Archive for the ‘Editorial Thoughts’ Category

So, This Is Fifty

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020
Birthday cake with daisies

Last month I turned fifty.

It seems like a surreal sort of statement. Fifty? Me? Some days it feels like I have fifty years of experience in this world, and others I wonder how that much time has passed.

The arrival of my fiftieth birthday felt highly anticipated. It’s not that I was expecting fireworks or that I purposely zeroed in on it. Rather, in the year leading up to this birthday, on an almost subconscious level, I became quite reflective. What had I done thus far? What will I want to do in the coming years?

I can answer the first question quite easily. I have earned a few degrees and certifications. I’ve been a teacher, a stay at home mom, a food blogger, a CEO, a program manager, and more. I’ve been married, divorced, and married again. I have raised two children and also gotten to be the stepmom of two more. I’ve made my share of mistakes and had a number of successes, and I wouldn’t change almost any of it.

The second question is more perplexing. I enjoy everything I am doing career-wise: Editor-in-Chief of PeKu and Think Tasty; Director of Aftercare and Community at WV Stables; wine educator. Yet, I wonder: should I be trying something else, making one of these roles a large part of my day, building something more?

Outside of career aspirations, I considered other pieces of my life. Are there other goals I need to set, challenges I should embrace? What are the things that should fill my days? Maybe, rather than considering how to fill my days, I need to think about how I define myself.

What I’ve learned in this past year is that although fifty is a milestone, it isn’t a defining moment in and of itself. This year of reflection didn’t provide me with clear answers as to what I should do with my future, but it did (and still does) make me think more creatively about my prospects.

I guess what it comes down to is that at fifty I’m still figuring out what I want to be and do when I grow up.

So, world, get ready. Fifty year old me is ready to conquer adventures both seen and yet to be determined!

My Adoration of Data

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

As I took a walk the other evening, I contemplated both my love of data and the writing of this post. You see, this post was a tricky one for me to write. I must have written at least five drafts before I was semi-satisfied with my work. I had written, rewritten, and procrastinated for long enough; I wanted a workable draft that I could edit. So, I typed and deleted until I got to that point.

When I had written enough, I headed out for a walk, intending to listen to music and unwind at the end of the day. Instead I debated what it is that I like so much about data. About a mile or so from my home, I suddenly had words for it. Data for me is the science-y part of my role. It’s the reason I respect the rules of baking and accept that you need certain ratios to make a recipe work.

However, I also adore writing and words. My husband teasingly calls me Word Girl. Words are so different than data; they’re the artistic part of my role. This is the creative side that contemplates topping a pizza with ricotta and rhubarb. It’s the part of me that will debate what word to use in a sentence to make sure I fully express the way that I feel.

In my roles at both Think Tasty and WV Stables, I am fortunate that I get to embrace both of these interests. More often than not, my artsy side is seen via articles I write, recipes I create, and the passion I exude for food and horses.

However, my science side is very much a part of how I like to think and who I am, albeit less visible. I track visitor trends and update user engagement numbers. I study purchasing numbers looking for ways to increase sales. I complete these tasks for both my roles, as they each need data monitoring to be successful.

Although these tasks that I complete aren’t seen my by readers or club members, they do impact the experiences of both groups. For me, they’re not simply tasks that must be done, they’re tasks that I enjoy doing. I love spending hours digging deeper into data and creating spreadsheets. I thoroughly enjoy reviewing data, looking for trends, and determining what all those numbers mean.

Yes, I’m a recipe creating, article writing, community organizing, aftercare promoting woman who also loves working with data.

3 Things I Learned From Jigsaw Puzzles

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

More than a form of entertainment, these puzzles were the source of reflection.

Once social isolation arrived in Arkansas, like everyone else, my life changed. Weekends that used to be spent at Oaklawn, watching our horses run, were now spent at home. What to do with all of this free time? Being in a rental, and not my own home, my options were limited. There were the obvious choices of binge watching tv shows and reading books. I knew I’d need more than that. I decided to go with classic home entertainment- jigsaw puzzles.

