Monday, September 14, 2015

Inception...and my 100th post!

Sweet Bellas (and Bros).... THIS is my 100th post!!!!!!

Now I know that many serious bloggers achieve their 100th post quite early in the game,
often within their first year, some within their first 6 months, and some even sooner.
But considering I was birthing babies the same time I was birthing this blog,
this feels like a huge milestone in my corner of universe!!!

Who would have thought  that 5 years ago when I first began Mangiabella,
with no real clear idea on where this all was going,
that my 100th post would be dedicated to announcing the release of my first children's book,
brilliantly illustrated by the immensely talented, internationally collected artist Shelbee Mares?!?! 
The timing is uncanny!

It's been quite a journey, 
filled with twists and turns, 
mountains and valleys,
and all the suspense my heart could desire...

And so, here we are....
100 posts
a handful of babies 
5 years later... 

*cue trumpet blasts & confetti*

It is with great pleasure that I announce the release of:

An inspirational children's book about a little girl who talks to the moon each night.
She asks deep questions, the moon answers profoundly using spiritual metaphors.
Poignant illustrations undoubtedly bring this tale to life with sweeping, dreamy, whimsical elegance.

Available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble 
and Westbow Press (A Division of Thomas Nelson/Zondervan)

click HERE to purchase

I've been asked several times about how this story came about...
You know, I always thought the first book I'd have published would be Mangiabella related, 
a compilation of my favorite inspirational writings 
with some recipes in some sort of gift book/coffee table style book...and I do hope to still do that. 
But as Providence would have it, this is the story that was meant to emerge first, 
and this is "the story" behind the story:

Inception began one quiet November day in 2010, 
when my husband sought to take a few days alone in the mountains 
to fast and pray in search of some clarity and direction.
He had just been laid off from his job, and we were still in the midst of trying to recover 
from a series of financial blows onset by the shifting economy,
so it seemed like an opportune time to take a step back, re-evaluate, 
and make a plan for how to proceed in the days to come.

While he was gone, I was overcome with the strangest feeling 
that I was supposed to return to Taos, NM, the place of our former residence,
for 3 days, and visit with 3 specific women, for reasons unbeknown to me at the time.
This wouldn't be an easy task to accomplish, considering I had a 2 year old and a 9 month old, 
but it consumed my thoughts in such a way  that it's difficult to describe.
Deep in my spirit I truly couldn't shake the feeling 
that I was supposed to do this, even though I had absolutely no idea why.
My husband returned from his excursion brimming over with refreshment and enthusiasm, 
eager to share the details of the alchemy regarding all of the things that transpired in his time away.
When I explained to him the mysterious, yet relentless, feelings I had about visiting with these women, 
he exhorted me to make arrangements and go immediately without hesitation.

To detail all of the remarkable events that unfolded that weekend 
would be another post in itself, but what I will share is that:
1) The first woman I met with handed me a gift for my daughter, 
a whimsical children's book, and said, "I could see you writing books like this." 
I smiled and chuckled, but didn't thing anything more of it, 
after all, that wasn't my genre, 
and I had no experience writing for children.

2) The second woman I met with was incidentally 
the very woman who would 2 1/2 years later 
illustrate the book that I hadn't written yet.

3) The third woman I met with was in her 70's. 
She lived in this really cool earthship out in the mesa. 
She had prepared a lavish feast of treats and spoils for me, 
and spent the entirety of our time together 
speaking bold encouragement to me with such authority 
about unexpected and exciting things that would be unfolding in my life 
that my head was spinning trying to process it all.

A few months later, I was giving my then 2 year old daughter Sophia a bath 
when she began singing the words "Jacq & The Moon" over and over again. 
There were no other words, but she sang them over and over 
with different inflections in her voice. 
When I asked her what she was singing, she replied 
"oh, just a song I made up about a little girl, who's nickname is Jacq,
 who visits the moon, so she can think some thoughts with God."
 It was so profound to me that such a small child would ponder so deeply.

my husband and I were visiting a church that some old friends attended for the very first time. 
A complete stranger walked up to me after the service 
and delivered a powerful and encouraging "word" to me, 
and that evening, I awoke in the middle of the night with the complete words to this story. 
As I stared with bewilderment at the words on the bright screen, 
all I could think was, "What is this? A song? A poem? 
A story? What do I do with it?" 
The next morning I awoke with the notion that this was a children's book, 
and it was time to seek out the next step.

