Thursday, November 29, 2012

In Memoriam: Mildred Wiggins February 11, 1928 - November 26, 2012

MildredWiggins

I first met Mildred "Grandma Wiggins" in December of 2003. I'd ventured North to Salina, Kansas to celebrate Christmas with my boyfriend (now husband) and his family. This was no small feat for me to have gone. But wait, let me back track so you have a better understanding. My sophomore year in college, when I came home for the holidays, my parents surprised both my brother and I by saying they were headed to Vegas for Christmas...without us. We were stunned, blinked at one another, threw our arms in the air and set off to spend Christmas with my sister and her in-laws. My folks made it a tradition to jet off around then and I don't blame them. I think it is kinda neat, in fact. Occasionally, they will make plans to linger for us all to be together, but for the most part, this is what they do. I've been fortunate enough to have loved ones who will welcome me with open arms to their homes and their extended families. It's so nice to have witnessed first-hand all of these traditions.

When Don asked me if I wanted to go home with him in 2003, I was stunned, nervous, and excited. This was the first time I would be meeting so much of his family. I didn't have the best experience with meeting family in my previous relationship experiences. I won't go into the detail here. Anyway, he prepared me that we'd have several appearances at the different homes of his extended family. He, being like me, motivated by food, detailed out what would be on display at each place. His face lit up and he told me, "And finally, st Grandma Wiggins' home, there will be steak and shrimp!" I nodded my head in eager anticipation, not knowing at all what to expect.

When we'd arrived, I walked into a home filled with smiling and friendly faces. THESE people...(getting choked up), salt of the earth people opened their arms and gave me hugs and warm embraces. It was an obstacle course getting through the living room to the kitchen where the food was. So many young children running around, playing, laughing...oh the laughter, and everyone happy. They emulated my family and our gatherings. Kids all over the place, hugs freely given, stories exchanged, the uncles gathered around the TV watching sports, the women in the kitchen or on the sofas relaxing for once, knowing their children were happily playing with their cousins. It was so lively, so warm, so exciting. In the very center of it all, on a blue recliner, there she sat. Grandma Wiggins, sitting arms crossed, wearing a button up shirt and slacks, smiling and enjoying the moment. She didn't say many words, but you could see her face and see joy. Each Christmas, I looked forward to that moment. I hoped that someday, I too would be sitting in a comfortable spot surrounded by so many, many of my family members.

And oh was she generous. I was handed an envelope with my name on it. I was unsure what it was until I opened it. Christmas cash for us to get ourselves something. The first time I opened it, I teared up. It was very generous of her. I allowed myself to use the money for myself instead of paying a bill or buying another gift. Each year, upon returning home, I'd take that cash, walk over to DSW and buy myself a brand new pair of pumps to wear for work. I don't know if she knew I did that each year. I don't know if she knew how important shoes were to me. I don't know if she knew how much that money meant that I was going to walk in those shoes and do my best to change my family's life for the better. That old addage, "Change your shoes, change your life." (The second year, however, I spent that money to buy my wedding shoes.---I've never told anyone that before.) Each year, I wrote her a thank you note telling her that I'd bought a pair of shoes. It wasn't just me who received an envelope. Every child, grand child, and their significant others received one. The great grandkids received toys hand selected by her. She took great joy in seeing their faces light up when they opened their gifts. Each year, the Sugarbean has loved her toys. The Sugarbaby walks around with the doll she received last year and sleeps with her.

She touched so many people's lives and she will be greatly missed. I'm so very thankful that I had the opportunity to know her and for my girls to have met her. She was a strong woman and so very loved by her family. She always conveyed unconditional love for us all.

And because the first question out of people's mouths after they express their condolences is, "What happened?" Here is how I know things to have happened (or how I pieced it together from different conversations), since we don't live there. She passed away on Monday. She'd recently been in the hospital for pneumonia. I know that she'd been trying to give her deposition to an attorney here in Dallas when she visited almost two years ago and broke her hip. I don't think she ever gave that deposition, either. Anyway, I say this because not long after leaving the hospital for the pneumonia, she fell and broke her other hip and her elbow. She went into surgery to repair the two and had complications. Last week, she'd been on life support. When they made the call to turn it off, she awoke. It was a literal miracle. She lingered a few more days giving everyone near her the opportunity to say their goodbyes. It was a beautiful blessing. It is my understanding that she expressed that she'd seen the light and was unable to fit in the tunnel the day she awoke. And on the day she passed, she said two men were waiting for her to take her to the light. There at the end, she had her family with her. She is now resting in peace.