Being one who likes a plan and system, the puzzles start with a border. Then the middle is more hit and miss. Pick a spot, find the pieces, build what you can. Both my husband and I work on the puzzles, as breaks during our workdays, while we wait for dinner to finish cooking, and to fill part of our weekend hours.

We’re through two puzzles and have begun our third. As I work on each, I learn new things that I’m trying to apply to everyday life.

1. You need to look at things from different angles. As I stand on one side of our puzzle table (AKA half of the dining table), the piece I am seeking cannot be found. When I walk to the other side and look again, there is the exact piece.

In the past year I have tried to be more aware of perspective. When someone makes a comment, although my instinct may be to react automatically, I think about what she meant. Perhaps that person was trying to be comical, but the joke came out wrong. When someone offers feedback that is not is alignment with my own thinking, it doesn’t mean he is wrong. It might just be a matter of perspective.

2. If you pay attention to details, you will find the right puzzle piece. Rather than simply looking for a piece that has a bright purple stripe, I try to note the size and what the outline should be. Then, rather than having five or six pieces to try in that spot, I might have only one or two.

Details are key to so many things. Whether it’s working on a recipe and paying attention to exact measurements or listening carefully to a friend, it’s the details that matter. A cake won’t rise well without the proper amount of baking soda and/or powder. A friend won’t feel valued if you don’t remember what’s important to her. Details are crucial.

3. You don’t need to compete in all activities. Both my husband and I work on these puzzles, not always at the same moment, but they definitely are a team effort. What I need to remember is that we’re on the same team. Whether he finds the elusive piece or I do, the puzzle is being completed. Yay, us!

Being competitive can be a blessing and a curse for me. Sometimes it is the motivation I need to push a little harder. For example when a yoga instructor offers option A (easier) and B (harder), I always go for B. Competing with myself is good. On the other hand, I may have been known to claim sections of the puzzle as MINE, so that I could complete it. Competing with someone on the same team is bad. I’m working on taming that beast.

When we started our first puzzle, I laughed. What a quaint new hobby we had! Throughout the past weeks, I’ve realized that the puzzle has done more than provide an outlet in my free time. It’s allowed me to be more introspective and focus on my qualities, amplifying the positive and redirecting the negative. I don’t think I’m going to come out of this time of isolation a fully different person, but I may be just a bit more in tune with myself.

Connecting Through the Kitchen

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Love that even through these socially distant times, our family has found a new way to come together.

My husband and I have a blended family with four adult children. Aged nineteen through almost twenty-four, they live in three different locations, and we are in a fourth place. Like many modern families we are spread over thousands of miles, literally.

Thus, even before the arrival of COVID-19 and stay at home orders, it was not often that all six of us were in the same place at the same time. There are phone calls, texts, and visits with individual kids and sometimes gatherings with four or five of us, but there aren’t many events with all six of us together.

During a phone call last week with our elder son, he and I discussed grocery shopping and dinner menus. When we got off the phone, it occurred to me, wouldn’t it be fun to share our menus? From there my food-focused brain had another thought: What if we did a virtual Family Iron Chef?

My thinking was this. There was no need for competition, especially since we couldn’t taste each plate of food. However, we could assign an ingredient, cook at our own homes on the same evening, and then share pictures in a private group.

Like any of these things, the next step was coordination. First, did everyone want to participate? They did! Next, what evening worked best for all? For last week it was Thursday. Then, with the decision made only three days before the first Family Iron Chef, what ingredient did we all have on hand? Garlic.

Thursday evening arrived. As we span two time zones, I wasn’t sure when to expect the first dishes. Slowly, they began to appear on our Facebook page. What amazed me was how much thought and creativity were put into each dish. Even more than that, I think everyone truly enjoyed him or herself.

