Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Whoa, Blackberry! (bam-ba-lam)

Okay, okay. I know those aren't the correct lyrics but it's just fun to sing regardless and it makes me smile. These days I'm trying to focus on anything and everything that makes me smile and keeps me feeling positive and upbeat. This recipe for Blackberry Pie Bars do just that!

They are the right balance of sweetness, tartness, and crunch from the crust. They are really easy to make, which they'd have to be for me to be able to successfully make them as we all know I'm not the best at baking. But I have to say the more I keep trying, the better my results have been! I actually made these for the first time last spring and summer and knew they would be a perfect addition to this year's Easter feast. Seriously, you will not be disappointed! 


Blackberry Pie Bars
Makes about 16-20 bars

Ingredients
For the crust and topping:
½ cups all-purpose flour¾ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Zest of half a lemon
¾ cup (12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cold
For the filling: 
2 large eggs
1 cups sugar
½ cup sour cream or greek yogurt
6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
15-16 oz. blackberries, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained of excess juices)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with foil and grease lightly.  In the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest.  Pulse briefly to blend.  Cut the butter into small cubes, then add to the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Process in short pulses to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until only small pieces of butter remain and the mixture is crumbly.



Reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture for topping of the bars. Add the rest of the mixture to the prepared pan and press to form an even layer of crust on the bottom of the pan. Bake 12-15 minutes, until  light and press to form an even layer of crust on the bottom of the pan. Bake 12-15 minutes, until light golden. Let cool 10-15 minutes before proceeding.

In a medium bowl, make the filling mixture. Combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, lemon juice and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Gently stir in the blackberries with a spatula. Spread the filling mixture over the pre-baked crust in the baking pan. Crumble the reserved topping mixture, over the filling evenly.



Bake until the top is beginning to brown and the bars are just set, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Chill to firm up before slicing and serving.

Enjoy!




Sunday, April 20, 2014

Little C Turns Three!

At the end of March our Little C had his big 3rd birthday!

We had all the grandparents pitch in and help us put together his "big boy" room. He was very surprised and excited! Somehow we managed to keep him in his crib up until this point. He was very capable of climbing out, and had proved it a few times, but he was just so good about staying in there when he was supposed to. We really had a nice thing going but it was clear to us that he was ready for the big boy bed and we started to promise him one when he turned three.

Thanks to a number of Instagram photos from the beloved Mannly Mama, as well as a full post about "the bed," we went with the IKEA KURA reversible bed. It is perfect! And to go with the bed the grands also pitched in with the decor to go from his jungle themed nursery to a construction site big boy room.

Hubs and I got him a new bike and he is still trying to get the hang of it. I think the idea that he has to push the pedals and make it go instead of being pushed by us took a bit of getting used to.


The shin guards were also a gift from us because C started soccer last week and needed some gear. In case you were wondering... Soccer for 3 year olds IS as adorable as it sounds. And for his ill-fitted helmet, we have since replaced it with one that fits. Raise your hand if your 3 year old has to wear a helmet for 5+!!! Little C, big head.

The following day was his actual birthday and Hubs and I had a "Big City Adventure" planned for him. We took Baby D-Nut to daycare and had special one-on-one time with the birthday boy. It was a blast! Here are some highlights:

1 - The Denver Convention Center's 40ft "Big Blue Bear"




2 - City street exploring: It's a jungle out there, people!


3 - Cement climbing with Dad


4 - Hot Chocolate at the Brown Palace Hotel 



5 - Lunch at the historic Denver Diner and Milkshake for dessert!


We seriously had the best time and it is a memory my husband and I will cherish forever.  

You guys, I'm am LOVING 3! It is like over night he became such a big boy and any shred of "babyness" is very hard to find. If I accidentally refer to him as my baby boy he swiftly reminds me of his big boy status and insists he is no longer a baby. 

At least we still have Baby Donut to get our fix. Although, she's 15 months going on 3 years... which is a post in and of itself! 

Little C, keep living loudly, keep laughing genuinely and just keep being the tenacious, precarious little boy that you are. Your larger than life spirit and your tender heart are a force to behold. I love you, son. Here's to a great year three!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Current State of Umeployment

Here's the thing... I know it will all work out. I know when I look back on all of this it will have been worth it. I know there is a silver lining. I also know how fortunate I am to have such strong job prospects only a month into unemployment. I am grateful for the time I've had with my kids. I'm blessed to have the support and love from my husband and my family. I know all of this. 

But it's okay for me to say despite it all... this fucking sucks. It just does. I have good days and then I have very bad days where I feel aimless and like I don't "belong." I feel like a fraud at daycare drop off and pickup and I feel like a fraud at the park among the gaggles of SAHM's and their organized play groups. 