While we all are grieving, we are also celebrating her life and her legacy: attempting to live without judgement, with acceptance of one another, and blanketing one another with that unconditional love.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kylie Minogue: The Abbey Road Sessions

The kind and generous folks over at One2One Network gave me the opportunity to review the new Kylie Minogue album, The Abbey Road Sessions.



Some of you may not be too familiar with her work, well, other than "Can't get you out of my head" (all together now, na-na-na-na-na-na-na....yeah, sorry, I don't like when it gets stuck in my head either). You will also remember at "Love at First Sight." <---my all time favorite of hers!! I totally used to sing this at the top of my lungs with my sunroof open, windows down, hair flapping in the wind, body bopping...everything went from wrong to right...it was love, it was love, it was love...

I totally got carried away, huh? (I'm totally still singing it)

Anyway, I like Kylie. She's darling and what moves me is that she is a breast cancer survivor. What an inspiration, that one. She sings pop music, for those of you who have no idea who she is. She's also from Australia. Oh, and if you watched Moulin Rouge, she was the green fairy.

So let's talk about this new album. She slows things down with this album. I mean REAAAALLLLY slows it down compared to the normal pop music.

Global icon and popstar sensation, Kylie Minogue is celebrating 25 years in music with her new album, The Abbey Road Sessions. The album, recorded in London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios with a full orchestra, features Kylie classics, all beautifully re-imagined and rearranged. 

But you know what is beautiful, her voice! These arrangements really showcase her vocals. And whoa...are some of them so sensual. I feel like I need some blue uplighting and fog blowing in my room. My favorite song, that I can't stop listening to (and singing along with) is "Better the Devil You Know." I melt after I sing! Don't get me wrong, there are some songs, like "Locomotion" and "Can't Get You Out of My Head" that will have you up and dancing. You will also find yourself singing "everything went from wrong to right, the stars came out to fill up the sky...."   My second favorite of this album is "Flower." The lyrics totally make me think of my special little gals.

Anyway, check her out! Get it on Amazon here: amzn.to/SJguae If you are on Spotify, check it out there, too! 


By participating in this review, I am eligible to win one of the following prizes: $50 VISA gift cards w/ a limited edition Lithograph, “Aphrodite : Les Folies Live In London” 3D BluRay/DVD, “The Best Of Kylie Minogue” CD+DVD (21 tracks, 21 videos) I was in no way influenced by my eligibility to win these prizes. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Recipe: Gluten Free Banana Bread


Remember the health post? Well, Don has done a great job in maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle. It hasn’t been as tough as I expected, but maybe that is because I’ve not really been cooking? ha! Seriously, the cold front blew in and I had some bananas I had to use. I went to bake and realized that the “regular” flour wouldn’t work for him. Immediately, I was crestfallen at the thought of him coming home to a house smelling like fresh banana bread and he wouldn’t be able to have any. Off I trekked to my local market and headed straight to the Gluten-free section. I’ll be damned if my man wouldn’t get to enjoy one of his favorite treats! I found Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. It cost me $3.99 for this 22 oz bag. Yes it costs more than traditional flour, but he’d actually get to eat some of the same foods! Even better is that I wasn’t going to have to modify my original recipe since it was a 1:1 ratio conversion. Yes! Sold!
When I made the bread, the consistency wasn’t what I was used to, so I added more banana and walnuts because my Beloved likes ‘em. The added “wet” from the bananas gave it a more familiar consistency. He tasted it as soon as it cooled down and proclaimed it to be really good. He said the texture was softer than what he was used to, but still good. There you have it, I recommend the Gluten Free All Purpose Flour!

Gluten Free Banana Bread
1/3 cup butter (softened to room temp)
1/3 cup sugar
2 Eggs

1 3/4 Cups Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

4 or 5 VERY RIPE bananas mashed

Add-ons/Extras: Parchment paper, walnuts, chocolate chips, cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. I like to sift mine 2 or 3 times just because it makes me feel fancy. Plus, it adds air to ‘em and well, my Home Ec. teacher told me to do it and I do. Set that aside. Dry ingredients are: Flour, Baking Powder, and Baking Soda.
In your mixer, add your butter. Turn on and add your sugar. While the two are creaming together, you can probably be sifting. That’s usually what I do. When your butter/sugar is nice and creamy, add your two eggs, one at a time. Make sure it is nice and creamy!  Here is where I might add a few drops of vanilla for fun or if I’m sassy. Yeah, I know I didn’t list it on the ingredients, but I’m just checking to see if you are reading.
Now add your dry ingredients in batches of 3, slowly. Make sure it is nice and mixed. Now, add your mashed bananas. See how it is smooth, but kinda lumpy with the bananas. Add your nuts at this point if you want.
Pour into a bread pan. I like to line mine with parchment paper. Bake for 50 minutes.

