Guest Editor On Brickyard Buffalo

Monday, June 22, 2015

A few months ago a company I have been a fan of for a while reached out to me about being their 'Guest Editor' for a week. After reading their email I couldn't respond "Yes" fast enough. I was just excited to work with them and really wanted to share a few of my favorite things with everyone.

Brickyard Buffalo is a website designed for the all of you who love to shop...but on a budget. They curate the trendiest items out there for a price you can afford. They work with 'Guest Editors' to help with finding great products and this month I'm lucky enough to have joined the BB team.

My favorite picks include products that remind me of my son Ryan, items I wish I could have used with Ryan and a few fun Summer picks that everyone will love while playing in the sun. I hope you will check it out and find something you'll love. I've highlighted a few below and the rest you can browse on the Brickyard Buffalo site here.


This 'Live Loud Live Wild' print is very special to me. It was the phrase I came up with for my son's funeral service and it suck around ever since. Our son was very much loud and wild and we have this print in several of our rooms at home as inspiration to live our life just as our son. 


My dear friend Andrea of Tubby Todd Bath Co. creates bath healthy all natural bath products for your little ones. I wish I had this to use with Ryan. It smells amazing and once you get to know Andrea you'll fall in love with her and her bath soap. 


Lets Playground mats are really a genius invention. They come in all different sizes and colors and offer the perfect layout for outdoor activities. You can mess them up all you want and just rinse off when your done. If I had these with Ryan I would have laid it on the kitchen floor while we baked so he could spill freely. 


This photo taken by the truly talented Max Wagner caught my eye at a craft show last year. I bought it because of the red looking balloon and it reminded me of my son. Since then I've had the pleasure of working with Max and his wife and they are just the best people on this planet. There are are a few of his beautiful prints listed this week, but this one is my favorite. 


I've chatted about a these but there is so much more over on Brickyard Buffalo
Let me know if you have any favorites. 
Have a happy week!



Happy Father's Day To You Dan

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Waking up this morning I was overwhelmed with sadness. I felt the giant hole in my heart and it was so quiet the stillness was heavy in the air. In that moment I fiercely missed Ryan's loud, little footsteps pounding into our bedroom. I missed feeling his body slam into mine as he whispers "time to get up". Most mornings my mind goes through what was, but on these little holidays such as Father's Day or Mother's Day after losing our son are awful. Frankly, they suck.

It is always a fight to stay positive and get through the day as Ryan would want us to. Today was especially difficult, though after two waffles with powdered sugar and a pound of bacon it was easy to see that today was only to be fun and full of smiles. The sun was bright and Dan and I found ourselves at the beach which was exactly what Ryan would have wanted.

We missed out on a homemade card created by Ryan. We missed out on his sloppy kisses and lovingly aggressive hugs. However, we talked about him all day and remembered how he loved to eat sand and lay on his stomach while the waves crashed onto him. We felt him strong as the sun kissed out skin. We celebrated Father's Day with Ryan in the best way we could.

These little holidays can be awful with out our son.
Frankly, they can suck.
But not this time. Not today. Today was beautiful.

Happy Father's Day To You Dan. Ryan and I love you. 


We also ended the day with giant snow cones which I clearly enjoyed more than the beach it looks like ... 



We also spent some time with my own dad which was a treat. Below is my little sister and I with our dad. And our snow cones. 



Roasting Chickpeas & Indulging In Your Comfy Place

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Anytime I'm upset or frustrated I usually find myself in one of three places . . .

Vigorously cleaning.  

Creating in the kitchen. 

In bed eating chocolate while watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S reruns. 

I'm curious...Where do you find yourself when feeling extremely frustrated, grumpy, sad or depressed? We all have our go-to activities when we are really going through the thick of it. I hope you aren't afraid to unveil your comfy go-to place when you feel like crap. It is perfectly OK to admit to having a terrible, awful day and then go do whatever it is that will make you feel better. (so long as it isn't bad for you) Sometimes I feel guilty about wanting to lay in bed or create in my kitchen for hours only to leave a giant mess. However, I am a big believer in letting your body recoup in ways that feel good so you can later be the best you can be.