I still don't sleep very well because the weight of all my thoughts pushes down on me the most at night. Thoughts of how surreal it still is and thoughts of how it all went down. Thoughts of the future. You see, the bills don't stop their usual rotation for the unemployed. Crazy, right? Oh, and remember once upon a time when I mentioned we were looking to buy a new house? Well the funny thing about home lenders is that they frown upon giving loans out to the unemployed as well. 

On good days I'm happy and at peace with everything. After all, I wanted to leave where I was and already had the ball in motion. I also feel rejuvenated and ready to welcome the unknown. I work out as much as I can and I haven't been this sore in forever!

On bad days saying goodbye to seven years of my professional life can be really tough. On these days I'm kind of a mess not able to think clearly and emotional. Then, since I'm home I get bored and I want to eat all. the. things. Hence, the constant working out. ::shrugs shoulders:: On these days I'm getting by. 

It's not pretty but it's my truth and it's okay. I saw a quote recently:

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel.  --Steve Furtick

I couldn't be more "behind-the-scenes" with my life right now if I tried. You know, the hardest part is that this isn't me. I work and I always have. I never took time off for spring breaks or summer breaks when I was younger. Whenever I'd get a new job I'd never have time in between to take a breather. I'd always end one on Friday and begin the other on Monday. I don't know what it is like to NOT be working.

I'm not really able to enjoy this time and I honestly don't think I can let myself enjoy it. Even though I worked really hard for the last seven years and learned how to juggle the demands as a key employee and a new mom, I still haven't given myself permission to enjoy having some down time to clear my head... perhaps I should try. 

There is a lot of gray in my unemployment story. But at least I am motivated and determined to come out of this situation better than when I entered it. It's this motivation that has me excited and eager to head into each interview instead of nervous and afraid. The determination I'm feeling fuels my intent of progressing my career and proving myself an asset to any future employer.

I may be in day-to-day mode as far as the "how are you holding up" question is concerned. But at least I'm holding up. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Everyday Inspiration

Last week was a much more positive week for me. I took the pep talk my husband gave me to heart, I started to shift my thought process and I made the decision to stop feeling sad.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. –Amelia Earhart

In fact, after I hugged the crap out of him I laced up my sneakers, cranked up my tunes and I walked my little heart out all over the neighborhood to clear my head and to shake off the stress, anger, sadness, fear of the unknown. I don't have it in me to be consumed by this any longer. There may be blips here and there because I'm human and because unemployment is a journey that I can't predict. So I will go with the flow while making every effort to stay positive and  motivated. 

Last week I searched for inspiration to keep me going. To keep my thoughts positive and to empower me. I read quotes, I read stories, blogs, and listen to a boat load of music that typically keeps me upbeat (and that allows me to get out all the anger - read: Rage Against the Machine). But to be honest it was the little things in my everyday life that really kept my spirits up!

My favorite coffee mug: On one side, "Life is Good" and on the other, "Do what you like. Like what you do." So I'm unemployed, it isn't going to be forever. I have worked really, really hard all these years and I am confident that I will find my career progressing and in a new position in no time. I have my family and my health so yeah... life is good. As for doing what I like and liking what I do, that is my mission with a new opportunity. I'm keeping this in mind with everything I consider applying for.


My practice: I had to wait for the right time for this one. Being alone with my thoughts has been hard up until last week. I dreaded bedtime because I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep and shut my brain off. Same went for yoga. I've always enjoyed practicing yoga because of the mental clarity I get from it in addition to the physical benefits. But to be honest I was feeling too fragile to tap into that clarity because I was sick of crying and feeling down and I was sure that was the only thing I would do while meditating. I was wrong. It was just what I needed to drown out my negative thoughts and to just be.



My family: It is amazing how much support I have had from family and friends. Talk about motivation to stay positive and keep moving forward! Everyone from my parents, in-laws, BFF's and even my internet friends I've never met! It has been overwhelming and I can't thank everyone enough. Then there is my love. My husband. That man has been the most inspirational to me throughout this whole process. He let me be a puddle of goo to get it out of my system and then he knew just when to swoop in and lift my spirits while gently telling to snap out of it! 

And finally... my children. I've been able to spend more time with them since this all went down and it has been good for me. They are beyond all reason who I live and breathe for and they are inspirational to me like nothing else in my life. Their raw innocence and unconditional love keeps me moving forward and reminds me that I'm no good to them if i'm consuming my mind with negativity. 



In many ways my story is just getting started. Instead of filling my mind with worry and doubt I have shifted to embracing the unknown. Being unemployed is certainly not ideal but I need to look at this time as a gift. I am able to focus 100% on my next career move which I was not able to do before. This isn't how I pictured things playing out but that's life isn't it? I was going to make a change this year any way and now it's just happening in a differently than I thought. Guess what? I can't control everything. Same with you? Funny how we have to be reminded of that from time-to-time. Amiright???

I thought of another Great Grandma Pearl gem, "is that bump in the road a stumbling block or a stepping stone?" The choice is up to you. After all, life is a series of choices and you may not always be able to control the outcome but the ability to choose your outlook and direction is a powerful thing.

