Some Special Days

Some days we wake up and the world is a little brighter. The sun is shining, even when it’s not. It’s easy to do what, on others days, would be called “work”. It becomes clearer what is really important, and the petty and the trivial fall away and all you can see is the light, the good, the wonderful in your life.

Today is one of those days. Happy birthday, Billy. You are my light, my good, my wonderful. I couldn’t ask for a better husband, best friend, and partner. Because of you, there is nothing left I could ever want, and nothing makes me happier than celebrating a day that is all about you.Ashleigh_Bill-108

In the words of Elton John…

How wonderful life is now you’re in the world.

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My New Favorite Toy

Okay, so my mom is a genius.

I’ve gone on and on about a certain breakfast food item in the past few weeks, and you’ve generally heard it all in the form of whining/general sadness in the disappearance of said deliciousness from my diet. Well, GUESS WHAT EVERYONE. The only thing better that waffles is…

Mini. Waffle. Sticks.

Boom.

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Unsure of how exactly one makes a cake sans dairy or gluten, my mom rolled my celebratory dessert into an amazing little gift. So amazing, even, that I’m still giddy about it 16 days later.

Here it is: My Bella Waffle Stick Maker. (In purple here.)

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Little red masterpiece.

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We started with the most  basic gluten- and dairy-free waffle mix to be found.

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The Cravings Place All-Purpose Pancake and Waffle Mix is SO easy (just add water until the consistency of batter… no measurement required!), but also the perfect start for making fun addition to simple straight-forward waffles. As you may have picked up from the first picture, I love to douse my waffles in gallons of honey, which was a great addition. However, next time I would love to play around with adding vanilla or cinnamon or banana or pumpkin spice to the batter or topping with something fun like berries or nuts.

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Obviously I didn’t put enough batter in the first time, but they still came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, which is my general definition of waffle… well, PERFECTION.

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Beauties, if I do say so my carb-loving self.

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Again – and you knew this was coming – everything always tastes better when you make it with someone else. New waffle-making memories with my mama! The other best part? This little machine was so easy and mess-free, I can produce a not-your-run-of-the-mill breakfast in 10 minutes, tops. This will be happening. Often.

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So good. George wants waffles, too.

 

 

A Milestone Birthday

Last Tuesday, I had a birthday. A coworker held the door open for me upon arriving at my place of work. While walking together down the hall to our offices, she asked if it was a milestone birthday.

Without hesitation, I answered, “Yup! 27. The best year ever.”

She laughed, and I did too, because laughing is great. But it was the absolute truth. I do fully intend to make 27 the best one yet. So with that, I am kicking off a year of living simply, loving to the fullest, and being present. Also known as… The Best Year Ever. So here are the highlights from the day that’s the start of one for the books!

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I’m not one to post selfies, but when another fabulous coworker exclaimed, “You’re one of those people who dresses up for your birthday!” upon first seeing me at 8:30 a.m., I realized, why yes. I am. So here is the outfit I chose for the (professional) occasion, including my new favorite skirt from The Limited.

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My favorite accent piece of the day? The gift from my brother and sister-in-law – the Kate Spade Skinny Mini Bow Bracelet. (Similar here.)

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One of our new traditions at work: Bringing in treats on your birthday, just like back in elementary school. With not much of a sweet tooth and a massive savory one, I opted for bagels (gluten-full and gluten-free) and cream cheese (dairy-full and dairy-free) for my morning front-office celebration. In true high style, I even brought the toaster.

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Pink. Sprinkles. Office door surprise. They know me well.

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I don’t know which was better: the beautiful white calla lilies one of my colleagues brought me or the hilarious story of her traipsing through her garden before dawn to retrieve them (complete with enthusiastic reenactment).

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I stayed at work until exactly noon, then headed home to shed the office attire and slip into my laid-back uniform of my most comfortable of maxi dresses. I wasn’t the only one eager to begin the festivities – Indy wanted in too, as you can probably tell by the look on her face searching for any possibility for a W-A-L-K.

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The first stop was an escape to the gorgeous Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards for a picnic, peacocks, and their amazing apple wines. Danae and her husband Matt disappeared with us, guaranteeing great company in the 75 degree weather of the beautiful Central Coast.

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And what could possibly be my #1 most coveted birthday lunch? A salad from New Frontiers‘ salad bar, which fell from the salad bar gods in salad bar heaven to bless even the most blaspheming of salad-bar-non-believers with salvation from their evil ways. Converts you all will be, I swear on all that is green and holy.

