Sunday, January 20, 2013

Slow Roasted Beef with Red Wine Gravy...and a month of soul searching




The month of January has been a difficult one.  A really difficult one.

Not only did the flu wiggle itself into our vacation, but gut-wrenching soul searching was at play for the better part of the month.

We are all flawed, aren't we?  Boy, did I have to take a deep breath and confront my shortcomings this month...as well of those around me.





I don't know what made me recently think of this incident that I remember from middle school.  We were all at assembly one morning.  I had long waist length dark hair and two girls loved brushing it while we listened to morning announcements.  

A third girl commented, "Why do you get your hair brushed so much?  Don't you know it will become ugly and greasy?"

I was stunned.  I had no idea that this behavior was being considered rather annoying to anyone.  I had no idea that I had created a perception of myself that was irritating to someone else. All of a sudden, I felt vain. And, I was intensely aware this third girl did not like me.

It's an odd memory but it was one of the first times that I realized that I would most certainly not be liked by people in my life.






The two girls never brushed my hair again.  I was hurt.  I knew that other classmate certainly did not like me (or my hair) very much and I carried this hurt every time I looked at her.

I don't know why this memory surfaced.  I guess its because it was one of the first times that I had to reflect not only about myself, my behaviors, but acknowledge that relationships can sometimes be shocking, insightful, and hurtful.

I seem to be struggling again with this realization this month.  I recognize that I am a personality that seeks approval from others and desperately wants people to like me. 

Over the years and in the future, there will be people who will basically...not like me.  It's easy to shrug my shoulders and just accept this as a chance of circumstance.  

But, I don't think this is the most self-improving approach. I think I've been taking the easy way out.  Digging deeper, much deeper, I think some potentially painful soul-searching...might be in order.




I am out-spoken...for starters.  I speak first...think later.  I've worked on this trait for several years now and see that my efforts are truly a change for the good.  I take deep breaths, focus, and try very hard to listen first before plunging into situations with my passionate opinions.  It's been a really good change.

But, when you've led a pretty good portion of your life with this feisty characteristic and then work diligently to alter that character "flaw", it is sometimes...too late in certain relationships.  Who you are, might just be a forever perception among some people.  Not their fault, really, just human nature I suppose.






Reacting to the "old" me is something I so desperately hope to change.  To be acknowledged for the intense work I've done to improve as a person and diminish the "alpha-female" in me may happen with some...but I'm having to accept may not happen with others.

Sometimes our life span seems so long...sometimes it feels never-ending.  Other times, it doesn't seem like there is enough time to maneuver through each stage of self-awareness and bring change to fruition.




I'm in my '40's.  I'm happier than ever in my life.  I often grimace at the train-wreck of a person that I tracked along through my '20's and '30's, chugging along and spewing billows of smoke on this side and that side of my life.

I'm a work in progress.  That is one fact, for sure.  We all are, I suppose.  But, when that self-realization reveals to me that changes must be made, apologies must be said, and  hope must be aimed for the future...it's a rough patch of life to get through.  






So January has been about much-needed "soul searching".  It has been certainly painful as memories of all of the people that I've irritated or frustrated flow through my mind.  

Long walks, deep breaths, and self-evaluation are key.  I also choose to  disappear into my kitchen and escape to countries that often reflect my mood.

I needed to disappear into the moors and fields of England this month.  I need food that reflects a brooding landscape full of loveliness and loneliness at the same time.




Roast Beef.  Yorkshire Pudding.  Roasted Potatoes with thyme.  This is the hearty fare that I crave that soothes my soul and comforts my pain.

I spent half the day, quietly preparing this meal.  It is for "Sunday Supper".  I wish I could share it with the people that have either brought me pain or that I have brought pain to in my life.

Food is a soothing tool.  Cooking is an escape of the most wonderful kind.  I spend lots of time in my kitchen in deep thought while I prepare meals.






I have also found that I get great joy slipping out of the house in the early morning to immerse myself in quiet drives, walks, and explorations of the countryside.

I can collect my thoughts, examine my behaviors, and try to put the world right again.





When I hear a rooster crowing in a country farmhouse or see a hawk swooping over the road, all of the pieces of life rearrange themselves and seem to become clearer to me.





