Things I love tonight:
A husband eating raw almonds for a midnight snack.
The sounds of guests inhabiting our guest room.
Sitting on the front porch as the day closes, phone warm against my ear with the voice of a dear friend on the line.
The intermittent sigh of sleeping cupie-dolls echoing in the hall.
Late night texts that say “We love you.”
Windows open for bedtime.
Shopping list hung on the refrigerator door.
Pulling a deep breath of air into wanton lungs. They’ve so missed summer.
I feel wistful and grateful tonight for a thousand non-reasons.
In preparation for summer vacation, we redecorated the kids rooms, hanging dozens of posters across their walls with sayings that remind them to “Think Big,” and remember that “Your character becomes your destiny.” One poster, hung just right of center on the wall struck me the most with its simplicity.
We are grateful.
How powerful it is to acknowledge in all times, at all places, the deep gratitude you have for even your humblest blessings. When you stop and say them, take time to speak them aloud, you can somehow lay deeper claim to them. They are more yours than ever before, because you have said the words. You have opened your mouth and paused your mind and taken hold of those fleeting pieces of perfection.
Several weeks ago, on a long and lazy bus ride across the farmlands of Monterey, California, I asked Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen about the overriding belief that governs her life.
“I believe in abundance,” she said. Her eyes smiled.
Last week, her words rang in my ears as I drove past a man, begging at the intersection of a local grocery store. He held a sign that said, “Family of Four. Anything helps.” I glanced away from him as I usually do. There are programs to help you, please go find a job, I whispered in his direction. I’ve heard a hundred times that help never actually helps a beggar. They spend it all on booze and drugs, say the officials.
But, there was a word on that sign that stuck with me. Family.
What if he really did have a family?
We have a family. And, more times than I’d like to count, we’ve been that family in need. The family worried about groceries. The family wondering if we’d make our mortgage payment. The family to be helped.
I reached for my purse, fumbled for a dollar bill. There was only one. A dollar.
Not enough, I decided. And so turned the car around and decided to run into the store and grab five dollars. But, once in the store, I realized a gift card for groceries might ensure the money was spent on what it was intended for. So, I grabbed instead a Kroger card and headed to checkout. I could spare $10 for groceries. Maybe $20. Yes, twenty would help more, I reasoned.
And then. Jaden’s voice reminded me “I believe in abundance.”
I thought of how abundantly blessed we have been in recent months. A reader noted this week that there’s been an increase of sponsored posts on Cheeky Kitchen. There have been. This little hobby of mine is turning into a blessed adventure…and business venture. What a gift it has always been. But now, it can become a gift. We have enough to spare, I thought. We have been so abundantly blessed.
There was the buzz of a new idea. A fifty dollar gift card. Yes, that was right. I don’t know why it was right, but the humming of my heart said it was so.
I asked for it, payed for it, wrote “May You Be Blessed” on it. Then, hopped in the car and drove back to where that man was standing. That family man.
I passed the card through the window. He nodded. I drove off.
As I turned the corner, I heard him scream, “Oh! Oh! My god!”
I smiled with my eyes.
Abundance, gratitude, things to love. There are so many of them. I don’t always remember. I don’t always get it right. But, for the moments when the voice of a beautiful friend, a poster, the crunch of almonds from the pillow beside me remind me that life was never about me, but about all that is around me. I am grateful.
Abundantly, endlessly grateful.
Roasted Pepper & Summer Squash Gnocchi
2 cups mini summer squash
2 cups mini sweet peppers
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
salt to taste
2 (17 ounce) packages gnocchi
1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound Italian turkey sausage, cooked
1/4 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan or feta cheese
Clean peppers and squash. Snip the top of each pepper and squash off. Slice the squash in half. Place all veggies on a baking sheet. Sprinkle shallot slices over the veggies. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the veggies. Place in an oven preheated to 500 degrees. Allow veggies to roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring them every 5-10 minutes.
Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Spoon 1/4 of the pasta water from the pot before draining the gnocchi. In a large bowl, combine the pasta water, sausage, vinegar, maple syrup, seasonings, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked gnocchi, then toss in the cooked veggies.
Sprinkle parmesan or feta on top (parmesan will give your dish a nice, classic taste. Feta offers an earthy touch of Mediterranean flavor to the meal).
Eat and enjoy!