Napkin Notes

Today, I listened to such an inspiring, heart warming story, that made me cry tears of both sadness, inspiration and gratitude.

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There is a father who has written notes on napkins every day for his daughter, Emma. It’s his beautiful way of connection with her, throughout all of these years. These notes bring her such joy and inspiration, and make her feel blessed and loved. Recently, her father has been diagnosed with cancer that does not react to chemotherapy, so they are just living their lives each day and hoping he has as much time with her as possible. His diagnosis doesn’t look optimistic, but he continues to live in the moment each day. He has written hundreds of napkin notes for his daughter, that will last her through all of the rest of her school years, in case he doesn’t survive.

Here is his story on USA Today.

This story is just so motivating to each of us, as there are so many struggles in life, so many hardships, yet we are faced with life each day. So, we have to try and enjoy each day we are living here on earth. As Rachael Ray said on today’s show, “Optimism is everything. If you are here to live, enjoy it and value it!”

I have to admit that I didn’t always “live in the moment” but after Julian’s passing, it really opened my eyes to the delicacy of life. Mike and I work every day, to remind our children and ourselves, that life is truly a blessing and we should try to live it and enjoy it the best way we can. It’s easy to get caught up in life’s downs, health issues, bad days, traffic, arguments with family or friends etc, and it’s ok to say “this really sucks”, but as long as in the end, we pick ourselves back up and say, “well, it is what it is, so let me make the best of it” and just try to look at the positive, happy things in our life. We have to keep in mind, that we are the drivers of our own happiness. If we allow our unhappy, sad, angry, bitter feelings to take over our life, then we are allowing ourselves to be unhappy. We can make a difference in our own life. It’s in our hands. 

So, tomorrow when you wake up, smile and say Good Morning to your family, friends, co-workers. Whatever life brings you tomorrow, know that at the end of the day, you can choose to push through that, and to be happy.

Blessing #4

We have some big news to share with you… Michael, Lilliana, Lucas, Julian and I are welcoming a new addition to our family, a new sweet little baby. We are so very excited and anticipating his/her arrival sometime in Mid-May.

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Our family has been through such a terrible tragedy with the loss of our Julian, a little over three years ago. It has been a rough road, but we have pulled it together, as a family, and we continue to show each other our endless love and gratitude. Life is quite a journey, some days are filled with so much hope and happiness and others with sadness and confusion, but we continue to live our life, together as a family, trying to enjoy each day together.

Now, we have this new little baby on the way, and it has brought us so much joy. We welcome this baby with our love and gratitude and know that he/she is a true blessing to us.

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I have finished putting together Lilliana, Lucas and Julian’s scrapbook and am so happy to be able to share these with the new baby. I believe this baby has also been touched by his/her big brother, Julian. I can feel it. We couldn’t have gotten to this place without Julian’s love all around us. Even though he is not here physically, it’s so nice to know he is living here with us in true spirit.

Of course, it isn’t always easy, there are days of doubt, worry and concern, but that is expected. Our family works hard to remind each other of all of our blessings in life and to enjoy and savor these special moments. There was a day when I was worried about the health of the baby and Lilliana knew that and wrote me a special note and included Julian’s picture on there. That meant so much to me. My children and my husband, my family means so much to me. Without their love and support, we couldn’t make it to today, but we did and for that, I am most thankful.

Our new Baby Cerrato will be here in about 11 weeks, right in the middle of my favorite season, Spring, and right after my birthday and our anniversary. It’s a special time of the year and will be even more special with his/her arrival.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

As we all know, today is Superbowl Sunday. I don’t know about you, but football isn’t my thing, but eating tons of snacks and drinks IS my thing!

jalapeno popper dip

I made this Jalapeno Popper Dip, as a special treat for my husband who loves Jalapeno Poppers, as one of tonight’s tasty treats. It is so creamy and packed with tons of cheese and the crunchy topping from the Panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese is delicious. Plus, it’s definitely got a little kick from the jalapeno peppers. If you like it even spicier, you can always add a chili pepper to this dip too.

Enjoy!

Julian: three years ago

On November 8, 2010, we welcomed our little sweet, beautiful Julian. He was born via c-section and when the doctor retrieved him from inside my belly, she lifted him up to me and said, “here’s your miracle baby” and she was right.

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When I was pregnant with Julian, I had some complications that required me to visit the antenatal unit at Bridgeport Hospital every week, for an ultrasound. They had to keep a close eye on him. Once we approached the end of my third trimester, the doctors, family and I were all jumping for joy that he was doing great and going to be born soon. It seems that my body’s complications didn’t interfere with his growth at all and I was so relieved. So, when he was born, we were beyond excited that he was finally here.

