The Importance of Gratitude

Do you ever like to wander back in time and think about how your life has changed over the past year?  Hopefully, when you do this, you discover that you’ve grown as a person and gained some wisdom from lessons learned.  This morning as I was reflecting on the changes in the past year, I was reminded of this post from a year ago.  I believe the words continue to ring true. 

A year ago I struggled as I knew I would soon be saying good bye to the person who had the greatest influence on my life, my sweet mother.  As I came to terms with letting her go,  I turned to my faith and remembered to be grateful for all of our wonderful times together.  I was reminded to never let go of the lessons she taught me and to hold close to the values that she carved…

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Chacchoben Ruins, Costa Maya

If you are a lover of nature and history, the Chacchoben Ruins are surely not to be missed!  Located about 100 miles from the Costa Maya port, south of Cozamel,  these three excavated pyramids are surrounded by a lush, tropical jungle filled with an amazing variety of trees and plants.

You can follow a well maintained circular path that leads you to these ancient structures, while a guide gives you a wealth of information about the Mayans ancient religion and customs.  You cannot climb the pyramids, but there are stairs to climb to a raised area with a very impressive view of the area below.

Truly, I was as fascinated by the beauty of the massive trees and lush jungle as I was by the ancient pyramids.  The Spanish moss and Palm trees not only offer inviting shade, but also enhance the majesty of the pyramids.  The combination of nature and history creates an awe inspiring harmony that leads you to imagine what life would have been like for the Mayan civilization of so long ago.  

I think I would have been content to just wonder the path and relish in the magnificence of this amazing, tropical, jungle.  I am not aware of the age of some of these trees, but by the size of the trunks, I would think they had been there quite awhile.

If you choose to visit these amazing ruins, remember you are in a jungle and you might want some bug repellent for the mosquitoes.  There is some walking involved, and I think it would be rather warm and humid in the heat of summer.   Our visit was in October, and while there were a few mosquitoes, I found the weather to be fairly comfortable.  

Being an avid nature lover, history buff and photography fan, this magnificent archeological site turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  

“Wherever you go, Go with all your heart.”   –   Confucius

Hope you all have the opportunity to satisfy an adventurous spirit.  –  xxoo Gerri

 

Cruising to Roatan, Honduras

I am so excited to share with you the events of last week.  I had the opportunity to cruise the Western Caribbean with my husband and other family members and I have to say what a wonderful trip it was!

We took Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas  leaving from Galveston and cruising to Roatan , Costa Maya and Cozamel. The ship itself was amazing with an incredible shopping mall, ice skating rink and magnificent shows and entertainment.  For the younger crowd there were some fantastic looking slides, a zip line and even a Flowrider which is a surf simulator.  I cannot imagine anyone being bored on this astonishing ship!

Personally, I spent most of my time relaxing and reading in the adult area pool and spa.  However, if I had been traveling with children or teens to cheer me on, I think I would have ventured out and at least tried one of the slides. I am really just a child at heart!  

Our first port was Roatan, an island off Honduras, known for it's beautiful, pristine beaches and magnificent snorkeling, coral reef and dive sights.  The morning we pulled in to port, I awoke to the most breathtaking sunrise!  

I am rarely one to leap from my bed at sunrise, but that's exactly what I did as we were pulling into port, with camera in hand ready to capture every moment.  Perhaps if I awoke to this kind of beauty every morning it would be easier for me to hop out of bed!

Our plan had been to zipline though the jungles of Roatan, but as we departed the ship the skies opened and the rains poured down, and our excursion was cancelled.  I have to admit I was a bit relieved as I was feeling squeamish about the prospect of ziplining.  I have a definite concern for heights! 


We regrouped, grabbed a taxi, and headed to the northwestern end of the island to West End Village.  West End has something of a bohemian vibe and is filled with restaurants, bars and scuba shops.  This area is where a majority of the scuba diving, fishing and water-based outfitters are located.  It is a fun area to visit and wander around, however the better beaches are up the road in West Bay.  

Our next stop was West Bay Beach, a dream location filled with beautiful, white sandy beaches.  West Bay is surrounded by the second largest reef barrier in the world and is considered to be one of the best beaches for snorkeling.  My husband and I visited this spot a few years back and it definitely features some amazing turquoise, blue water and excellent snorkeling full of marine life. However, since it was a cloudy day and we had planned to zipline, we opted not to snorkel and just enjoy the laid back beach vibe.