A few weeks later, I emailed my artist friend a few prayer requests, among which, 
was for some clarity in what to do with this children's story...
Do I illustrate it myself? Do I look for an illustrator?  
Do I look for a literary agent and pursue publishing? 
Do I consider self publishing? What are my next steps? 
A week later she replied and asked if I might consider allowing her illustrate it, 
and oh by the way did I know that she illustrated another children's book, 
and to go on Amazon and type in her name to check it out....
I had NO idea that she had illustrated a children's book!!!! 
When I looked it up, it hit me right in my spirit. 
I wanted the story of Jacq & The Moon" 
to have a fantasy-like, dreamy whimsical feeling to it, 
and her illustration style was a perfect fit...and so began the collaboration in August 2013.

The publishing process was a learning experience, 
and there were plenty of obstacles to overcome.
 But we told those mountains to "get out of our way" at each step, 
and today we are celebrating the finished product of this inspirational tale. 
The target age group is ages 0-8, but likely most endeared by the kindergarten age. 
It's words are uncomplicated, and the cadence is pleasing 
with rhymes and simplicity that children usually ingest at that age. 
That being said, it is just as easily impactive for an older audience. 
Jacq's story is my story. It's your story.
 It's anyone's story who wakes up every day and has to find 
the courage to chase away fears and overcome obstacles...
for anyone who longs to be reminded that they have their own 
unique gifts and talents that they can tap into at any time...

May you discover the power and mystery behind the words and illustrations, 
and be inspired to walk out your destiny with confidence knowing that


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Curb Your Wanderlust & #trytheworld from home!

image courtesy of:

“People who love to eat
are always the best people.”
~ Julia Child

Oh, how I do love surprises. Don’t you???
My intrinsic passion for food & adventure had most certainly been piqued when my Marrakesh box arrived.

Like a treasure hunter looking for gold, I joyfully sifted through a heap of colorful confetti so as to unearth this delectable plethora of exotic fare.

Images of Sira Quiroga flooded my mind, walking down the open market streets of Morocco (as her alter ego Aris Agoriuq, of course), weaving through a labyrinth of snake charmers & textile merchants, contemplating over mounds of fragrant colorful spices while the scent of mint tea mingled with incense hangs heavy in the air.
image courts of

What??? You haven’t read “The Time In Between” by Maria Duenas, or seen the adapted for television series (also known as “El Tiempo Entre Costuras”), the intriguing espionage story set against the backdrop of Spain & Morocco in the 1930’s/40’s about a young woman who used her talents and moxie to rise above calamity & became a prominent couture designer amongst the highest echelons of society, AS WELL AS an undercover agent for the Allies during WWII, sewing secret messages into the seams of high fashion garments? Le sigh. Add that to your list Bellas.


A culinary plan began to emerge as I unpacked and examined each mouth watering treat. It was time to play.  

Included in my box was:

A package of Dari Organic Whole Wheat Couscous, definitely a Moroccan staple. Easy peasy to prepare.

A bottle of Dip & Scoop culinary argan oil, handmade by Berber women in Southwestern Morocco (fair trade). It’s nutty buttery taste was delicious, great for using as dip for flatbread, or to top off salads, veggies or fish.

Tajini couscous sauce. This sauce was bomb diggy. After sauteeing my veggies in argan oil, salt & garlic, I tossed them with the couscous sauce. Delish.

Villa Jerada Kefta Rub. Awesomeness in a jar. A blend of spices including cumin, morita pepper, mint, coriander, cilantro, cinnamon, & paprika…this is what I used to spice up the Lamb Meatballs. 

Orientines biscuits, "Croquants a l’Ecorce d’Orange” - a tasty sweet little cookie with zing that would pair delightfully with some mint tea.

And finally, Titus sardines in oil. My husband is all over this one…he declared a “sardine & crackers” party to be in order quite soon, and although I am not a sardine lover, I shall oblige. An opportune time to step out of my comfort zone, wouldn’t you agree Sweet Bellas?

Also included, was a card with an itemized list of the aforementioned & a culture guide filled with movies, music, recipes and insight to the customs, lifestyle, heritage and traditions of Marrakesh. Cool Beans.

So, what tasty concoction did I whip up? 

Kefta Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Moroccan Style Vegetables & Couscous. A side of toasted Tandoori Naan & Roasted Red Pepper Hummus to accompany. The end result: hadshi bneen (This is delicious!)!!! And I must say, the experience curbed my wanderlust…for the evening ;)

You know how very much I enjoy tasting the beauty of life and sharing it with you Sweet Bellas, and so, if you have a penchant for adventure and intrepid taste buds, but seem to be a little short on funds to book a trip out yonder, give #trytheworld a whirl.

Visit them at ~ Peeps like CNN, HuffPost, ABCNews, Travel & Leisure, FoxNews, Wall Street Journal & NBC are singing their praises.