Julian

Unfortunately, that relief and happiness was cut very, very, short. Within a few minutes of his birth, the doctors rushed him over to the NICU. We were shocked and didn’t understand what was happening, since he seemed to be fine via every single ultrasound. Since Lilliana, our first born, was born prematurely, at 34 weeks, and had to spend a week in the NICU for assistance with breathing, we weren’t too concerned. However, Julian was born on time and weighed 6 lbs 11oz. so it didn’t make much sense.

Julian loved his co-sleeper but not as much as he loved sleeping with his mommy and daddy

Julian loved his co-sleeper but not as much as he loved sleeping with his mommy and daddy

Well, at that time we didn’t know he had SMA, we only found that out a couple days after Christmas. With his illness, his health was quickly dissipating and he should have gotten progressively worse as soon as he was born. But here is the miracle part. He actually got better after a couple weeks in the NICU, he was breathing on this own and feeding from my breast and bottle. It was our perseverance and our deep, deep desire to go home and be together as a family, and our love for each other, that made him succeed through those first two weeks. He was a fighter!!! and he wanted to go home with Mommy, Daddy and his brother and sister.

My "mothers day" with Julian... just a couple days after he was born

My “mothers day” with Julian… just a couple days after he was born

Even though, he suffered through many, many more tragic episodes during our stay at home, we were able to have him home with us for several weeks, especially to celebrate Christmas together. I was able to hold him on Christmas morning, cuddling with him as his brother and sister opened gifts. It was such a beautiful morning and I will never, ever forget it. It was such a blessing and so very special to have such an amazing baby, soul, spirit with us during such a beautiful, time. To this day, I believe with my whole heart, that Julian was our special Christmas miracle.

The proud Lilliana, holding her beautiful, sweet baby brother, Julian

The proud Lilliana, holding her beautiful, sweet baby brother, Julian

Cutie pie Lucas being the big brother for the first time!

Cutie pie Lucas being the big brother for the first time!

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Even though he was here for such a very short time, he made such an impact on our entire world and to this day, we all talk about him and love him every single day. He’s still our son, brother grandson, nephew and cousin. His spirit continues to live with us (but I really do miss holding him and kissing his sweet baby face).

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So, today we celebrate and honor his 3rd Birthday. Happy Birthday to our sweet, baby Julian.

Mommy and Daddy love you and that is forever!

Mommy and Daddy love you and that is forever!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Our home garden is coming to an end. This year, we didn’t plant any pumpkins so all we have left now are some green peppers. The other day, I found a large zucchini hanging out there too so today I made these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, yum!

chocolate chia muffin

These muffins are the perfect afternoon snack. They hit the right spot with the perfect amount of sweetness layered with a deep chocolate flavor. Plus, they are so moist from the addition of Greek yogurt, which I have been adding to all my baked goods for years now. It’s the secret ingredient to making the most moist baked goods, trust me!

So, bake some up today and not only will your house smell fabulous but your whole body will enjoy eating these sweet babies.

Kids Cooking Birthday Parties

As many of you know, Food Jules teaches at some local schools as part of their After School Enrichment Program. Food Jules also offers Kids Cooking Birthday Parties for those that are celebrating birthdays. This has been a growing area for us as many kids are looking for fun, new ways to celebrate their birthday. It’s a great opportunity for them to enjoy designing their own party from picking the theme, menu and being the top chef!

kids cooking cartoon

These parties are a lot of fun and a great way to introduce more children to the benefits of preparing and eating real food, especially for those kids that don’t go to our local schools and aren’t involved in our after school curriculum.

The themes and menu options are endless from Lasagna Rolls, stuffed with fresh ricotta, mozzarella and spinach from our Tutto Italiano party, to these Maple Oatmeal Scones from our English Tea party and Quiches, Waffles and Pancakes from our Breakfast All Day party. Plus, Food Jules always uses all-natural, whole grain, natural ingredients.

Maple Oatmeal Scones

We have designed many fun themes for these parties and you’ll find all this information here on our website, in our Cooking Classes section. If your child or the child of someone you know, is interested in hosting a Food Jules Cooking Birthday Party, we’d love to hear from you.

White Bean, Sausage and Kale Soup

Nothing beats a hearty, warm cup of soup during the cooler months and even though this past week, we’ve gotten quite a heat wave for October, I thought I’d share this hearty, comforting soup recipe with you’all.  We made this White Bean, Sausage and Kale Soup the other day and it was jam packed with so much flavor and nutrition, it hit all the right spots.

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I prefer using turkey sausage, as it’s lighter in fat but not lighter in flavor. There are a lot of turkey and chicken sausage varieties out there, so pick the one you like the best. If you’re making this vegetarian, you can skip the sausage all together or substitute for a vegan type of tofu sausage.

Kale has become of my favorite greens. We use it in smoothies, soups, salads and stews. If you get the Lacinato (aka Dino Kale) Kale, the leaves are much more tender then the curly kale. You can still find a lot of fresh vegetables, including kale, at your local farmers market.

Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale

Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale

This soup will warm your body, heart and soul during the cold months of winter ahead.