I really wish we had a bit more time to explore West End and West Beach.  It's my second trip to Roatan, and if you are a beach lover and especially if you're interested in the incredible marine life it is a spot not to miss!

I will return soon with more on our cruise.  Up next the Chacchoben Ruins in Costa Maya!

Until then, happy cruising!  xxoo Gerri

 

Impromptu Game Day Fun

Between baseball playoffs and football season, October offers the perfect time to bring family and friends together for some easy entertaining.  Even if you are not a huge sports fan, it's fun to get together with friends and share in the excitement to support your home team.  

Of course the main event will be "the game", so you will want to keep the menu simple and easy.  Choose food and snacks that can be prepared without too much effort.  To keep it super easy, you can rely on some no cook items such as chicken wings with chips and salsa.  These favorite snacks can be purchased ready made from the store and you are simply "plating" the items.  It can't get much simpler than that!  

 

If you would like to add a little more pizzazz to the menu, stick with some favorite recipes that are tried and true.  I usually rely on baked beans that can be prepared early and kept warm in the slow cooker.  I also have an easy coleslaw recipe that I have refined over time and can practically prepare in my sleep.    

 

Always try to do as much preparation as you can before your guest arrive.  Once your friends begin to arrive, you want to be free to visit, relax and even watch the game.   

No fancy china is needed for this casual gathering.  I use some colorful  melamine plates, bright colored napkins, and plastic cutlery all stored in a tray caddy for easy serving.  

Remember. the idea is to bring together friends and family for an enjoyable fun-filled, easy and relaxed day.  Save the all day cooking for another time.  

"Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication."

-  Leonardo de Vinci

 

 

Anticipating Fall

The time has come to say goodbye to the long, lazy days of summer as we welcome in the coming of fall.  With this change there is definitely an air of excitement and anticipation.   You would think there might be some sadness as the lingering days of summer disappear into fall.  After all, summer is often a time of frolic and play.  But mostly I’ve observed eager anticipation for the change of seasons.

With the coming of fall we say so long to shorts and flip flops as we eagerly don jeans, boots, and sweaters.  Stores are filling their shelves with new fall decor and coffee shops are calling us to come try a pumpkin spice latte.  The beauty of the season is magnificent as the leaves transform from vibrant greens to the cozy red, orange and golds of fall.  As the days grow shorter and the air becomes chillier we anticipate quiet evenings by the fire with a warm blanket and hot cocoa. 

Autumn comes late to Texas, especially here in Cypress. It stays pretty green here until about mid November when a few of the leaves show a glimmer of color for a brief moment before falling from the trees. But even here, the subtle change of fall is in the air as the heat of summer gradually melts into the cooler days.  There is a noticeable difference in the coolness of the  morning and the evenings feel fresh and alive.  With the cooling temperatures, people have emerged from the comfort of air conditioned homes to take in the beauty of the season and enjoy walking, bike riding, and visiting with neighbors.    

Fall in Texas is like no other season.  Along with slightly cooler temperatures, festival season is right around the corner and soon each church will be filled with their own welcoming pumpkin patch.  A favorite fall activity is to attend one of the many festivals occurring either in the city or in one of the many small towns close to Cypress.  If you are a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV television show Fixer Upper, you may have heard Joanna mention the Round Top Antiques Fair that will be open for the next two weeks.  Literally miles of shopping with everything from fine antiques to flea market finds.  

Other popular festivals include Scarecrow Festival in Chapel Hill which benefits the preservation of history and historic buildings in the area.  This event takes place Oct. 14-15 and features gardening, artists, craftsmen, delicious food, live entertainment and activities for the children.  There is no charge for this event other than $5 for parking and is just a short drive outside of Houston.

On that same weekend and one of my personal favorites is the Bayou City Art Festival featuring a wealth of artists from around the country and benefits numerous nonprofit partners.  This event takes place right in the heart of downtown Houston surrounding City Hall and Herman Square.  Tickets are $15 and $5 for children ( children under 5 are free).  

Whatever your plans are for the coming month, I hope you take the opportunity get outside and enjoy some beautiful fall weather.   xxoo Gerri

 

 

From Farm to Market Fresh

Is there anything more exhilarating than visiting a farmers market to start off your day!