These last few days have been extra hard for me. I've been rotating between my bed, cleaning the bathrooms and eating chocolate with my gal pal Rachel Green. I've let myself have a few days of letting my grief get the best of me and coping in the ways that I do. I'm tired of letting my grief make me feel defeated, rather than challenged. I know I'll be up for the challenge this grief gives me once I indulge in my comfy place and gain strength to do so.

So tell me, what is it you do to make yourself laugh and feel good?

---

As mentioned above, one of the things I like to do to make myself feel better is recipe test ideas or things I've seen done that look delicious. I usually never have what I need so I substitute like crazy and leave my kitchen a giant mess. I've also been known to make a trek to the grocery store in yoga pants with a hole in the crotch and no bra, desperately in search of an ingredient. Anyways, I truly love recipes and learning new ones.

Roasting chickpeas has been around for quite some time, I know. However, I've recently learned how to roast chickpeas. They are pretty tasty for a quick and healthy snack and now I'm currently obsessed with creating different flavors. I posted this photo to Instagram and in true friend fashion you all started commenting your favorite flavors. Some of you like it hot and spicy, others like them sweet and a few of you out there just love it simple; olive oil and sea salt. For the record olive oil and sea salt is addicting!

What I hadn't seen done yet was combining these tasty little beans with one of my favorite flavors on the planet. Coconut. I decided to dream up a new flavor and share it with you all. Including a few helpful tips on how to achieve the best crunchy little chick peas known to man.


Tropical Roasted Chickpeas 
.. and tips for roasting ..



What You Need
-one can of garbanzo beans.
-2 table spoons canola oil
-1 cup coconut flakes chopped fine
-1/2 cup dried pineapple chopped
-1 teaspoon raw sugar
-1 teaspoon sea salt


What You Do
- Open a can of chickpeas. (also known as Garbanzo beans) place them in a colander and rinse them real good with cold water. These beans are very soft and easy to crush. Rinsing them with cold water is important. Warm water can make them extra soft and smooshy which isn't great when roasting.

-Once they are rinsed keep them in the colander. Grab two other bowls. Now for the time consuming part. When you pick up the chickpea you'll notice a sheer skin that coats the outside. The skin can be easily removed by lightly pinching the chickpea between your fingers. Be careful not to pinch the chickpea to hard and crush it. Once you've removed the skin a few times you'll get the hang of it. Place the skinless chickpeas in one bowl, the skins in another bowl. The skins you will throw away and yes, they look gross. Get comfy, skinning these little guys takes some time.




-After the skins have been removed the beans have to fully dry. I like to place them on a baking sheet lined with a dish towel and cover then with another dish towel. I let them dry for a good hour or so because moving forward. If you roast them with out drying completely they won't get as crispy.



-Once the chickpeas are ready to roast, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon pad. Bake the chickpeas naked (with nothing on them) at 400 degrees for ten minutes.

-Take the chickpeas out of the oven and coat them with the oil, sea salt and raw sugar. Use a rubber spatula to gently coat them evenly. Place back in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until dark brown and crispy. At about 2 minutes till they need to be taken out of the oven ... take the chickpeas out and toss with chopped coconut. Place them back in the oven to finish off and toast the coconut at the same time. 



-Once the chickpeas are out of the oven and cooled, toss them with the chopped dried pineapple. Keep this snack in an air tight container for up to a week.





I hope you enjoy these and indulge in your comfy place when you need to.

Happy Easter, I Love You . . . Can I Have My Basket?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

This grieve has a mind of it's own at times. It can rest aside, then awake and remind you of all the beauty that once was just a year ago. It leaves you alone with your thoughts and deeply sad. I always figured that Christmas or Ryan's birthday would be the hardest to live through with out him. However, Easter has proven to be just as difficult if not the hardest. I think because Easter was the last holiday we spent together. The day was perfect. Ryan loved Easter. The day has always been somewhat special.