Plus, they have a great promo going on, subscribe for 2, 6 or 12 months, and get a Paris box free - Oui Oui !! Free Shipping. Free Returns. Pause or Cancel anytime, no hassles. You also can purchase a one time gift for a foodie lover, or purchase a subscription as a gift. 

So many options….life is delicious….Mangia!!!!

What about you? Try any great new subscriptions lately?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


love the silence,
just before a kiss
between lovers lips.
The stillness of his body,
entwined with mine.
Children in bed.
A house at rest.
coming to an end.  

HATE the silence,
after harsh words
between lovers lips.
Waiting. Waiting. 
Standing over a freshly dug grave.
A suffocating moment.
The doctor's results.
The call that never comes.
A rapist's breath,
before he unzips.
Somewhere, a cold, steel blade,
is touching someone's wrist.

love the silence.
Mornings on the porch.
Sunlight on my face.
Thoughts trickle
from reservoirs deep.
A crisp, blank page.
Quiet contemplation.
Submerged in prayer.
A holy moment.
A deep exhale.

The sky is gray and gloomy,
silver raindrops drizzling ever so gently.
The silence was truly golden this morning,
but sometimes it's not...
sometimes it's deafening, isn't it?
Just pondering the juxtaposition of it all.

Somewhere out there, 
someone is soaking in the silence...
Somewhere out there, 
someone is drowning in it.
Maybe it's you.
If you're feeling overwhelmed this morning,
I'd love to pray for you.
Shoot me an email at

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Something Worth Celebrating...

Our youngest son has officially mastered potty training,
and can go through the night with no accidents.
It appears we have officially retired the diapers 
*arms raised to the heavens ~ chorus of hallelujahs rising in the air*

This is a bittersweet milestone, of course.
Another season passing by.
It marks the end of an era, really.

I could tell you, with some kind of perverse pat on the back,
that, in so many words, it means I’ve “survived.”

You know, survived the baby phase.
A bazillion diaper changes.
The toddler years.
oh Lord, the teething.

But, all I’d REALLY be saying,
is that I survived MYSELF.

My own nature.
My selfish tendencies.
My impatience.
My ideologies.
My temperament.
My way.
And above all, my fears.

My children have exposed my flaws,
uncovered my weaknesses,
and revealed my fallibility with pinpoint precision.

Of course, this has been absolutely vital in 
inspiring personal growth & necessary change.

And so, I suppose, at the end of the day,
that IS something worth celebrating ;)

Can you relate?
Funny how our children 
become some of our greatest teachers, 
isn’t it?

I believe that children's “formative years” 
parallel parent's “transformative years,”
and soul ripening is a beautiful thing.
What about you? 
Have you had to get over yourself recently?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I could hear them coming.
“Sleestacking”across the living room with their stuffy noses.
*for all of you “Land of the Lost” fans out there*
Our two sons, dragging their blankets,
were making their way to the side of our bed.
They slept so much later than we expected! Yesss!!

“Haaaappy Morning!!!!” 
our oldest son beamed, grinning ear to ear.
They climbed into bed and giggled and snuggled 
and summoned us to make breakfast.
“I huuuungry, so so huuuungry,” says our youngest, 
while rubbing his belly, and batting puppy dog eyes.
My husband smiled as he squeezed them saying,
"Pretty soon WE'LL be dragging THEM out of bed.”

Yes, in the blink of an eye, 
they’ll morph from toddlers to teenagers, 
and it’ll be US urging THEM to get up, 
as they desperately hold on to their pillows 
murmuring “my preciousssss.” 

Our daughter has graduated from baths to showers.
*although she still loves her luxury baths with bubbles, just like her mama*
She picks out her clothes for school, 
and lays them out with matching hair accessories.
She helps around the house, and with her brothers…
and when I reach to help her with something,
she holds her hand up and declares, “no, no…I've got this mom."

But it wasn’t long ago, when she was our little freshie, just home from the hospital,
and we’d burn hours staring at her in the bouncer. And when I say hours, I mean houuuuurs.
Just staring. Wondering what we ever did with our time before her arrival.

And, as most new parents, we’d think about how to do things “just right.”
But, soon thereafter, you come to learn 
that there is no such thing as “perfection”when it comes to parenting.
Just a beautifully gritty & complex, ever-changing journey 
of discovery and learning. Much like life itself.

I’m not the same person I was yesterday, and neither are my children.
Every day we are transforming. Growing. Together.
I’m learning how to be gracious with myself, and my children,
as I’m teaching them how to be gracious with me.
And they are. They really, really are. So resilient, and willing to forgive.
We’re learning to be patient with one another. Together.
We're learning to listen, really listen, to one another. Together.
And most importantly, we’re learning how to cherish one another. Together. 

