Sunday, May 24, 2015

Praying for Sandra Lee & A Walk Down Memory Lane

Its been a few days since I last posted, but there is quite a bit going on here at The Teacup Cottage. We have one week left of Lil Monkey's first year of school and from book fairs to class programs, I am trying to soak it all in a record these precious memories. If there is one thing military life has taught me, it's to treasure the little moments when you can. There were so many special moments, memories and events that my husband missed over the last 11 years and even though he is home for a while now, I still feel the need to be involved in cataloging and documenting these memories as if he weren't here. Its a hard habit to break.

With the little time I do have to sit and relax, I've been watching "from the sidelines" as Celebrity Sandra Lee, chronicles her battle with breast cancer and her recovery from a mastectomy on her Facebook page. Now, I know, many of you who know me IRL are thinking, "What, Michelle, is not a celebrity-stalker?" And it true. Working for years at Army-base Public Affairs Offices, I met and interacted with many who were supportive of military service members and their families to include Kevin Sharp, Aaron Tippin, Miranda Lambert and Gary Sinise. 

But Sandra Lee has a special place in my military life memories because she, or at least her show and magazine Semi-Homemade, helped me grow as a new Officer's wife and survive those long 12- and 15-month deployments, so I feel compelled to watch her journey, praying for peace and comfort. 

It's easy to get overwhelmed in military life, especially when you set high standards for yourself and are self-critical because you compare yourself to veteran wives. There are two lessons that I learned from my Semi-Homemade obsession: "You don't have to be perfect, you just have to be happy" and "Anything can be made unique and one-of-a-kind if you put a little creativity to it."

I remember one of my first invitations to a gathering at the Battalion Commander's house for the 4th of July. I was so nervous. He'd only invited a few select officers and their spouses, and we were by far the youngest and lowest ranking (husband not me). I was so nervous. I offered to bring a dessert for the gather.

The day before the event I pulled out all the ingredients I'd gathered for a homemade vanilla pudding with fruit decoration. My husband was supportive, but insisted, "We can just buy cookies or something." I was horrified. There's no way, I was sure I'd be talked about if I brought something store bought and thrown on a plate. The commander's wife was from Korea and was know for her elaborate meals. 

So I thought, I'll make a pudding from scratch. I found a recipe online. "It's easy" the reviews said, "You could almost do it with your eyes closed" others claimed. 

A few hours, two batches and lots of tears later I was staring at a pan of scorched pudding swearing that I wasn't going to attend. My super-patient husband walks in the kitchen, hugs me and hands me a few packages of individually packaged pudding cups and quietly said, "I don't think anyone will notice."

So after coming to my senses ( and realizing I can't just skip the event) I empties the containers one-by-one into a decorative tart pan and used raspberries and blueberries on top to make a decorative pattern before drizzling softened white chocolate over the top. (I'd already earned a reputation as "the pink princess" during the unit's previous deployment, so the rose tart pan was a "must-have".)

I wish I'd thought to take a photo of the dish, but I wasn't blogging at that early in our military life. Needless to say, the dish was a hit, and it was nearly licked clean when it was time to go home. Neither my husband nor I had a chance to have any, so we joke now that it must have been really good, or so bad someone threw it out to save the rest of the attendees.

While I didn't quite transition to semi-homemade at that point (there was a few more attempts and meltdowns), it was the catalyst that led me to eventually learning that no one expected perfect at those military functions, they were just happy with participation. As my comfort in military life grew, so did my confidence in getting creative with potlucks, family gatherings and hosting parties. 

I had always used the "semi-homemade" technique in my stitching, sewing and quilting because I was confident in them and even before I had graduated high school I was altering patterns and making them "uniquely mine", which is what you see at The Teacup Cottage Blog.

If I could pass on one lesson in living #CreativelyInspired it would be to take what inspires you and make it "YOU-nique". Change colors, style, size, purpose. Give it your signature! Don't be afraid to vary from the path.

I lost my collection of Semi-Homemade magazines in a military move, but I still remember things that stood out for me from the months I spent flipping through them over and over in attempt to ward off the loneliness of deployments. Inspiration is found everywhere. Face everyday with the goal of finding something that leaves you "CreativelyInspired!  

Until our next cup of tea ...

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