Five years ago I was home with my mom. It was just two days after Easter. I was twenty five. My mom still makes Easter baskets for all of us however, now gift cards and bath products take the place of candy and toys. I remember telling my mom I was pregnant soon after I opened my Easter basket. I was crying because I was scared. The first thing my mom said after I told her I was pregnant was,

"YAY! I can make the baby an Easter basket next year! Jacqui, don't cry a baby is a blessing."

Since having Ryan, Easter has proven to be the most fun. Mostly because of the egg hunts and sugar. Ryan had my sweet tooth multiplied by ten, plus both his parent's competitive spirit. Ryan had to win, had to get the most eggs, had to get the most candy, just had to! He would say "I need to win Mom!" and in true Jacqui fashion I would say "I know baby, Mommy will help you!". So Dan and I both would run around and scout where the eggs were and try and direct Ryan to where the goods were.

Easter baskets were better than Christmas morning! We hid Ryan's basket and he would have to search for it in the morning along with a few eggs I hid. This last Easter Dan had started to teach Ryan about what it meant to be "hot or cold" when looking for something. So for a good thirty minutes Ryan slithered and snuck around the house shouting "Daddy! I am hot or cold?" "HOT?" all the while we were giggling. Dan would say "You are so cold Ry, you are freezing!!" Ryan thought that was so funny. Our last Easter morning was really, really good.

In our family everyone gives the children Easter baskets filled to the brim with all kinds of great things. So, as the day pressed on and we ventured out to visit family I instructed Ryan that he had to be kind and grateful. In the car we rehearsed. I told him "Ryan you have to say Happy Easter OK? You tell everyone Happy Easter and that you love them or else you won't get a basket." Ryan just nodded his head and then asked "Can Katy Perry come on now?" As if he were trying to tell me, relax I got this.

Forever we will remember my little determined man so ungracefully stomping into my Aunts house. Finding his Tia, giving her a kiss and then say "Happy Easters, I love you . . . Can I have my basket?"
In the moment I was horrified and told him to be nice and it wasn't polite to just ask for a basket. Everyone knew we had rehearsed. It was awful and hysterical.

I know for a fact that Heaven is glittering on this day. I know your Easter basket is full and I hope you took it easy on everyone up there. Today on this Easter with out you I will do nothing but think of you. I will live and love for you. I will get up and get dressed and find a few eggs for you. I will eat candy and laugh for you. I will remember our past Easters with a smile.

Happy Easter, I love you . . . Can I have my basket?

below are a few photos from our last Easter




Love Ry's little determined face. He was also so worried he wouldn't find them all. 



Together trying to beat out everyone at this egg hunt. Dan, these break my heart into a million pieces. You two, best friends. 




He won. He will always win. 


This was Ryan's Easter basket I put together for him last year. 


 Happy Easter to our Ryan




Dear Ryan - Eleven Months

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dear Ryan,

     Hi my little guy! I miss you so much. I'm having a hard time believing that it has been eleven months since I last held you, touched you, heard your voice. I know you can see me everyday, I wish I could see you everyday. As I sit here thinking about what to say to you a million things come to mind. I want to show you around our new home and tell you that even though you don't see your room put together just as you left it, we have all your special things tucked away safe. I need you to know that. Sometimes when I think of you visiting me I get sad because things look so different. Mommy and Daddy miss seeing your toys strewn across the living room floor, but we had to put them away because it hurts to look at them. We miss watching Disney movies with you and hearing you repeat each line and sing every song. Do they have your favorite movies in Heaven? I know people tell me that you are having the best time up there, but are you really? I believe you are . . . but you don't have me up there with you to do all our favorite things. Sometimes I worry that God or whatever angel friends you have up there with you don't know how to cut your sandwiches into hearts or dinosaurs. Sometimes I worry that they don't know which PJ's are your favorite or which smoothie flavors you love best. Do they have hip hop music in Heaven? Are you dancing up there like we used when Mommy cleaned the house and you trailed behind me playing Cars or Monsters Inc? I have so many questions that I know I just have to answer myself and believe them all to be true and glorious. Just as Heaven is promised right?