 

 This may be a bit of an overstatement, but I do enjoy waking up and hitting the farmers market early in the day.  I love the bright colors of the delicious produce, the aroma of the spices, and the enchantment of visiting a fresh produce market as if we were far from the hustle and bustle of city life.

 

My favorite farmers market to visit is Canino Produce, a family owned business operating in near downtown Houston since 1958.  Canino Produce is a favorite spot for local chefs to purchase the freshest of produce.  Behind Canino’s is a wealth of open air produce stalls selling their wares flea market style.  Along with fresh produce, you can purchase nuts, beans, spices, herbs, plants, Mexican pottery, cooking utensils, and more.  Visiting the open air part of the market feels a bit like stepping into little Mexico.  It makes shopping feel like more of an event than an errand.  

 

It’s a bit of a trek into the city from Cypress to visit this market, but it is so worth the journey!  The produce that’s sold at the farmers market taste so much better than our local chain grocery store.  It’s so much fresher and I quickly found that it stays fresher longer than our grocery store produce.  Since most of the food is grown from local farms across Texas, not only are we getting fresher, better tasting produce, we are supporting local farmers, and cutting back on energy costs to ship food from all parts of the country!

There is word on the street there are changes to come.  Some investors are planning on expanding the market bringing in more food services, fresh coffee vendors, a flower market, possibly cheeses…..I believe the idea is to make it something like the famous Pike Place Market in Seattle.  I look forward to these changes with eager anticipation mixed with apprehension.  Perhaps it’s time for a change.  It will certainly bring more people to the market, along with more traffic, more tourist….  However, there is another part of me that feels like I will miss the quaintness of this market if these changes occur.  

I had the opportunity to visit Pike Place Market a few years ago and it was fabulous!  It was exciting to stroll through the many vendor sites, enjoy the tasty treats, and of course visit the amazing Pike Place Fish Market.  The fishmongers throw the fish around that have been recently purchased and a crowd gathers quickly to see!  It is definitely a place not to miss if visiting Seattle!

Where ever you live, if you are not in the habit of shopping your local farmers market I encourage you to try.  Along with the obvious reasons of fresher produce, better taste and a greater variety, you’re supporting your local farmer who is struggling in today’s global economy.  

Why buy produce from a chain grocery store that’s traveled an average of 1500 miles to get to your plate, when your local farmer has fresh produce that is fresher, better tasty and more nutritious.  Not only is the food better for you, it’s fun to shop your local farmer’s market, visit with the vendors, and connect with your community.

Oh, and by the way,  I visited Canino’s Produce last Thursday and I’m pleased to report it is doing well and thriving after the rains of Hurricane Harvey!  Unfortunately, many in southeast Texas continue to struggle to get their lives back to normal after flooding and my heart is with them.  Today, I’m also praying for the state of Florida as Irma is barreling down on that the beautiful sunshine state. 

Thank you so much to all of you for your tremendously kind comments and prayers for Texas.  I hope wherever you are today, you are safe and the sun is shining down on you.  xxoo – Gerri

Hurricane Harvey – Waters Rising

I truly never believed this could happen to our city!  

I’ve been through Hurricanes Alicia, Allison and Ike.  I thought I knew what to expect.  I’ve been through hurricanes with the wind howling and the rain pouring down. I’ve stayed in my home and watched the pine trees bend down and almost touch the ground.  I’ve been through storms where we’ve lost power and were lighting candles and lanterns to see in the dark.  

This storm was different. It was sneaky.  Just a bit of rain. No howling wind.  No bending pines.  Over time the rains began to come down harder.  Pounding.  Constant.  

Over the past few days, our neighborhoods have become a collection of islands.  The news reports 95% of our roads have high water or are impassable.  However, through all the rain, many of us have never lost power.  We’ve watched the news to see what’s happening across the city.  We see the people standing on rooftops.  We watch the helicopter rescues. We text our family and friends “Are you okay?”  We pray.  And so many citizens have come out to assist those in need.

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Even in their own distress, so many people have turned to help their neighbor.  I’ve known people who offer their warm, dry homes to strangers that were left at a holding station in the rain.  I’ve watched people that were evacuated return to be sure their neighbors were  out and safe.  I’ve seen others come volunteer in the shelters or bring whatever supplies they can offer, anything they can do to offer assistance.

