Winter Magic and Mystery

Writing a letter with a pen

This December, discover the magic and mystery of the winter season.

December 2011

Dear Friends,

Last month faded silently into the past as we embraced December and started the final chapter of yet another year in our lives. Unfortunately, with the new month came a horrible cold and bronchial cough that takes nearly forever to shake. At last I’m on the mend though, and just in time too!

As for so many of you, December is a hectic but joyful month filled with plans to see friends and family. We were supposed to start this month with a visit to Arkansas to watch our dear friend Regenia exchange wedding vows with her new sweetie. But illness knocked me upside the head like a breadbox and rendered me immobile, so we were homebound and I slept the week away. Don’t you hate it when that happens? I guess we’ll just have to catch up with them during our next visit or hope that they head east and pop in on us.

Because I’ve been sick, we haven’t been doing a whole lot of cooking either. What’s the point when you don’t want anything more than broth and crackers? But Heather did whip up a few dishes when I was feeling up to eating, so you’ll see those in the days to come. Cranberry Zucchini Muffins, Macaroni and Cheese, and White Bean Chicken Chili are a few of the recipes you can look forward to.

We’ll be cooking up plenty of foods later this month, however, when we host our annual winter game day event. This is one of our most beloved gatherings, as our house is packed with good friends from morning till night. The event is very casual, we watch movies, play games, and laugh until our sides ache. We’re also incorporating a recipe exchange this year, so for every dish our guests bring, we ask them to provide the corresponding recipe so we can share them with everyone in attendance. We may even feature some of those yummy recipes here this year, so stay tuned.

One of the perks of being homebound with a cold is that I always have plenty of time to read. This month I’ve discovered new authors, rode a rollercoaster of suspense and solved a baffling mystery. In a few days, you’ll find out more about this thrilling novel when we announce our new book club selection. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Something I can share with you now, however, is great savings. We’ve been working hard to build our collection of retailers so we can feature our favorite products and brands with you at exceptionally low prices. Simply visit our Shopping page and you’ll discover great deals on everything from books to gourmet treats, stylish clothing to kitchen gadgets and vacation packages, all at rock-bottom prices!

Whether you’re shopping, diving into a good book, cooking up a storm or getting together with friends and family, we hope you have fun this December. Enjoy your time off, take in a movie or two (we can’t wait to see the new installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise and new Spielberg adventures TinTin and War Horse), and settle into the winter season. This is the perfect time of year to relax, recharge and indulge in a season filled with winter songbirds, snowball fights, snowmen, eggnog, snow angels or piping hot cocoa by a flame-filled hearth. Whatever you’re doing, make it memorable and enjoy the magic of the moment.

Love,
Jathan & Heather

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Together You and I

Mums in the pumpkin patch

Huge pumpkins and beautiful mums announce the arrival of fall with big, bold color.


October 2011

Dear Friends,

Recently we dropped in on one of our favorite people and caught up on life, sharing our challenges, triumphs, and dreams. It was one of those philosophical conversations we all have at times that was filled with what Oprah always calls, “Aha!” moments. By the end of the afternoon, we walked away with a pocketful of little epiphanies, but one stood out more than all the rest: If we put aside judgments and live with an open heart, we rise toward greatness and make great strides toward finding peace and ultimately, happiness.

We loved that thought, for it was so profound, and yet really quite simple. Leave judgments in God’s hands, and simply love one another. Perhaps British novelist C.S. Lewis put it best when he said, “Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.”

With that thought in mind, we decided to make a concerted effort to simply enjoy the people that populate our lives and demonstrate affection for them in whatever way we can. For an elderly housebound couple, we baked a cake and delivered it to their home. When we accepted a last-minute invitation to share a garden-fresh meal with friends and neighbors at their tiny cottage, we prepared our favorite Bread with Herb Butter and a tossed salad to share with everyone there.

Yesterday, we hosted our Fall Fiesta and served some of our signature Mexican and Tex-Mex inspired dishes like Toasted Flautas, Janet’s Chilaquiles, Spanish Rice, Chicken Enchiladas Salsa Verde, Seven-Layer Dip, Chunky Guacamole with Serrano Peppers, and more. The addition of libations like Margaritas, Strawberry Daiquiris and Pina Coladas rounded out the meal. But it wasn’t just the food and alcohol that everyone enjoyed, for all of us embraced the opportunity to gather together, make new friends and laugh with old ones. Happiness ricocheted through our house like a lightning bolt in a thunderstorm, striking all of us to the point that we thought folks were going to spend the night. We love parties like that! Nothing makes us happier than when everyone has a good time and asks to be invited again soon.

