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Verses from my Kitchen: December 2011

December 31, 2011

2011, The Curtain Call & My Top Posts

The year started with so much promise. In a blink of an eye it has come to pass. Nearly. Finished. One day left on the year that started with a black canvass and infinite options. Possibilities. There were wonderful milestones and other moments I wish I had back. Try again. Harder. In another day a new year starts, a slate clean and ready to make a mark on it. Just like last year. But this is different. It always is.

It was just about this time last year that I jumped into the deep end of food blogging. Sure, I had the blog up for a few months but I didn't actually post anything. Instead I chose to read some of the wonderful content out there and try to find where my voice fit in the blogosphere. And that's what I did. I decided on variety, recipes W and I could both enjoy and personal stories. Heartfelt stories. Each month gained in momentum and the passion I have for blogging grew as the year did.

I attended my first food blogging conference this year. I made the trip to Washington for Eat, Write, Retreat where I met some wonderful, like-minded people who all shared the same love of food and blogging. It was personal, educational and entertaining and was run incredibly well by the team of Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict. I left feeling convinced that this was a path I wanted to be on. And still am. It felt great to be in a room with other people sharing a similar passion and I'm looking forward to more conferences in my future.

The reason I started this blog was to combine my two original loves, cooking and writing. I used to journal my process and life when I was younger but that often sat empty on my bedside table. I was afraid that this too would become too much work, too personal. And I figured it would have it's day. But I kept on. And you kept reading, much to  my surprise and appreciation.

After I put a camera in my hand I learned that photography is both demanding and rewarding. It was harder to come by originally than both writing and cooking but it's just as personal and nourshing. It was like learning a new skill all over again, something I hadn't done in quite some time. Photography enhances the way I tell a story. Infuses life. It's still challenging but I've quickly become passionate about it. 

I've had some wonderful successes this past year, both in my real life and on this blog. I've joined my wife's photography team at Wendy Alana Photography and continued to solidify my love and appreciation for her. All of my rewards and successes would be nothing without her. I've created a few recipes that find a place on our table quite frequently. The food that I make for this blog is eaten on a decorated table for two where we share our own personal triumphs and tribulations of the day. Now year.

One of the best things to come from this blog in the past year was "meeting" so many wonderful and talented people. And my readers are incredible, both in their kindness and support. Although I do this for me, it wouldn't be the same with you. When I started this journey I had two followers, all friends and family. I was surprised with my first "outside" follower and comment. And truthfully, I still am to this day. I'm so very grateful that you come back and share similar heartfelt comments with me and let me know that this piece of space means something.

Over the course of the year I've posted new content I was sure would be well received but wasn't, and posts that I thought would be passed over but was well liked. In the process I realized it wasn't about those things. It was about my expression of a moment in my  life and being happy with that. The rest is extra. I've learned to be honest, real and open myself up and everything else will fall in place. Thank you for that.

It's interesting when a year comes to a close to look back and see what posts did well and resonated with people. It also helps me close the chapter on this year and get ready for the big things ahead. Both here and in my personal life. Reflection. No remorse.

The following are my 5 top posts of 2011.

Number One:
Quinoa Cakes with Poached Egg

Number Two:
Baked Mac n' Cheese

 Number Three:
Squash, Sage & Apple Soup

 Number Four:

Cider Rum Punch

Number Five:

It's been quite the year. And yet it's only the beginning. Every year end we have the chance to make up for mistakes in our past and strive for bigger things than ever before. Like you, I'm looking forward to path ahead. Yes, some with this blog. But mostly with my personal life. To be a better husband. Friend. Person. And yes, a better food blogger.

In just over a week I'll be celebrating my second wedding anniversary with the woman that keeps my light shining bright. Our blended families are stronger than ever and my wife's photography business is gaining in the momentum that started last year. Everything is pointing towards this being the best year yet. For me, for us. For everyone.

From my kitchen to yours,

Happy Anniversary.

Verses from my Kitchen

December 29, 2011

Cocktail: Spiced Orange Crunk Punch

This is the end. Quite nearly. The holidays will soon unfold and give way to a new season. A new lease and beginning. A chance to clean the slate and make a new mark, to do things right or better. In a few short days we will celebrate the year that was and the possibilities that lurk ahead. It's a chance to set your goals and think big, the only limit being your imagination. So set it free and let it soar.