I promised myself a few years ago, when life was brimming over,
and I was overwhelmed and overcommitted and exhausted,
that I would stop…
just stop, and downshift, and purpose it in my heart
to take the time, to make more time, for more time. 
And I have.

That I would squeeze the last bit o’ juice out of every morsel,
be fully present, savor the little moments, 
be more intentional, carpe diem and all that jazz.

That I would “eliminate the unnecessary, 
so that the necessary may speak.” (Hans Hoffmann)
That I would tap into the silent stirrings of my soul, and go deeper.
Deeper with myself. With God. With others.

That I would embrace my weaknesses, and develop them.
That I would navigate through my mistakes, and build upon them.
That I would be more courageous, hone my talents, and take more risks.
That I would speak more LIFE, and spread more beauty.

Oh Sweet Sweet Bellas, what a journey it has been, and continues to be.
The more I write, the more I discover how truly passionate I am 
about helping awaken the hearts of others,
encouraging them to step out of day to day drudgery, 
and taste the beauty of life!
To discover their God given talents, 
and SHINE!!

You see, 
YOU are part of my journey, 
as I am part of yours…
and I must say,
you’ve been the most delightful traveling companions.

Onward, Sweet Bellas, onward…

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

TP...or not TP...that is the question...

Made a toilet paper run today. 
My 4 year old son, in the center of the aisle, 
gave me an elaborate, fully animated presentation 
as to why he believed Quilted Northern was a far superior toilet paper 
to the Cottonelle we had now. 
After all, he had seen the commercial. 

Now, I admit, I may have purchased dollar store toilet paper a time or two…
you know, moments of desperation and all…
and it had, in fact, displayed inferior qualities, 
practically disintegrating in your hands before fulfilling it’s ‘duty’…
see what I did there *ahem* 
But, Cottonelle is pretty high grade *in my humble opinion* 
and I was going to state my case.

“But the Cottonelle has RIPPLES son…RIPPLES! That’s sophisticated technology right there…” 
I replied with complete sincerity, with hands on hips and titled head, 
trying to keep a straight face.

He wasn’t taking no for an answer.
“THIS is BETTER for our BUTTS Mom, TRUST ME!!!!!!” 
he said in a loud voice and very matter-of-factly, 
as he threw the 12 pack in the cart, turned around with folded arms and a scowl on his face, 
and proceeded to stand guard to prevent me from removing it. 
He’s got moxie. I’ll tell ya that much.  
Sooo, I took the….wait for it….plunge ;) and made the purchase.

Later that day, while putting laundry away, 
my 3 year old son bursts into the room and declares 
in a loud, gruff voice while pointing his finger at me, that  
“THAT toilet paper IS better for our butts!!!” 

Oh no. What are they up to in the other room? 
I’ve only been in the other room for 4.2 minutes!!! 
I rushed to the other side of the house praying against disaster 
“please don’t let there be a huge mess…please don’t let there be a huge mess…”

As I turned the corner, my 4 year old and 6 year old were 
in the hallway outside of the bathroom on the floor, 
with toilet paper stretched out between books. 
I was told *with absolute certainty* that…and I quote…
”we have 'investigated' and 'scientifically proven' that Quilted Northern IS the BEST! 
We stretched the toilet paper between the books & poured the water on it… 
the other toilet paper broke, and Quilted Northern didn’t! 
We did the test 3 times!! That’s it!!! I told you!!! It IS better!!!” 

Well there it is. 
Scientifically proven people. 
Case Closed. 

Double Sigh. 
Never a shortage of entertainment around here Bellas, 
take my word for it. 

So what does this have to do with 
tasting the beauty of life, 
and everyday beauty? 
Well, just that.
The best & most cherished moments in life are often 
those simple every day moments that fly under the radar.

Like when my husband calls out of the blue
 just to hear the sound of my voice...
how I light up when I hear the sound of his ringtone...
or how we chit chat and chuckle our way through his drive home commute. 
Sweet silliness. 

Like painting my daughter’s nails when she gets home from school 
instead of doing homework because the boys are still napping, 
and she tells me how much she loves “our time together."

Impromptu tea parties…
philosophical conversations with a 4 year old while building lego empires…
coffee with friends while talking about the deeper things of life. 

Snickering when the kids ask “what’s so funny???” 
because only Mommy and Daddy know the jokes behind the jokes…
when he reaches for my hand or I catch him giving me that look…
when our children bust me observing them doing their thing...and smile.

Enjoy the simple moments Sweet Bellas…they’re priceless…and precious…and fleeting...


Share |
Related Posts with Thumbnails