I am so proud of our city officials and first responders.  I am so amazed by the entire Houston community! People helping people.  People leaving their own comfort behind to assist those that are in trouble.  There are so many volunteers coming from smaller communities outside of Houston bringing their boats to assist in the evacuations.  The Cajun Navy is coming from Louisiana to assist.  Volunteers are on their way from Lubbock bringing food, bottled water and supplies.  Volunteers from Oklahoma.  Thoughts and prayers from all over the country.

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As I watch the people of Houston being rescued, they are smiling and their hearts are filled with gratitude.  Houston you are truly setting an example for the rest of the country.  You are showing the world not only how to handle a catastrophe, but also the way to live each day, hand in hand, helping each other, hearts filled with love for one another.  

In every cloud there is a silver lining.  Our silver lining is the compassion that is being shown for the well being of our fellow citizens.  

If your looking for a way to help and show your support in the wake of Hurricane Harvey:

Feeding Texas – coordinates with the state and other providers for quick relief to those in need

Food Bank of Corpus Christi – click on the link donate

Houston Food Bank – they are currently closed due to flood waters and will reopen as soon as possible, they do have a link where you can click to donate

 

 

Hurricane Harvey – A Cypress View

I’m sure many of you have seen the news of Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas coast and the destruction that followed.  As I write this we are into Day 2 of this catastrophe.  I live in Cypress, a suburban neighborhood northwest of Houston, and we are very fortunate here.  Although there has been what feels like an endless amount of rainfall and some flooding in the neighborhood, our street is draining and we are safe.  

 

Hurricane Harvey, Cypress, Texas

However, other Houston residents have not been so fortunate.  In a metropolitan area of six million plus residents, the city is at a stand still.  Businesses are closed.  The buses aren’t running. Schools are cancelled until after Labor Day.  Our church even cancelled services this morning because city officials have asked for everyone to just stay home!  And the worst is that many people are stranded in their homes and neighborhoods and can’t get out!  They are frightened which is understandable.  The streets are flooded and impassable.  The rainfall is hard and constant.  It is as if bucket fulls of water are being continuously poured on this city.  Yes, we get little breaks in the rain, but it is not a long enough time for the streets to drain before they start filling up again.

 

The miracle in all this is how the city residents are coming together.  People helping people.  Not just first responders and rescue teams.  People that own boats are out there offering to assist those in need.  There are no haters.  Just good people coming together to help in anyway they can.

 

Hurricane Harvey in Cypress, Texas

Some have criticized the news media for their hype.  However, I applaud the news media and our city officials.  How do you plan to keep an area of six million plus people safe from wide spread unprecedented flooding?  They asked people to stay home.  They warned people repeatedly of the dangers of driving into flood waters.  You get the word out about the possible dangers and worst case scenarios.  Many people are new to our city and have no idea what a hurricane and Houston streets can be like.  

 

There has been loss of life and I fear for what will be discovered as the days go on….and yet the rain continues.

 

Hurricane Harvey in Cypress, Texas

 

How you can help Hurricane Harvey Victims

American Red Cross  – call 1-800-red cross or text HARVEY to 90999 to make a donation

Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services – call 1-800-SAL-ARMY to help

Catholic Charities USA – they have set up a website devoted to Harvey relief

Austin Pets Alive!– they have created a page on their website specific to Hurricane Harvey needs

 

**sources via abcnews.go.com

 

 

 

 

 

Find Gratitude – Find Joy

Gratitude – the quality of being thankful, showing appreciation and returning kindness.

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Today, I was reminded of gratitude.  I have to admit, I have been slouching around, complaining about the August heat and allowing myself to wallow in my discontent.  Not a good place to be.

But today, I was reminded that I can choose joy!

It was just a simple article on my morning news feed.  The article focused on a woman who had tragically and unexpectedly lost her husband.  But the heart of the article was remembering gratitude in an overwhelming situation.  It made me feel so silly and selfish for allowing myself  to wallow, when truly I am so fortunate.

Then later this morning, I found out that a very dear friend of mine was in a terrible car accident.  Her car was T-boned and the jaws of life were brought out to remove her from her vehicle.  I have to say she is fine, just very shaken up and a bit sore.  But what a frightening event to go through.  Thank goodness for seat belts and airbags!  