We are who we are, I suppose.  I am who I am I must accept.  But, whereas I didn't have the maturity in my 20's and 30's to cope with those in my life who just didn't like me, I am gaining this maturity...in my '40's.  

A little late?  Perhaps.  

Better than never?  Certainly.






This morning it was  a deliciously foggy morning.  I knew I was being drawn right out the door to  continue doing my much-needed soul-searching.

The air was crisp, the smells were clean, and the sounds were still and quiet. I felt like I was the only person in all of Houston who was up at that hour.





My time spent was something I wouldn't think of granting to myself earlier in my life.  The rejuvenating and self-reflecting power of spending precious time only with myself is something I absolutely treasure now.

I do have work to do.  I do have changes that need to be made.  But even as I turn over my new leaf...it is still a leaf...and to some eyes, it will still look the same.





I know that now.  I accept that now.  But, I'll keep moving forward.  It's painful to acknowledge all that isn't good about myself...but freeing at the same time.  

Is change possible in people?  I'm not sure if its possible in everyone.  I'm not even sure if its as possible in me as I would like it to be.





But beautiful food sure does help.  A beautiful and delicious meal sure can do some positive and lovely things.  

Reflection, Contemplation, Rumination...all embody this month of January.  

It's hard.  I'm sad.  But, I know that I am very much...hopeful.




















Roast beef and Red Wine Gravy:

1-1.2 kg/ 2-2.5 pounds beef filet
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
5 cloves of garlic (3 whole, 2 sliced)
1 coarsely chopped onion
1 chopped carrot
1 branch celery
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt & pepper for seasoning

Preheat oven to 200°C/ 400°F
Rub beef with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make about 10 small incisions with a sharp knife (careful not cut all the way through the roast) and insert fine slices of garlic. Tuck in the thyme sprig on top of the beef – under the string. Place chopped onion, carrots and celery in a roasting pan along with the beef. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes, lower heat to 180°C/ 350°C and cook for a further 30 minutes (less or more depending on how you like your beef).  Place the roast beef on a plate and set aside for 15 minutes.

Gravy:

Keep the roasting pan with all the beef drippings.   Put it directly on the stove on a low heat, add 200 ml red wine and stir. Let the sauce reduce for a few minutes, then add 500 ml beef (or vegetable) stock. Further reduce for 5 more minutes. Add one tsp of flour (I used corn starch) and mix well until gravy is thick and juicy. Pour sauce through a separator and serve immediately.

Roast Potatoes with Thyme:

Preheat oven 180°C/350°F
20 small red potatoes
Sprigs of fresh thyme (or dried thyme)
Coarse sea salt
60 ml/ 1/4 cup olive oil
Rinse potatoes, slice them in half or quarters depending on size. Place in roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprigs of thyme and coarse sea salt. Mix well and bake for 35-45 minutes.  Halfway during cooking time, shake the pan to cook potatoes on all sides.

Yorkshire Pudding: (makes approx 12)

250 g/ 2 cups plain white flour
250 ml/ 1 cup whole milk (cold)
2 tbsp cold water
4 eggs
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 tbsp olive oil or beef dripping

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F
In a large bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, cold milk and water. Add the eggs and whisk till blended. Whisk  until batter is smooth. Place a bit of olive oil or beef dripping in each tin and place in oven for 5 minutes or until sizzling hot. Take out from the oven and pour batter in each tin , approx 3/4 high. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until well-risen and golden. Serve immediately.

67 comments:

  1. Sarah - lovely post and stunning photos. I didn't think your photography could get any better, but it keeps getting better.

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    1. Cher, you are so kind and I really appreciate your words...

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  2. I just love this post - mostly because I'm feeling the exact same way you are of late, and it's so wonderful to know I'm not alone :) Thank you for the encouragement!

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    1. I'll definitely take comfort that I can encourage anyone...I think as long as we are willing to change...everything has a chance to turn out right.

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  3. Sarah -- from someone who knew you in your 20s and 30s and hasn't had the pleasure of seeing you in the past 10 years or so -- you are being much too hard on yourself. You were a wonderful, talented, kind and amazing person then and I am sure you are even more so now. I miss you, dear friend.

    ingrid adams

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    1. Ingrid, I miss you too. I love seeing photos of your stunning children and reading your Xmas letter. Gosh they are beautiful and their personalities just shine through their smiles. We sure did hit it off so many years ago, didn't we? Hoping to head back into the work force in a few years...I'm excited!