     I guess when I have questions I can look to the beautiful signs you send. All day I walk around with an open heart and mind craving signs and little love notes left out from you. I can tell you are working hard to let it be known you love your Mommy and Daddy. Ryan you are strong and I am so proud of you. You have to know that even though I don't see you anymore I still am so proud of you. It kills me to not be able to play with you or see you continue to learn at school and play with friends, but I still replay scenes from the past in my head and beam with pride.

     Do remember all the adventures we had? We had a lot of big ones like camping when you were just one and we let you crawl around barefoot. Or when we took you to the beach all those times, and how you just recently stopped eating the sand? Thinking of that makes me giggle. I spent a lot days at the beach trying to keep you from eating the sand. I miss your happy face and bright eyes when running into the waves. I miss your wiggling body as I tried to put sunscreen on every inch of your sweet soft skin. I hope you still go to Disneyland Ryan. I'm not sure how that works, but when I go with out you I imagine you with me. I just hope you still go, because that was our most favorite place. Did you see they have a new Frozen area? I'm sure you love it. I wish so badly I could have taken you myself and seen your face light up as you sang "Suuuuummmer!" Promise me that you still go with and with out me.

     We had a lot of little daily adventures too. I miss you the most when I go grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. I've been taking you there since you were just weeks old. I still buy your favorite fruit leathers and I always, always ask for stickers when I check out. I have a whole jar full of stickers at this point. When you visit our house do you see them? They are for you. Sometimes when I ask the checker for stickers I feel insane, but when I put them in the jar I imagine you smiling and saying "Fank You Mom!" I miss picking you up from school and taking you to the park or for ice cream cones. I'm sorry for not taking you the park more, I feel like sometimes when you asked we had to hurry home and make dinner or whatever it was. I remember you always asking to go the park. I'm sorry if we didn't go enough. I hope I made up for it with our crafts, cooking together or other random things I thought of to do with you. Our adventures big and little are so special and I try to continue living them with you watching from above. This life though, it is fiercely difficult with out you.

      You must see such beautiful things up there Ry. You must visit so many. I hope you help and spread happiness to anyone and everyone in need. I pray you continue to help Mommy and Daddy just as you have been. Our smiles are for you and you give us such strength to go on. When you see us know that we miss you more than any words or actions can convey. It hurts so bad, we crave you always. Mommy and Daddy will never stop loving you, we will never stop missing you either.

      How has it been eleven months? You'd think that it would get easier as the months press on, but as one year hides behind the next corner I'm filled with more anxiety and pain than ever. I feel as though I am losing you all over again. What is in store for Mommy and Daddy as we approach one year with out you? When I feel anxious and full of unanswerable questions I sit and close my eyes. I let whatever tears I have in me flow freely and I deeply imagine your tiny arms around my body with your head full of bouncy red curls resting on my chest. I take a deep breath in and I can still smell your shampoo with a hint of sweet sweat. You were always so sweaty Ryan. I think of you hugging me and me hugging you and I'm able to relax. I'm able to have hope for the future. While I hug you I feel grateful for being your momma, I feel grateful for being able to share so many wonderful memories while I physically had you. I feel immense love for you and for life. I feel calm.

    I don't want this letter to end, as I wish I could talk to you forever.
    I will write you another soon.
    I promise to continue to try hard at this life with out you.
    I love you Ryan Cruz. Mommy loves you.  