We’ll be running another Family Iron Chef again this week. The new ingredient- bell peppers. I eagerly await the arrival of many creative dishes from across the miles!

My Newest Title: Wine Educator

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
List of classes with arrows next to the wine classes

NOTE: This article has two sections. Section 1 was written about three weeks ago and placed on hold. Section 2 was written last week.

Section 1

As I wrote last month, I passed my WSET Level 3 exam with distinction. To everyone who asks, I’m still quite far from being a sommelier, but I also know a decent amount about wine. I know that this certification is an odd/vague sort of title. What does it says about my credentials?

That’s something I’ve been trying to figure out as well. What do I want to do with this education? Yes, I enjoyed the subject itself and the challenge of learning all the material, but that was just the path and not the destination.

Being on the road this year, I wanted to figure out something that both utilized this new certification and was flexible. I know, I’m a dreamer. One option I considered was education. I was hoping that maybe I could earn my WSET Educator certificate. I learned that it may be trickier than I had thought.

However, while I was seeking ways to earn that certificate I was introduced to a number of team members at University of Arkansas- Pulanski Technical College, specifically in their culinary program. In the amazing coincidence of life, they were in need of a wine instructor for their community education program. I explained that I’d only be in Arkansas until early May, and guess what? That worked well for them!

Starting on April 1st, I’ll be teaching four wine classes. Not only will I be teaching them, I’ll also be designing the curriculum. I’m excited for this opportunity. I’ve built curriculum for elementary aged children and startup founders, I’m ready to tackle these wine courses.

If you happen to be in the Little Rock area, feel free to register to join me for one or all four!

Section 2

It should come as no surprise, but all of my wine courses have been cancelled. With COVID-19 and all of the precautions that need to be taken, classes have been cancelled for the month of April. I’d be untruthful to say I’m not disappointed; I am. However, I understand and respect that decision. It’s the right choice to make; it’s one I would make if I were in charge of the schools.

I could pout and frown, but that does no good. So, what I’m doing is building the curriculum anyway. I’ll find a new place or way to teach these courses once the world settles down. Building the curriculum will allow me to stay immersed in wine knowledge and be ready for the next opportunity I find.

Home Is Where You Are

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

There are things that we say, like the title of this article, that seem like clichés. They come across as tossaway lines, things you’re supposed to say but don’t carry weight. Then you hear that sentence or phrase in a different setting, and you realize the impact.

This year, my husband and I are on the road. We’ve been in Hot Springs, Arkansas, since the end of January. We’ll then move onto Lexington, Kentucky, for the summer and then try out another place or two before the end of the year.

So, as we are in Hot Springs for a good chunk of time, it’s kind of like home. We’re staying in a condo we’ve rented that’s nicely decorated, although it’s not our own decor. We have a well-stocked kitchen, but most of the items in there are not from my kitchen. (I did bring a few need to have items for my work at Think Tasty but not enough to make it feel fully like my old kitchen.)

During our first week here, I felt not quite in my own skin. I guess it’s like that at any new location. But unlike other moves, it wouldn’t become my own with the unpacking of boxes and firmly setting roots.

And yet, by a few days into our stay, I felt at home. I knew the surroundings and was more comfortable here. I didn’t see our clock in the living room, our artwork in the dining room, or our dishes in the kitchen, but this place began to feel like home home.

Why, then, did this place begin to feel like home? The short answer is my husband. As empty nesters, it’s just the two of us on this year’s journey. Although we don’t have a physical location that is our home, we do have each other. This cues up the oft clichéd phrase:

Home is where you are.

Overused or overly sentimental, it is true. Home isn’t necessarily a physical construction; it is more of an emotional item. Being in a different location without many of our possessions doesn’t mean that we’re without a home. We have a home because we are together.

Every place we will stay this year will neither be owned nor decorated by us, but yet each of them will be home. How lucky are we to have each other and thus our home.