This month, we’re also taking pleasure in the tasks of the season, like planting mums, buying pumpkins, going to college football games, and canning and freezing the last of summer’s veggies. We also begin planning our big parties for later in the year, including our annual Fall Feast, Winter Brunch and Game Day, and a new celebration, our First Feast. It is a lot to do, but we love this time of year with cooler, crisper weather, tons of color, and reasons to indulge in seasonal treats like caramel apples, hot cider and yummy pumpkin pie.

We hope you have the opportunity to make special memories with good friends this month too. Take a group of your best pals to a local festival like the 42nd Annual Ohio Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville, Ohio or meet some of your favorite authors at Books by the Bank, a local book festival here in Cincinnati. (If you go, be sure to visit our friends Brock Clarke and Michael Griffith and pick up one of their latest books!) Or you can simply host your own little soirée or movie night and hang out with good friends. Whatever you do, great people make for special memories and many more chances to add a little more happiness to your life. Live well!

With love,
Jathan & Heather

p.s. We love Dolly Parton‘s new song, “Together You and I.” We feel that it really embodies the epiphany we talked about earlier. Watch the fun video for this tune below.

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Summer is ablaze with activity

2010 University of Cincinnati graduates

June means more graduates, like those pictured here during the 2010 University of Cincinnati's Hooding ceremony and class of 1970 recognition.

June 2011

Dear Friends,

With the arrival of June, hot summer nights are officially here! After an especially wet and stormy May, I think we can all agree that we’ll take the warmer temperatures as long as the countless tornadoes stop their rampage across the country, like the ones that blasted through Joplin, Missouri and Woodward, Oklahoma leaving devastation and death in their wake. Having grown up in tornado alley, I’ve seen firsthand what happens when these storms appear without warning, so I’m always urging everyone to pay attention to the sirens and meteorologists when they say we need to seek shelter. Stop what you’re doing and go to the basement, the hallway, or wherever you need to go to be safe. Sure, it can be inconvenient to get up in the middle of the night and go to the cellar when you have to work the next day, but nothing is more precious than your life. So please pay attention!

In addition to the heat, June is always bustling with activity. A number of our friends are graduating from college this month with degrees in Journalism, Engineering, Organizational Leadership, and Dental Hygiene Technology, among others. It is always exciting to see where everyone goes after that long, hard-earned walk to accept their diplomas and start the next chapters in their lives. We have the best time cheering for them all, snapping pictures and exchanging hugs and well wishes before they move on to different cities, new relationships and exciting careers. So if you’re one of those new graduates, whether you’re graduating from college or kindergarten, we send you big congratulations and best wishes for all your future endeavors.

We also start planning for summer vacation this month. Whether you’re dipping your toes into the salty surf of the ocean, swimming at the lake, exploring a museum or hanging out in your backyard with friends, we hope you get some well-deserved time to relax and enjoy time with a good book (like May’s book club pick, Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris) and people you love. Like many of you, we’ve had to modify our plans somewhat and do some things a bit closer to home due to the high cost of gasoline this summer. Visit our Calendar page for some activity ideas that are inexpensive (some entirely free) and filled with music, food and fun.

Speaking of food, check out some of the awesome recipes we posted last month, including reader favorites like our light and fluffy Belgian Waffles or Blueberry Muffins. If your summer plans include a cookout, little goes better with hamburgers and hot dogs than our Slow-Cooked Baked Bean Medley and our Spiced Corn on the Cob. Summer is also the perfect time to serve up a vegetarian menu like our Grilled Portobello Mushroom Steaks served with Creamy Polenta with Mozzarella Cheese and Maple-Thyme Roasted Carrots. But the carnivores in your family will love a slow-cooked Cuban-Style Pork Roast and Yuca with Mojo Sauce. They can even use the leftovers to make hearty Cuban Sandwiches later in the week! Have a hankering for something sweet? Try our Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumb Cake, Mango Daiquiri Sorbet, or our classic Banana Pudding.

Whatever your summer plans include, make sure to kick off your shoes, sip something cold and delicious, lather on the sunscreen and make some lasting memories.

Love,
Jathan & Heather

Celebrate our planet this April

April 2011

Earth Day is in our hands 2011

Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22, although it may be commemorated on other dates in your community.

Dear friends,

Despite tax season, April is a fun month. The weather is generally a little warmer, spring is officially in full swing, and people’s spirits are generally much better than they were during the chilly winter months. Plus there are several great events to look forward to!