Onward...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Opportunity, are you there? It's me... Kendra.

It's been a week.

I have been on an emotional roller coaster having moments of clarity and purpose followed by doubt and sadness. Trouble with the latter is that I am a very emotional and sensitive person and at times I tend to fall too deeply into the sadness part.

Thankfully I have learned over the years how to take a mental inventory when this starts to happen and take some time to "snap out of it," so to speak. It isn't easy, in fact pulling myself up from the darkness has always been hard for me.

Yesterday I had a moment of weakness. I arrived as guest of honor to my pity party for one and I did it right. I got out some serious emotion and I cried to the point of those gaspy sobs that shorten your breath. It wasn't pretty people.

After the dramatics subsided Hubs came to talk with me. He calmed me down by walking me through the reality of why I'm here. He validated my right to feel sad but he reminded me of all the reasons I have to feel positive about where I am. For me, and I'm sure countless others who have been in this position before, it is hard to not have a choice about something and have someone else dictate a life change to you instead of it being on your own terms.

I made no bones about wanting to progress my career this year, so making a change at some point with inevitable. I just never anticipated it to happen this way. ::sigh::

Such is life.

Then Hubs gave me the pep talk to end all pep talks. He told me it's time to draw a line in the sand and make the pivotal choice to let the emotion consume me or to admit it sucks something awful but rise above and make these crummy circumstances into opportunity. He truly said it way better than this but I've given you the gist here.

Basically, as he was talking my tears dried up, I started rise up from my wallowing spot, and I felt 50 shades of inspired. I wanted to suit up in my best gray sweats while my husbands speech played in the background along with the Rocky theme song (of course) as I mounted a flight of stairs all the way to the top of our capital building, bobbing and weaving and punching the crap out of the air.


I choose to put the past behind me and focus on my future. Admittedly it may not always be easy. Seven years of my life is not just a small span of time. But my future awaits and even though I'm on a journey of unknowns and hurdles, it doesn't matter. It will work out, this will pass and I'm going to be so much better for it!

Opportunity, are you there? It's me... Kendra. I'm coming to gettcha!

But before that, BRB

 ::laces up black chucks then starts in with the air punches::



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thoughts

I jolted awake at a ridiculous hour this morning after a restless night complete with tossing and turning. My thoughts dialed up demanding space in my weary head. One thought right after another preventing me from dosing back to sleep in my warm, oh-so-lovely bed.

The house was completely dark, Hubs breathing heavily next to me, and my cats adhered to various spots along my body like velcro. Baby Donut is under the weather and her sweet little sick girl moans sporadically lit up the baby monitor for a few blips then she was back to sleep.

I just laid on my back with eyes wide open staring at a pitch black ceiling I could barely see thanks to the green glow of my digital alarm clock. I laid there and I thought all the thoughts. The worries, the what ifs, the how did I get here, the fear of the unknown. A few positive thoughts poked their way through the stress and, to be quite honest, the sadness.

After numerous failed attempts and shutting my brain off and getting back to sleep I sighed deeply and made my way downstairs. Now what?

Now, I dive into this computer, I network, I call, I write. All in an effort to find my new beginning. I want to find it quickly in order to silence the worries and what ifs. I want to stay diligent and focused to turn the unknown into what it was meant to be all along. I know there is a reason I've found myself here and I can't wait for the ah-ha moment that it becomes clear.

Until then my thoughts will continue to grab hold of my conscience whenever they see fit. They might bring me down here and there but I will fight to keep them positive and motivated. I won't be in this gray area for long.

So this is unemployment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I'm here...

I'm currently in the middle of life. Life that is exciting, unexpected, and scary all at the same time. I'm in the middle of a beautiful life with two fun and adorable children that I love so much it hurts. Life with my supportive partner and the man I love desperately.

I'm here. I've been quiet on the blog for many reasons and I just wanted to pop in and let the tens of you that read this space in my life know that I'm not going to stop, I just needed some silence. 

Life has us continually looking to buy our first home. We are busy as can be hunting for "the one" and purging and cleaning our current house in preparation. Exciting for sure!

Life has sent a new job my husbands way and I couldn't be prouder of him. He works so hard and this opportunity is really going to allow his talents to shine! 

Life has us weeks away from my son's 3rd birthday. Can you believe it? I sure can't! We have a fun dragon party in the works for him. Dragons are currently his whole world. It's pretty darn cute.

Life is a baby girl who is a full-on toddler now! She blossoms with each new day and it is so amazing to witness. 

And then life sent me a box. A box waiting for me on my desk when I got to work this morning. A box that forced me to pack up my work life within it's cardboard frame and symbolized I'd be on my way out.

Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls when you least expect them.

With the box in my arms as I left the office this morning, a building acquaintance noticed I was walking out and said "Kendra, you're going the wrong way."

I looked up at the sun-filled sky and positively replied back "No. I'm going the right way."

I sincerely believe that.