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The big man himself was able to finagle his way out of work for the occasion, and we actually got to wine taste together! Small victories, everyone.

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My greatest wish for this day was to park it next to the ocean, surrounded by friends and margarita in hand. One of the best places to do this is happy hour at Marisol at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach. In the background you see Robert, Jeff and Jessica, as well as the nose of my most loved one in the top right corner. In the back-background, you see open sky, open ocean, and palm trees. In the foreground you see the remains of a slowly sipped shot of reposado and a strawberry margarita, planted firmly on the table directly in front of me. Read: HAPPINESS.

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Genuine relaxation is my greatest wish for any of my friends, but especially for Danae and Matt who work so hard owning their own wedding styling/coordinating business and restaurant, respectively.

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Sunshine and salt water are the best medicine.

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And so the sun set on another wonderful first day of the rest of my life. However, the sun has not set – and will not if I have anything to do with it – on my intentions to live fully for the next 51 weeks.

“And she believed that she could so she did.”

The New Tastes of Home

In this post a few weeks ago, I wrote about all the things I would miss after starting my new gluten-free dairy-free lifestyle. At the top of this list were the comforts of home: my dad’s waffles, my mom’s quiche, my step-mom’s french toast, and my family’s infamous Christmas butter cookies. With a trip to Redding planned the weekend right before my birthday, this was about to be put to the test.

Not only was I still trying to figure out what the heck to eat, I was nervous about my family trying to tackle the task, especially with the pressure of birthday dinners. Both my dad and my mom chose to cook for me instead of going out, which is exactly what I prefer when heading home to the parent’s houses. However, I felt a little helpless since I couldn’t send them recipes or tell them my new favorites simply because I didn’t have any yet. I anticipated some fumbling on their part and some sadness on mine at missing out on my staple requests.

Was I ever surprised.

I didn’t have the waffles, the quiche, or the french toast, but what I had was even better.

Saturday morning started off with shuffling to the car at my dad’s insistence that we head to the local health food store. Now, a Redding health food store is not exactly the shiny gorgeous sister to the likes of Whole Foods or San Luis Obispo’s local New Frontiers. It’s more like the stray dog wandering the back alley behind the Whole Foods beaming exterior. With that said, his enthusiasm was contagious as we wandered down the short aisles, and seeing my dad reading labels and asking questions was so endearing. We ended going home with a few basics, but a stronger connection.

Little did I know he was going to sneak back to the store while I was at a friend’s bridal shower that afternoon OR that I would come home to a spice cake with vanilla frosting, homemade and sans dairy and gluten.

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He made the whole thing from scratch himself. I love the Proud Papa look on his face in that picture.

Another conversation my dad and I had before I ventured home was how much I was going to miss his waffles. And of course he did everything in his power to make sure I had some while I was home. They looked similar yet tasted different, but that was alright with me.

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Next on the birthday agenda was my mom’s house for a Sunday dinner celebration. Mama had dropped hints that she had found a recipe she wanted to try, which was really exciting because she has always let it be known that she does NOT enjoy cooking. She wouldn’t tell me what it was though, so I was pleasantly surprised that she found a recipe for a Gluten-Free Tamale Bake from Cooking with Trader Joe’s. Mexican food is especially exciting these days, since I haven’t had anything like it since “That Day At The Nutritionist”. However, the fact that she went to four different stores to find the ingredients to make it dairy-free as well and that we got to cook it together made it all the more special. So special, in fact, that I cared not one single bit while my brother complained about Daiya Cheddar Flavored Shreds and Tofutti’s Better Than Sour Cream Sour Cream.

To top it all off, my amazing little mama gave me an arsenal of cookbooks with which to arm myself.

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I made her sign the page of the recipe she made for me, just for memories and safe-keeping.

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So after all that, it turns out that I will in fact miss out on the comforts of home and some of my best-tasting childhood memories. But what has taken and will take their place in the future is most likely even better. Because while I didn’t get the breakfasts and dinners of the old days, we (non-dairy cheeseball alert) created new memories, and I got the feeling of being more loved and supported than I can ever remember being in my Eat-Whatever-The-Hell-I-Want Glory Days.

And that, of course, tastes better going down than any cheesy, carb-y forbidden monstrosity you could put in front of me.