The end of one year and beginning of the next always puts me into an intensely reflective state of mind. A mix of emotions, too, as the beloved but busy holidays are over, always a bit of regret that I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to, but a feeling of a fresh start and the motivation and high ambition that comes with it.
I'm always quiet on social media and on my blog this time of year, too, but this year it has been even more difficult to get back into the swing of things. It's happening, though a bit slowly. Today I have been digging through old notebooks where I scribbled down ideas, lists, recipes, photography ideas, and I found a couple of gems I thought I'd share here. This is not a recipe post, more of a journal entry, some hindsight and a little forethought, and a way for me to keep these beautiful words forever.
The first, from my dear friend, fellow food writer and photographer, and Virginian, Ash Cuoco. This quote was the quote that brought us together in the vast world of Instagram. She wrote: "Writing, serious or otherwise, feels good. It's like a massage for the mind." I could have written these words myself; this is exactly how I have always felt about writing. Her words were and still are a constant reminder that I sometimes need. As much as I love writing, sometimes I get too caught up worrying that I should be posting this kind of recipe or that kind of recipe, or I feel that I don't have anything to write about, when really I always have something to write about. Always.
Another quote I had scribbled down amongst shopping lists and recipe ideas was from Nigella Lawson's most recent cook book. I read it not long after losing my father, and not long after deciding to quit my job and really give this food blogging and photography gig a real try. She wrote, "...out of endings come new beginnings." Yes, it's a simple quote but it really meant so much to me when I read it after a very hard, very real lesson on how short and fleeting life can be and it is equally as meaningful now, with 2019 freshly over and 2020 just beginning.
Finally, a quote from Roald Dahl: "I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good." This one really needs no explaining. It is a longer, more beautiful way of saying "Carpe Diem." And that is just what I did and what I am continuing to do. We hear it all the time, to just go for our dreams, but do we really listen or believe that we can? I'm here to tell you yes. Yes, you can. I'm not here to tell you to quit your job, but if there is something you love doing, stop making excuses and find the time to do it. You deserve that and you will be amazed at the doors that start opening.
I know I come across as a very positive, happy, and optimistic person. And I truly am. I am married to my soul(e)mate, I love my job, I love my children. It doesn't take much to make me happy; my dad gave me the greatest gift by teaching me to love cooking, to truly enjoy the process of chopping, sautéing, simmering, to feel joy and comfort just by having a pot of something delicious bubbling away on the stove. Give me good food to cook and eat, good wine to drink and I'm a very happy girl. That and a house full of kids and my husband by my side is all I need and want.
But, despite all of that, last year was not an easy year. We had some serious challenges, saw the true, dark and disappointing colors of some family members, had some unexpected medical and financial issues. Navigated a huge renovation project basically on our own. Got into a very scary car accident. I dealt with some pretty severe sadness - deep, bone-aching sadness - that I know will not be going away any time soon, but I'm getting better at coping.
For anyone who didn't know, I lost my dad in August of 2018, followed by my grandfather in September. Then, in 2019, after a few health and safety scares, my grandmother, who has generously and beautifully filled the role of mother in my life, moved into a retirement community a few hours away near my aunt and uncle. It just felt like one loss after another and as strong as I am it just took a huge toll. I have never been more thankful for my husband. I mean it when I write that I could not have made it through the last 18 months with anyone else by my side. We are a team. Best friends. And I will never stop being thankful that we found each other.
Despite the challenges, last year was a year of incredible growth and some huge milestones. Last year I worked with food and kitchen brands for the first time as a professional - Lamontagne Chocolate, Calphalon, Olympia Provisions, and Straightaway Cocktails! I did my first restaurant photo shoot at Claire's at The Depot - a local legend! I grew my Instagram and blog following by leaps and bounds. I made meaningful friendships and connections with incredibly talented people in my field. I became a weekly contributor to The Georgetowner and a monthly contributor to The Brookside Neighbors Magazine. I was featured on The Feed Feed, Honest Cooking, and VA Foodie websites. My photo won a contest hosted by Ghirardelli and The Feed Feed. My photos were shared on Instagram by The Baked Feed, Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, Foodtography School, Cherry Bombe Magazine, and others. People who aren't related to me or my friends started making my recipes! I pushed myself to learn more about photography, to try new things, to make my blog more professional and web-friendly. I invested in myself and my passions by enrolling in Foodtography School and The Bite Shot's Fulltime Framework and Artificial Academy courses, as well as attending too many webinars to count, reading every blog post, watching every youtube video, and just soaking up as much knowledge as I possibly could.
I'm not sharing any of this to brag. I'm just really proud of myself, and this blog is like my very public journal. I love looking back and reading old posts, so I'm putting this here so in a few years I can read it and remember just how I'm feeling right now. And I'm sharing it to thank you. Thank you to all of you, everyone who reads this blog, makes my recipes, supports me in ways you might not even know. I appreciate you all so much.
The start of a new year and new decade was made even more monumental as we spent our first night in my father's old house on New Year's Eve. After about a year of renovations we finally moved in. It is bittersweet and so special being here and I know my dad would be proud of the hard work we put into taking care of this beautiful old home. We took steps to ensure it will last for future generations, making much needed and very important updates while retaining the original farmhouse charm and integrity of the house. I'll share some photos soon once we really get settled. We still have boxes to sort through, trim to paint, porches to build. But it is home, and despite missing my dad immensely, it is wonderful. We are excited for spring to come so we can clean up these 11 beautiful acres, plant our gardens, plant fruit trees were the old orchard of my childhood used to grow. We have so many plans and I can't wait to take you all along for the ride.
So this blog post is inspired by those words, scribbled down and closed up in a notebook, but never forgotten. 2020, here we go. Let's do this.
If you want to walk down memory lane with me, here is a bunch of cool stuff I did in 2019!
Blueberry & Cherry Rosé Shortcakes with Sour Cream Whipped Cream created for VA Foodie
Sweet & Salty Pretzel S'mores that took the grand prize in The Feed Feed and Ghirardelli's Summer S'mores Contest
Holiday Chocolate Grazing Board created and shot for Lamontagne Chocolate and featured on Honest Cooking
Browned Butter and Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies created and shot for Calphalon
Sun-dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Pull Apart Bread created and shot for Calphalon
Smoked Salmon Bagel created and shot for Calphalon
Charcuterie Board created and shot for Olympia Provisions
Negroni Cocktail shot for Straightaway Cocktails