Some how, knowing how frightening this experience was for her put everything into perspective.  I remembered the importance of the simple everyday things that usually bring me so much joy, my loving family, the joys of nature, and a faith that sustains me through all the adversities of life.  

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It’s easy to get stuck in a rut.  However, if you remember gratitude each day, it helps to keep you from falling into that rut.  Gratitude can also pull you up when you are in such a rut.

Finding ways to cultivate gratitude in our lives can increase our happiness and joy.  Simply stopping to think about things we are grateful for increases an attitude of gratitude.  Taking the time to acknowledge simple pleasures and express thankfulness for your blessings can increase your joy and zest for life.

To cultivate an attitude of gratitude, here are some things I try to remember to help me through my day.

  • Morning reflection – this quiet time really helps to get my day off to the right start
  • Showing kindness – offering assistance, a kind word or smile, a helping hand to someone in need can mean so much to others. 
  • Say thank you to show your appreciation – those simple words can mean so much, but so often we forget to say them.
  • Share what you have with others – tip that waitress that was so kind an extra dollar – drop off  some groceries at a local shelter – When we share what we have, it not only helps others, it makes us feel better about life in general.
  • Keep a gratitude journal –  make a list of things you are thankful for – or better yet, write 3 things everyday that you are thankful for – start off small – but as you continue, you will be amazed at how your gratitude will grow.
  • Be a good listener – sometimes someone just needs their thoughts to be heard – You have know idea what a difference you might make to someone by simply really listening to their story.

So there you have it.  If you have actually read the words in this article, that shows that you truly care and want to make a difference.  Go out into the world and make that difference.  In our world where there is so much hate, be a product of love.  I believe in you!

Gratitude unlocks the fullness in life.

Blessings to you and yours always – xxoo Gerri

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The Peaceful Banks of the Medina River

August is upon us, often known as the dog days of summer.  In the southern United Stares, August can be uncomfortably warm with relentless heat and humidity.  Southerners are growing ever so tired of the heat and yearning for the slightly cooler temperatures of fall.

The best place to spend these warm summer days is at the beach or the lake…. or at least in a cool refreshing swimming pool.  Another option is to visit one of the many rivers that wind through the Texas Hill Country. The water can be quite chilly and many rivers offer the cool relief of tubing or rafting.

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While we didn’t get away to the beach or lake last weekend, we did stumble across this pretty spot on the Medina River near Bandera.  It was peaceful and quiet, the perfect spot to take a moment to relax and take in the quiet beauty of the river banks.  Huge Cypress trees lined the banks offering plenty of shade from the hot Texas sun.  Actually, we were quite lucky that the recent rains had brought cooler temperatures, a huge improvement to the mid nineties of most August days. 

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I couldn’t get over the amount of birds that were wondering the banks and frolicking in the water.  I did a little research and to the best of my knowledge they were Graylag and Swan Geese with a few Muscovy Ducks mixed in.  (Thank you RH for your assistance on this!)  I went crazy trying to capture as many photos as I could of these amazing creatures.  

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We came to the river after having a late breakfast in Bandera, also known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World.”  Why it’s called that I’m not really sure, but I did find some hard to resist western boots in one of the local shops.  Another interesting tidbit about Bandera is that Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie visited Bandera while taping their reality show The Simple Life.  If you happen to be a country music fan, Bandera was once called home to country musician Robert Earl Keen

 

We stopped for breadfast at the OST Restaurant in downtown Bandera.  O.S.T. stands for Old Spanish Trail, a route that was designated to improve highway access back in 1915.  The OST Restaurant opened in 1921 and today is one of the last original restaurants along the route.  It features a John Wayne room which features, of course, a plethora of John Wayne memorabilia.

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No trip to Bandera is complete without visiting the General Store.  If you want to experience a bit of Texas history, this is the place to be.  The store is filled with local treasures and there is even an authentic 1950’s ice cream fountain.  we did not sample the ice cream as we had just finished breakfast, but I’m sure it would be a delight!

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Overall, I really enjoyed out quick trip to Bandera, Texas and the Medina River.  Bandera is filled with a rich Texas history and left me with a desire to return and explore a little more. As they say in Bandera…..

When Life Gets Tough,

Cowboy Up…..

Maybe next trip, I’ll wear my boots! – xxoo Gerri