.  Books have taught me (like they teach all readers) about life.  Real human plights and how potentially to navigate them.  Books have given me different ideas of how to be, how to have relationships with others, they have given me insight into what is truly important.  With books, I have learned more about topics that interested me.  I have found relaxation and romance while curled up underneath a blanket engrossed in an awesome read.  Books are life changing.  If you haven't discovered that yet, you are doing it (aka reading) wrong.

THE most charming, totally sweet bookshop I have ever had the pleasure of stumbling upon (in Edinburgh, Scotland).

3.  My friends.  Oh man.  Moving to Europe is when I especially developed and delved deeply into friendships.  Both a handful of amazing ones I have discovered over here, as well as deepening some of the ones I left back in the US.  This is without question one of the most fulfilling and bright aspects of my life.  I am overjoyed, overflowing with joy and contentment, with regards to the friendships I have cultivated, invested in and maintained within my life.  I plan to continue this as one of my highest priorities throughout the entirety of my life.  Placing a premium priority on the people I feel close to and love.  Letting them know how much they mean to me.  Going out of my way for these people and relationships.  And hopefully continuing to cultivate more new friendships as I move throughout life as well.

Had to throw this one in there ;-) as I dont have any current photos of me and Lindsay (she is on the right).

4.  Writing.  I cannot imagine a life in which I didn't write.  Writing is close to reading and my friendships in terms of importance for me.  A notebook is a nearly permanent fixture in my hand nowadays.  That way, I can whip it open and jot down thoughts, memories and musings when they come to me.  On rare occasions when I have found myself without a notebook and have had a thought that felt important and wanted to record it, I have nearly always forgotten said thought later on and been frustrated by this.  If you are a writer?  Or want to be one?  Carry a small notebook with you everywhere.  I promise.  Game changer.

5. Food.  Everything about it.  Eating it and the pleasure that gives.  Preparing it.  Reading about it.  Experimenting with new recipes.  Photographing it.  Discovering new fantastic food places.  Writing about it.  All things related to food = the bomb.
(The following photos are all my own- both having made the food myself, as well as the photographs.  These were taken during my "rookie" period when I was just beginning with photographing food, as well as getting more into cooking/baking).

French Toast bake.

Quinoa Sweet Potato Salad.  SO yum!  Get the recipe for this bad boy here.

Buckwheat pancakes.  One of my best recipes.  Looking for your next weekend breakfast idea?  Look no further.  Youre welcome ;-)

6.  Tea.  Warm, good for you, comforting, cozy, the perfect pairing to a great book.  I could drink tea all day, every day.  In fact, many days I do just that.

7.  A stunning snowfall.  I love snow.  I miss it.  We have gotten maybe two totally wimpy dustings over here in the past few years while I have lived in Germany.  Totally lame and disappointing.  I miss the blizzards of blinding white that cover the world in a fluffy blanket, the tree branches transformed into white lace against the sky the following morning.

8.  Romance.  I believe in it completely.  I always have.  I think romance adds possibility, surprise, vividness, and magic to the world and to our own individual life as we live it.  Romance makes life exciting.  It fills ones heart with hope, wonder and idealism.  It makes life more wonderful, fills it with color, makes one feel more emotionally satisfied.  And romance can come in many different forms, can mean so many different things.

9.  Fall foliage.  Another thing I miss about New England.  The autumn just isn't the same over here.  somehow the colors are more muted and dull.  Pale imitations to what the fall is like across sea, back where I am from.  In New England, the colors explode in a flame of shades.  God is this gorgeous.  in fact, people travel from not only all over the country, but also from around the world, to see it.

10.  Libraries.  FREE (or nearly free) books!!!  Not much is more exciting than that, folks.  Looking for some outstanding book recommendations?  I have a few personal favorites that I just finished reading for you.

11.  My current job as a teaching assistant at a primary school in Frankfurt.  This job fills my heart most days.  So many children here to whom I have developed a connection with and like deeply.  hearing little voices call out in the hallway as I walk past, "Miss. English!"  The cards I have received, hand written, that have said "you were my favorite teacher," by forth graders who were graduating last July.  All of this, endlessly heartwarming.  So fulfilling and motivating.

8.  Christmas.  One of my own personal favorite holidays.  The lights.  The food.  Snow.  Picking the (hopefully) perfect personal gift for someone I love, the parties, the Christmas movies, the nostalgia, magic and whimsy that surrounds this holiday season.  I love it all.

9.  My health.  I forget this sometimes and take it for granted, but the fact that I can run, walk, do not have health problems, that I live a very able-bodied life, I am very grateful for this.

10.  Board games!!!  Oh my gosh.  where would so many fun, memorable, laughter-filled nights have ended up without the brilliance of board games?  I dont even want to imagine.  Potentially a very dark place, thats where (wink, wink).  All humor aside, to name a few of the best: Catchphrase, Clue, 13 Dead End Drive, Yahtzee and Scattergories.

11.  Europe.  Despite my heart urging me towards home at some point in the potentially near future, I have reveled in living over here.  Upon first setting foot in Europe during the summer of 2008 when I studied abroad in Italy, I fell head over heels immediately and vowed to live here someday.  Finally making that happen completed so many different dreams and yearnings within me.  I couldn't possibly list even 1/20th of them all, but to name a few: seeing the Vienna Boys Choir LIVE sing Christmas Carols (especially when they sang Carol of the Bells, my favorite.  My god.  My heart stopped).  Visiting and traveling through the French Riviera.  Budapest with one of my best friends.  Cycling through the patchwork quilted hills and rolling vineyards of Tuscany, along with my solo venture to the Cinque Terre.  My 30th birthday celebration.  Christmas markets.  AWESOME adventures with loved ones (and a few especially surprising visitors) from the USA.  This blog, and how much its grown.  My neighborhood in Frankfurt.  Climbing to a precarious, terrifying spot to nab a photo of the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal.  Sampling Pao de Deus in Lisbon- mind-blowing.  I am still fantasizing about this sweet bread.  The Christmas market in Rothenberg- storybook magic at its finest.  The list goes on and on.

The death defying photo I nabbed of the Pena Palace.  No joke, I could have died in my attempt to catch this shot, had I just slipped ever so slightly.  So exhilerating.

Amsterdam <3

The world famous tulip gardens of Holland.

12.  Black jeans and black boots.  One of my favorite/signature things to wear.  Very thankful for the fact that this combination looks decent and is super comfortable to boot.

13.  Salmon with a side of baked sweet potato.  Oh my lord.  Heaven.  I could eat this meal almost every day (along with my passion for pancakes, of course).

14.  Dinner parties.  One of the funnest things ever, in every regard.  From planning the menu, to cooking and decorating, to actually sitting down with your friends and eating all the delicious food, chatting, playing games and laughing together.

15.  Being warm.  This is a Brooke quirk that will be laughably familiar to those who know me well.  Whether driving somewhere in a car, cuddled up in my room, or out and about.  I like the heat cranked up high.  I love feeling warm and totally toasty.  Conversely, obviously I cannot stand being cold.  Warmth = my being super content and thankful.

So, what would be some of the things on your list?  What fills you with feelings of gratitude and joy?

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