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  4. Wow...you must be reading my mind. :) January has been very contemplative for me, too. I guess with age we are wise enough to see our faults ...and not just see them but actually admit them and want to change for the better. For me, I'm trying to figure out how to grow a thicker skin, not be so hurt when people are cruel..that kind of thing...I carry around pain like nobody can. Geesh. How do you stop that? haha.
    Sarah, I really can't imagine you hurting anyone. You are one sweet lady. I hope Febrary is full of happiness, love and a fresh start for you.

    love the foggy photos, too. xo

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    1. I love how you put it..."wise enough to see our faults...and actually admit them". Seeing our faults takes maturity doesn't it...wanting to change for the better is a whole other ball game. Change? How? For me, I have to be with myself and really meditate regularly in order to slow my thoughts now and prepare to engage with others the way I really want to. February!! The love month! How can that be bed? Back into the kitchen!

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    2. Did I really say "How can that be BED?" Geeeeez. Let's try again..."How can that be BAD". Whew.

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  5. Sarah,
    I could have written that post myself. Not necessarily the part about this month being difficult- but some months are. And that 20s and 30s comment- you couldn't PAY me to go back to that! I am sorry that this month has taken so much out of you emotionally. Know that there are people out here who admire and enjoy you so very much. I am one of them~

    And- these images are fabulous!!! Bravo girl!
    x

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    1. Thanks Kimberly. I always visit your blog and come away with an appreciation for your words. I keep telling my daughter...the more you move past your teens, the happier you will be. She is like an old soul who will enjoy getting older and fitting into her own skin more. Ha! Could not pay me either to go back to an earlier me! Happy New Year, Kimberly!

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  6. This post hits home today. January is sort of designed for soul-searching, and bless you for tackling it, but I know it's brutal, and raw, and difficult to be honest with yourself and others even when you truly want to be. I've been struggling with and working through some of these very sentiments, and sometimes I'm reminded of a phrase my mother often repeats: "It's none of your business what other people think of you."

    Sending goodness.
    Meister

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    1. Love that. "It's none of your business what other people think of you." Love that and will carry that around with me. Thank you. You are right...this soul searching isn't pretty. Worst is...you can't go back and have a do-over...only move forward and hopefully progress positively!

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  7. Funny; this was a difficult weekend for me, too. Brooding, needing to be alone and to reflect on things. Maybe it's the moon. Beautiful photos, and the recipe looks delicious. I wish I had somewhere other than the streets of New York to "escape to" for contemplation.

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    1. When I lived in NYC, I would put on my walking shoes (those big black military looking shoes back then) and just pound the pavement with no destination in mind. I loved it...completely along, thousands of people...no real direction. I did think that yesterday that I am happy we live where we do in Houston to where I can slip into the countryside fairly easily.

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  8. God this post just made me sit and stop myself from doing anything. ..
    I know it is life; there will always be someone who will not like me. .. will I be ok with it no but I'm sure I'll learn to live with it. .. it will hurt but I'll be thankful for the many who like me for who I am. ..
    You are a sweet person so move on and dont let these things bother you
    Between beautiful pictures!

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    1. What you said is important. We have to be bothered by others dislike of us for only so long. Analyse it, chew on it...and then for our own benefit we do need to move on and not let it bother us too much more...

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  9. Sarah, only someone with a genuinely loving soul could capture such stunning beauty..In what some would call the ordinary, you elevate to visual magnificence. Sending you love... and adoration my dear! You are a true artist!

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    1. Thank you Tamera...going to pop in soon to see how the ALT summit went!

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  10. Oh Sarah, I have a tendency to be very hard on myself and it sounds like you do too. Looking back can be so painful, and I see how many times I've handled things very badly. It's good to address our faults and try always to do better, but not to dwell too much on the past. The photos and recipes in your post are stunning. I'm glad to know you!

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    1. Thanks Jess. And I'm glad to know you too...very much needing to come over and see your beautiful photography. Do you have lots of snow right now?