Normally by now my holidays would have ended with the passing of Christmas, but this year is different. Thankfully. Work can wait. My holidays will extend until the new year and because of that it will give me a chance to spend some quality time with W and the dog, work away in the kitchen and get some rest. All of those things are long overdue. And I've been looking forward to this retreat for months.
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December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays and a Croque Monsieur

The holidays. A time for families to unite and connect and disconnect from everything else. The chance to create new traditions and cement old ones. For a few short days it brings loved ones together to celebrate the season and share in the special moments, the kind that live on long after the occasion passes. Everything else is set aside as we come together like it was as a family many years before.

Growing up we had our own set of traditions that we started and built on year after year. We ordered in food on Christmas eve and played board games and watched old holiday classics. Usually that was White Christmas, my mother's favourite holiday movie. We stayed up spending quality time as a family until they decided it was time I get rested for Santa's impending arrival. So off to bed I went. Restless and excited and ready.

The next morning came quickly. It always did, just like my parents promised. I would wake up earlier than any other day of the year and wake my parents up shortly thereafter. They would make me wait until they were at least robed and half awake and then they would anxiously follow me to the living room. I would first make count of the presents and then check to see if Santa had indeed eaten the homemade cookies my mom said he would. He did.
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December 18, 2011

Soup Series: Shrimp Bisque and a Holiday Flashback

'Tis the season. Whatever that means. I know what it meant once upon a time, but along the way something happened. People changed. Life got busy. Work demanded more of us. Stretched us thin. There was less appreciation. More stress. Less hope, love and holiday spirit. The kind that isn't bought, sold or packaged in a box with a bow on top and handed out on December twenty fifth. And never will be.

Back when I was really young I was blessed to have a woman in my life full of hope, love and joy. My grandmother was made for the holidays, for the family gatherings and reunions that happened once or twice a year. Scratch that. The holidays were made for my grandmother. She taught me a lot back then, but mostly the spirit of the holidays and the real meaning behind them.
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December 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Bubble & Squeak

I used to detest breakfast. Weekdays. Weekends. Early mornings or late. No matter what was said about breakfast, and I heard it all. It's the most important meal of the day. If you skip one meal, don't let it be breakfast. On and on it went. I never listened. For whatever reason I just never liked having anything on my stomach first thing in the morning. Hot or cold. Small or large. So I didn't. Almost never. The first sign of my rebellion or foray into adulthood and making my own decisions.

A funny thing happened along the way. I started to pick and choose. If my parents were heading out to some hot spot on a Sunday morning for brunch I'd hop along as well. Just not at first. But after hearing all about what I missed, I couldn't take it anymore. Slowly the wall I had put up started coming down. I started appreciating starting the day with a morning paper and eggs benny. Something so delicious and decadent that I could have been convinced it wasn't breakfast at all.

That's how it started. One meal. One weekend. One long time ago.
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December 10, 2011

Soup Series: Curried Squash & Orange Soup with Pancetta, Sage and Creme Fraiche


The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. The traditions that you grow up with flood back as you see kids light up like a tree at the thought of Christmas. Families spending time together remind you of your childhood. The smiles that paint the faces of nameless people you encounter last for as long as the holidays do. Then, like a sunset, they fade away. The season brings with it a multitude of wonderful things. Always. Not always.

My father. Dad. Stranger. The first few years of my life were spent as a young family doing what young families do. Like a mirage, that came and went. I haven't seen him in nearly twenty years, instead choosing something else to do. With someone else. The first few years without him was difficult. And different. Now it's slowly progressed to normal. Better.
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December 4, 2011

Soup Series: Lentil, Bacon & Oregano Soup

December. At last. The first full weekend with no script. No agenda. Nothing to do, nowhere to be. A Saturday morning spent dreaming the night's dream away. A prolonged escape from the life that awaits. And before reality sets back in. Breathing in the air of potential and falling in and out of sleep, pushing away the start of the day and enjoying the extra time on pause. Slowing the process down.

Everything changes when you have time, when life isn't pulling you in a million directions. The sky that rushes past you on weekdays seems to stand still on weekend mornings. A picture sitting high atop it all, slowing down like the rest of us. The cars that hurry and rush aren't anywhere to be seen, or they slow down and enjoy the journey. Look around. Just like I do.

The weekend we had looked forward to had finally arrived. The blank space on the agenda that seemed so far away all those moons ago was now here. All ours to do with it as we wish. Do as little or as much as we see fit. Sleep in. Linger. Relax. The three things that have escaped us had finally returned. With open arms. 
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