Devour!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Rent the Runway & Dallas Margarita Society

Hello friends!
I hope all is well out in the virtual world. As for me, I’ve been battling some kind of wacky sickness all week. I get fever, feels like I’m swallowing broken glass, hacking, but the side effects are that I’m incredibly happy and overjoyed. Honestly, I think I did myself a solid by “hiding” folks on Social Media back in July. This has helped to improve my mood and mostly kept me out of the loop during this election. For the rest of you, thank you for your honesty, tenderness, wit, joy, and humor during that time.

Back to the topic at hand…Rent the Runway & The Dallas Margarita Society

I am really big into philanthropy. If you know me, you know this. I also like when players in the philanthropic world unite socially. One of the biggest charitable events of the year here in Dallas is the black-tie, by-invitation-only, Dallas Margarita Ball* put on by The Dallas Margarita Society. I work and am friends with a member of DMS, so I was invited. Naturally, after securing a sitter for our girls, I fretted quite a bit last year over what to wear and after being there, I had more perspective. Granted, wearing an old bridesmaid dress would have sufficed, actually. Nothing is too opulent or over the top. So, what did I wear? I wore a long black gown from White House Black Market and Don wore a black suit. This is what we looked like:

copyright Chera25 Photography
There were so many gorgeous frocks and gowns. I was more impressed with everyone’s creativity. Dallas really does know how to step it up and step out! As a result, this year, I wanted to try to stay away from black and go with some real color. Well, I didn’t want to commit to a color for long term. I’ve bought plenty of bridesmaid dresses, a few of which I only wore on the wedding day. As a last resort for this year, I was going to pull one of those out and make it work, until I found Rent the Runway. I signed up, logged in, was welcomed with a coupon code, and after browsing their site and marking several items as favorites, I had a stronger idea of what I was going to wear. The next week, I culled it down to a handful of gowns and shared my choices with friends. They each gave me their feedback and I chose a vibrantly colored number. I was unsure if the length would suffice my height, but the best part about RTR is that they allow you a 2nd gown of the same style but a different size. I knew I was keeping my size, but instead, I chose the longer version. Speaking of size, I tend to waver on size and I was scared to death that the gown would not fit!!

I had to wait for a month before the event. During that time, I made sure to exercise and eat right so that I could maintain some semblance of the figure I would need to wear the gown. The day came for delivery. The night before, I had fever and chills and woke up with a ridiculous sore throat. (like I mentioned before) But then I remembered it was delivery day and the giant pile of work I had waiting for me, so I sucked it up and went in to the office. That afternoon, I was welcomed with this delivery!!

Inside were the two gowns on a hanger, each with their own plastic wrap similar to clothes returned from the dry cleaner. Additionally, they were wrapped in a long, vinyl travel bag. Hanging on one of the gowns were instructions for returning my items. Items, because I also rented the bracelet. It was a surprise, because I had the option to add on an accessory for a lower price. Finally, there was a large UPS pre-paid bubble wrapped envelope for me to use to return my rentals. They only requested that each item be placed inside of their plastic wrapping which had the barcoded label.

I tried on the gown and initially, it wouldn't zip up!!!! Plus, I was grateful for the longer choice because the shorter one would have been much too short. When I got home, I told Don of my issue to zip up. This time, I took off my bra (you really can't wear one with this dress) and it zipped right up. I was still able to move and dance with ease, so this was EXCITING!!

Tomorrow night, I will wear a $1500 Carlos Miele “Cerulean Duchess” gown, paired with a $210 Lee Angel “Wrapped in Elegance” bracelet, for way less than 10% of the cost of the gown. I’m not going to have to worry about cleaning the gown, what to wear---fretting about the day before or the day of, and I won’t have another special event frock taking up space in my already limited closet space. I am INCREDIBLY excited!

As for my Beloved…he is stepping it up a notch and we purchased a Calvin Klein tux, with accessories and shoes for 50% off total price (thank you Men's Wearhouse!). Now that I know about RTR, I’m looking for any excuse to rent a nice frock. I already have a couple in mind for upcoming holiday events! Check them out!

*The Dallas Margarita Society, Inc., (d.b.a. Dallas Children’s Charities) was formed in 1977 when a small group of business acquaintances decided to host a holiday party for associates and friends.
The Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization whose goals are twofold.  The first is to provide at-risk Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex children with gifts at Christmas time and the second is to help those community organizations that work with at-risk children throughout the year.
The Dallas Margarita Ball has grown over the years and is now believed to be the largest annual invitation only charity black tie gala in the world, providing gifts for more than 6,800 at-risk children each year.
 
I was not compensated to write this post. I just wanted to share a good idea with all of you. If you click my referral link, you will receive $20 off a $100 rental!


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