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  11. Funnily enough I have one of those memories too - the first time someone actually said they didn't like me and I was 12. I have never forgotten it. Just recently someone at work told me no one liked me so I left. I know now the problem was hers because people have since sppken to me about what went down but, at the time, I was utterly devastated. I still find it hard to forgive her for what she did but that lack of forgiveness only hurts myself ultimately.
    Sarah, I think we creative homeschooling mothers are a bit feisty so not everyone is going to like us. That doesn't make us bad people who need to delve into our souls and torment ourselves. It means we pick and choose to who to keep close to us and we leave the others out of our lives. As they say, surround yourself only with those who lift you up and dump those who don't. We are who we are!

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    1. Patrick had that happen to him recently. Someone at work questioned his certification in a certain area. He quietly go up, told the person to never question his moral integrity again, and left. I think he did the right thing. The person whole heartedly refused and acknowledged he went too far. Now, they are back to working well with one another, albeit with newly defined rules of behavior. Yes, I do think my personality goes hand in hand with our decision to take schooling into our own hands. I often say..."I lead a crooked life, so my future decisions shouldn't surprise me when they go in these crooked directions!"

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    2. Sarah, I actually left the job, not just the room. At the time I believed her and resigned.
      I like the "crooked life" description. I just think of it as a little unconventional. There are more and more of us doing what is best for ourselves and our children, thank goodness.

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    3. Oh, Suzanne...that must have been such a gut-wrenching decision. And, then to find out that your self-esteem plummeted for no solid reasons at all. I'm sure you came out stronger but it must have been a tough go-round. So glad that you are in a better job today.

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  12. Very romantic dinner idea, and your photos are gorgeous, they are really touching! You are a true artist!

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  13. In a recent post, a blogging friend of mine talked about the necessity to know the "why" of our thoughts and feelings. Why do I believe what I do? Why do I think that certain things are right or wrong? Why do I persist in a behavior that I know is not good for me? She challenged readers to examine a "why" in their own lives. For me - I chose to question (and am still questioning) why I choose to hold on to past hurts. They must bring something to the table - but what? I certainly don't feel better, act better, etc. as a result of bringing up these old hurts in my memory. For me, I think that there is a safety in feeling victimized or hurt - I feel a certain justice in it - though it's false. So now what - how do I move forward and let those things go? Easier said than done.

    We are all flawed humans, Sarah, every one of us - including those who may never see the progress that you made and are continuing to make - that is what makes them flawed as well. I wish you well on your journey.

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    1. Very interesting words, "They must bring something to the table". Sometimes I think it is the "glass half full/half empty" scenario. Are we born with a tendency to see things more one way than the other. On top of that...the victimizing sounds very compatible with the "glass half full" tendencies. Your words are so wise...and I'll be mulling them over for days!

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  14. Dear Sarah, Rejoice in being Forty. By now you have earned who you are. Strength and weaknesses alike are to be celebrated. Be happy that you are strong and have strong opinions, many would give anything to be like you.
    I remember turning forty and I remember feeling self assured, welcoming the challenges that would lie ahead. ox, Gina

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    1. Thank you Gina. I do rejoice at this stage of my life. It makes me wonder what maturity comes next...but I don't want to wonder too much...I'll "milk" this decade as long as I can!

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  15. Wow, I love your pictures Sarah!!! Beautiful!

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  16. Wow..so much beauty here - both the introspection...the imagery..the fabulous mouthwatering recipes. I think - for many of us women who have been raised to 'please' - coming to the realization that we'll never please everyone is a tough one. A little self-compassion..a little self-love..a little self-acceptance - all combined together help us change and grow. We're all works-in-progress..always changing. It's never too late to begin again.

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    1. "it's never too late to begin again". I understand that so much better lately. I wonder if I have raised my own daughter "to please" before other more important criteria. I'm not sure. She is naturally introverted so has less "issues" with people. Ha! Time will tell and I'll be fascinated to watch. Thanks, Marcie...see why your words and photography give me so much joy!

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    2. I think we are all wiser in our 40s as we achieve a sense of who we really are. It takes time to get to know ourselves. It may sound strange but it is true. Lovely photos of a misty England.

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  17. Perfection in reflection! So enjoyed the written word and images ... as well as delicious shared recipe. A true labor of love, Sarah.