As we’ve told you before, one of our favorite charities is the Nature Conservancy, whose motto is “Protecting nature. Preserving life.” This year in celebration of Earth Day (on April 22nd), they are encouraging all of us to get outside, have fun and explore nature as a family. They’re also urging people to “picnic for the planet,” by hosting picnic meetups in 199 cities around the globe.

The Earth Day Network is also urging people to pledge to live and act sustainably. You can find great resources about how to reduce your carbon footprint on their Website, find ways to get involved and can even make donations to the cause.

But Earth Day also means the release of a brand new film from Disneynature, African Cats! The film follows two feline families striving to make a home in the wildest place on earth. See African Cats during opening week, and Disneynature will make a donation in your honor to protect the savanna these cats call home. And before you watch the movie, be sure to visit the African Cats Website for educational information and downloads that can help you teach your children about the science and geography themes in the film.

And if you’re in Cincinnati, you can join us down at Sawyer Point at noon on Saturday, April 16th for the 41st Anniversary Celebration of Earth Day! There will be tons of stuff to see and do for the entire family, including animal presentations featuring an aquarium and petting zoo, a rock-climbing wall, great food and live music.

Then, on Friday, April 29th, head on down to Great American Ball Park for UC Night at the Reds! The Reds will take on the Florida Marlins and the park will be packed with UC alumni. Buy reduced rate tickets, then be sure to show up early for the pre-game activities and FREE giveaways in the Reds fan zone!

The reptile house at the Cincinnati Zoo during Zoo Blooms

Color explodes at the Cincinnati Zoo during Zoo Blooms throughout the April 2011.

Get out your garden gear and prepare to plant a tree, because the 29th is also Arbor Day. For those of you who aren’t sure what the Arbor Day Foundation is or how the day gained popularity across America, you can check out two articles Jathan wrote last year about the trees in our lives and the origins of Arbor Day on his philanthropy blog, Some People’s Lives.

April is also a great time to start planning your summer garden. You can visit the Cincinnati Zoo for ideas during the entire month of April as the park explodes with color during Zoo Blooms. This event always fuels our imaginations, particularly since spring makes us anxious to plant tons of herbs, veggies and flowers of our own. Because we plant the majority of these plants in containers, be sure to watch for a future blog post about that. We’ll give you some great tips on gardening, including inexpensive ways to make your yard look phenomenal!

And in case you missed them, be sure to explore our site for great food ideas, including everything from kitchen basics like heart-healthy Chicken Broth to our favorite Southern Fried and Southern Barbecued Chicken recipes. Then check out family favorites like Tomato Soup with Mozzarella Croutons, Classic Cinnamon Buns and No-Bake Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Cookies. If you love Italian cuisine, try our authentic Italian Minestrone and Rigatoni with Rapid Ragu. For something spicy, kick up the heat with Hoppin’ John, a traditional Southern dish with just the right amount of heat. There’s something for everyone on Jathan & Heather!

So what are you waiting for? Get outside, commune with nature, plant a tree, take a picnic, watch a game, or plan your garden. It’s spring, and there is no better time to enjoy the great outdoors!

Love,
Jathan & Heather

p.s. Watch the preview to African Cats below!

Letters for our friends

Whether you’re a new acquaintance or an old friend, we love to catch up with you. That’s why we’ve added a new section to the site, Notes From Jathan & Heather, where you can get a sneak peak at what we’re up to each month. Take a quick glimpse any time during the month to read our personal monthly note. You can start right now by reading this month’s message.

December 2010

Dear Friends,

December is always one of our favorite months of the year. Winter arrives and suddenly the trees and rooftops are painted with glistening, dazzling white after the season’s first snowfall. Family and friends have time off from work and school, and suddenly our home is filled with gaiety and laughter as folks drop in to visit, indulge in a rich cup of hot chocolate with warm cookies straight from the oven, and share stories from their lives or simply swap a bit of juicy gossip.

December also brings our annual Winter Brunch and Game Day, which is one of our favorite parties of the year! Unlike our Fall Feast event, this party is casual and fun and is so much easier to put together. Friends from all over gather in our home to snack on delicious casseroles and baked goods, watch old movies, meet new friends or catch up with old ones, and play games which usually make us laugh until our sides ache. It’s truly one of the most jolly days of our year.

Whatever you find yourself doing this December, we hope you get the chance to spend a few moments with some of your favorite people (hopefully in front of a cozy fire) making treasured memories with those you love.

Love,
Jathan & Heather

© 2010 Jadeworks Entertainment.

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