. . .  do you remember this day Ryan? It was on of our "nature walks". We use to go on these nature walks and I would ask you what you see, hear, smell. I wish I had recorded our conversations while on these walks. Sometimes we would pick up rocks or leaves and smell them, throw them. I feel angry because I can't remember all the things we said or discussed. I hope you do. I hope when I see you again you can remind me. Thank God I have these photos to hold on to until then. 






Vegan *Candy* Bars

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I feel as though this title is a trick, because really they aren't candy . . . but they are sweet like candy and have chocolate (raw cacao, but still). Also, you can't exactly nosh a Snickers if your vegan so what the hell! These tasty bars put up a good fight towards the real deal candy bar. Even if you aren't vegan these bars are still enjoyable and deliver satisfaction when your hankering for something sweet yet healthy.

OK! Fine, they could also be considered granola bars. However, if you want to get your toddler or husband in on the goodness refer to them as candy bars and everyone will want 'em!



What You Need

1/4 cup Coconut Oil
1/4 cup Raw Honey (Or if you are the type of vegan that doesn't eat honey, you can use maple syrup or agave)
1/3 cup Almond Butter
1/3 cup Crushed Raw Almonds
1 cup Gluten Free Oats
1 tablespoon Chia Seeds
1 tablespoon Raw Cacao Powder
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt

What You Do

-In a large frying pan on medium heat melt together the coconut oil, raw honey and almond butter. Use a spatula to mix together and press lightly on the raw honey to help it melt. Melt these until it all becomes one thin batter. Lower the heat a bit and continue to stir. The honey is likely to burn if you don't keep stirring.
-As you stir add the vanilla and raw cacao powder. Stir until all the ingredients come together into a thin "milk" chocolate colored batter.
-Stir in a half cup of your gluten free oats. Stir until the batter coats all the oats. Now turn off the heat.
-Stir in crushed raw almonds.
-Now stir in the last half cup of gluten free oats. Stir until the everything is coated. The batter now should be thick with coated oats and almonds.
-Sprinkle in the chia seeds and stir on last time.
-Pour your batter into a small baking dish lined with parchment paper. Use the spatula to press into all corners of the pan and smooth out the top.
-Sprinkle the coarse sea salt on top.
-Place in the refrigerator over night. Or until the bars harden.
-Once the bars have set, cut into small bars and store in an air tight container and keep in the refrigerator. These can keep for about a week.






Enjoy these! I hope a few of you love them as much as I do.


Seattle // With & With Out Ryan

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Recently, my husband Dan and I ventured to Seattle for a weekend getaway. We were lucky enough to plan it alongside Dan's 30th birthday and it turned out to be a lovely celebration in the Pacific Northwest. What a beautiful place! My love birds on Instagram detailed thousands (literally thousands) of fun, exciting and delicious places to must-see. We could have built a two week itinerary with the recommendations! On the plane ride up we stuffed all the recommendations into two and half solid days . . . which left us with full bellies, full hearts and sleepless. Literally, we slept so little. Up early, falling asleep late. Sleepless in Seattle. ;)
Aside from our own plans, the lovely souls living in Seattle had a few surprises for us. I've never traveled to a place where the locals treated me with such love and generosity. What an incredible place it was.

Below are photos from our trip. Our favorite places, Seattle's surprises and the smiles that came easy while we traveled with Ryan shining above us . . .


Since first learning about Seattle when I was little I've always wanted to see three things. Albeit they are the three most classic Seattle spots, there is something really special about seeing popular landmarks that you've only read about or seen in movies. Whats better is getting to experience them with someone special. One of my most favorite things ever was experiencing holidays and fun places with Ryan. The face of your excited happy child never gets old. 

The Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the gum wall in Post Alley was first on my hand written list. All three exceeded my thoughts. I cried when I saw the Space Needle, I kept grabbing Dan's arm saying "Look! I can't believe it! Can you see it?!" It was awesome. I took Dramamine before riding to the top, because I get motion sickness and the elevator is FAST! Ryan would have loved the elevator ride. I imagined him asking a million questions and then running around like crazy round and round the top. There was also a cafe at the top and I'm sure he would have asked for a hot chocolate. Once at the top we saw everything and the best sight for me was the house boat from Sleepless In Seattle. Once I spotted it I had a huge yearn for my mom. We have watched that movie thousands of times and I know she would have shrieked in excitement with me as we. 


We ate our way through Pike Place Market and although I hate the smell of fish I didn't mind it here. It was all part of the experience. The best places to eat for us were; Beecher's Handmade Cheese for their "World Famous" mac & cheese, Rachel's Ginger Beer, Biscuit Bitch and this place that had the largest cookies but I can't remember the name. This marketplace is jam packed with tiny places to eat which I'm sure are all amazing. We walked through each day and found something new each time.





The gum wall was seriously disgusting and incredible all at once. I don't remember how I learned of it, but once I had I'd been dying to see it in person and add my chewed art. The colors were so bright and some people even left their mark by stretching out the gum to create letters. Ryan would have loved this as all to much. He'd first want to touch it and I'd probably spend my efforts on keeping him from getting to close. Then we would have stayed in that alley for far to long as he chewed gum piece after gum piece to place on the wall. "Just one more mom, pwese!" I had mentioned to Dan in a whisper "Ryan would have loved this..." Dan agreed and as we started to walk away we spotted his name . . . 



Each day I played a wicked game. How many cups of coffee can Jacqui drink in 24 hours? I maxed out at 6 the first day and the next just settled on having 4. But Seattle is like the coffee capitol and there is a cute cafe on each corner! The coffee was gooood. My favorites were; Uptown Espresso, Oddfellows, Pegasus ... all of them are honestly delicious. 


We walked through the Olympic Sculpture Park one morning. It was beautiful. The park is right on the water and it feels so cool to walk in between giant art installations. Thank you to the sweet stranger who recommended this place to us!



Just look at this guys smile! It looks so easy and relaxed. Dan is at his best when traveling. 



I don't know where these white feathers came from, but they were everywhere and seemed to fall from the sky. Maybe there was a pillow factory somewhere I had no idea about. But I sure did love finding them everywhere we went. Maybe I look to far into things for signs from my little man, it makes me feel comfort though. I love having an open heart and really searching. I have to believe Ry is working hard up there to send me little love notes, he knows I can see them. 


One night a sweet stranger left red balloons tied outside our hotel. I ugly cried in gratitude. We left them blowing through the night. On our last morning, while waiting for our cab back to the airport Dan went and un-tied the red strings to keep. 


Jacqui & Ryan


The Fremont Troll was weirdly cool and another spot I had seen in a movie. The day we went to see the Troll it was congested with tons of kids so we didn't get any good photos. Though Dan and I stood there for a long while. Both quiet. I think we were both thinking of Ryan playing in the mix with the rest. He would have been the loudest. He would have been partial to play with the girls. He would have seen the others climb and jump off the trolls arm ... then find my eyes as to ask "Is this Ok mom? Can I do that?" I'd walk closer and try to take photos of him. 


Besides coffee, donuts were all over Seattle too. I justified a dozen because we walked everywhere!


We traveled on a ferry to Bainbridge Island which was fun and somewhat relaxing. It was windy out on the deck and I fell asleep on the ferry twice. Bainbridge was beautiful and we ate our way through that little island too. 



We plan trips that we would have with Ryan. Family trips that get us out of our reality and into a world were we feel Ryan shine warm on our faces. We feel Ryan always, but when we travel we see him in different places. We dream of his physical body with us and his soft hand in ours. For whatever reason, smiles come with ease when we travel. Tears flow too, but we lean on one another and promise each other that we'll be alright. Ryan was showing us himself in everything while we walked through Seattle . . . 

Thank you Seattle for having us and showing us three a magical time. 

 

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