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  18. Sarah, what can I say, your stunning photos of beautiful misty landscapes fit so perfectly with your thoughts in this post. I think every now and then we pause or are forced to pause and re-examine our life and path. With that comes the past and memories of what one thinks one did wrong. Learning from past experience is good. Just don't forget the present and the fact that you're a very loving caring person. When such times hit me I've tried to remember Max Erhmann's Desiderata. I'll be thinking of you.

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    1. Thank you Christine. I think moving into 40's is like having your eyes opened wide more than ever. A wonderful decade so far.

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  19. Bah, girls can be so mean sometimes. But I've been wrestling with the same thing. How much do you care about what people say about you? How much should you care? It's taken me awhile to reconcile who I am, what I'm about and what I won't apologize for. And I recognize that in 10 years, that will probably change. But it's okay as long as I am kind

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    1. What you said is so simple, but I think you have the key, "As long as one is kind." Kindness, true kindness goes such a long way.

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  20. I love the 40's, it's given me the wisdom to know when I'm wrong in an instant instead of after it is too late. Freeing actually, letting those worries of what people think slip away. January is not my favorite month either, I've been trying to absorb myself in different arts as an escape. Your photography is just breathtaking my dear.
    -Gina-

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    1. Yes, that is true...I can't fell it in the moment when I am veering off course. I can actually have a dialog with myself right there in the moment to get myself to a better place. I am just so darn opinionated!

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  21. I turned 40 last year and had a very contemplative time about this "milestone" in my life. Like you I thought about the good and the bad and also went on a search. AS for what people say: well you can never please everyone and I stopped doing that a long time ago. There will always be someone you is envious, jealous, or does not like the way you look, talk, smell etc. So be in balance with yourself and those who love you for what you are. That's what matters.

    Last weekend I was thinking I need to make a big Sunday lunch with a roast and all the frills. You motivate me with this!

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    1. Searching for the balance this year...much needed. Meeta! I would have put you in your early 30's, for goodness sake!

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  22. Hi Sarah! I cannot tell you enough how much I love reading your words. They always speak to me and give plenty of food for thought. This is yet another fantastic article -thanks so much for writing and sharing it.

    We are all flawed. A huge leap into improving ourselves is being aware of our flaws.

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  23. I firmly believe that we are all works in progress til the very end and change is possible if we want it and accept it into our lives. I hope you find the answers you're looking for.

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    1. You are right, Sylvie. Wanting and accepting change sound so simple and tidy. Then we apply it and find out it is quite the challenge!

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  24. I think everyone want the ability to change our "flaws". But in many cases, what we see as flaws in ourselves others see strengths. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't change those, but we can learn to use them in the best way possible (like a tool) instead of just whenever it happens (like being outspoken. I would love to be more outspoken :D). But we, as others and you have stated, are works in progress and we may never become "complete" but that's what makes each of us unique in the end.

    On a completely different topic; I'm totally in love with these photos. The fog and cows (I'm in love with those bovines) as well as the delicious looking food!

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    1. That is so funny you say you want to be more outspoken. My daughter would like to as well. I try to imagine what that must be like because I am always telling myself...listen...stop talking so much!

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  25. What a lovely blog and what an extraordinary post! I loved each and every word - including the comments. I am 66 and saying to my self, OMG is this a sister that I did not know that I had. I have spent a lifetime changing because I really do wish to be the best that I can be. Through out my lifetime many, many people have not liked me - and I could care less. I am very outspoken and work at toning it down so that I do not hurt others. You are very cool! I love your honesty!

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    1. Thank you Raven...in this new blogging world, I have met so many like-minded people. I never thought that would happen through blogging and it takes time, but now it has become invaluable to me.

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  26. i am so happy i found your blog. (through jeanne @ collage of life)...i wish i could sit over a cup of tea with you (or a glass of wine :)
    i'll be 45 this year..and although i feel this is the happiest time of my life (our family of 6 just moved to paris!)...i still have so much work to do. i'm getting there.
    looking forward to reading along and trying some of your yummy looking recipes. cheers! :)

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    1. Oh, I love Jeanne's blog. Don't you love the new pots she just got delivered on that teeny tiny truck? Paris? Are you kidding me? Please, you must have a blog because I am a huge francophile. What a dream! I assume you know the blog "French Essence"...her coffee table book sits right on my coffee table and I love looking at the photos.

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    2. sarah..oh yes i read french essence! and i have both of her gorgeous books on my coffee table as well. i told myself this year i was cutting back on computer time..i have spent so much time reading through your blog..but it's been like therapy! again..so happy to have found you. :)

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  27. Geezzz....I appreciate you, your honesty, your ability to share captured beauty with us through your outstanding, misty photos of cows in the mist...
    God is working on me every day, every moment of every day and I am truly blessed that he doesn't give up because I am a work in progress.

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    1. Hi Ory...I was thinking of you because Riley is going to start volunteering again soon! You are so sweet with you kind words...these were also photos in the Texan countryside. I'll bet your gardening ideas are swirling with the mild winter we have been having.

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  28. I love your post and your photo's and that meal.....yum! I'm with Ory here, God continues to work in my life as I allow Him to and because I know he has created me and loves me I can trust Him in all He takes me through. Be blessed!

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  29. Sarah! My friend, Pam, above (Paris) told a gaggle of girlfriends of you. Oh, my....the minute I began reading, my innards twisted and turned. I immediately said to self: "Oh, I would do anything to take a walk with this gal." And, I possibly could. Houston? Me too. Woman...I am STILL soul searching at 57!!!! Your photos and words are how my mind THINKS...I do not quite get them on paper as eloquently. I am so very thrilled I 'found' you. What a blessing - what a gift you are! Here's to walks through the fog to clear our minds of it!

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  30. Sarah! My friend, Pam, above (Paris) told a gaggle of girlfriends of you. Oh, my....the minute I began reading, my innards twisted and turned. I immediately said to self: "Oh, I would do anything to take a walk with this gal." And, I possibly could. Houston? Me too. Woman...I am STILL soul searching at 57!!!! Your photos and words are how my mind THINKS...I do not quite get them on paper as eloquently. I am so very thrilled I 'found' you. What a blessing - what a gift you are! Here's to walks through the fog to clear our minds of it!

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    1. What I love most about your words is "a gaggle of girlfriends"! Doesn't that expression just put a huge smile on any woman's face. Thank you for your soul searching comraderie.

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  31. Sarah dear - You have a gift. To put on paper and capture through your lens what is in our soul. You always make me smile - not always the ha-ha sort but often the wistful sort. Because I can see myself mirroring your feelings and knowing that at every one of us at some point or the other has or will go through this moment. Your thoughts about your 20's bought me to chuckles..so true.

    I hope my life brings me to Houston one day - because I can't wait to have a cuppa with you and I hope yours will bring you to D.C so we can grap a cuppa at my fave little place in Georgetown. Something tells me, we'll get along famously.

    I need not comment on your pot roast or the potatoes or the gravy. Because your food as always is splendid!

    A warm bear hug to you my friend (in lieu of words),

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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    1. Thank you Devaki. You make my face beam with delight. No doubt at all we would hit it off completely. I love following the stories and meals of your life in the NE.

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  32. What an evocative post. It certainly arouses similar feelings in me - particularly those of being a pleaser and not understanding why people don't like me. I turned 50 in September and can't figure out where the time has gone. Surely, it's not 35 years ago that I lived as a carefree teenager in Rome...

    I do hope you will continue to write - that is one of my life's dreams - and you do it so well.

    Your photography and recipes are rare gifts that deserve nuturing, too. One thing that distiguishes artists is the ability to FEEL things, and probe them, and react to them.

    Wishing you a lovely Spring.

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    1. Its funny how I never wanted to consider myself as anything artistic. Artists don't "make money". It's a frivolous path to follow. But, we end up, no matter what we do, on that natural path of who we were initially. Thank you Susan.

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  33. I have changed so much ever since school, high school, work life. Every few years when I think back at who I was and what I did, sometimes I feel proud and sometimes I wished to go back and erase few of the moments. Change is constant my dear and you are amazing at what you do :)

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  34. All uploaded looking delicious.Red wine is a type of wine made from dark-coloured grape varieties.

    Red Wines

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  35. Awesome pictures in your blog. I just like it very much. Excellent roast beef with red wine. Every like it very much.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Best Italian Red Wine
    Thanks.

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