There You’ll Be

Heather with Aubrey and Carly

Heather visits the Cincinnati Zoo with two of her favorite little friends, Aubrey and Carly.

November 2011

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, November is a fun month for us. We host our annual Fall Feast, when we literally cook for days and then invite all our favorite people to gather together to share a special meal and make new memories with us. But it is also a month when we tend to reflect on and define “family,” and find new ways to celebrate the folks who have touched our hearts in so many ways.

We have both been fortunate enough to have people populate our lives who truly impacted us for the better. Some of them were relatives, like my great-grandmother Catherine, who taught me the importance of loyalty whenever she had me crawl up onto her bed so she could tell me stories about Hachi and other dogs who loved and protected their masters come what may. My great-aunt Editha, whom I met later in life at my grandfather’s funeral, had a heart as big as the ocean, and taught me to bravely see the world through the eyes of an artist, to embrace the aspects of my personality that made me unique and refuse to conform to societal norms. With their unfailing love and support, these women worked their own brand of magic, teaching me life lessons I’ve never forgotten and shaping the man I eventually became.

Yet blood ties aren’t the only ones that feed the vines of our lives as we continue to sprout and grow. Friends also play an equally important role in our life story, acting as mentors, guides, and companions along our journey. Edna, a matronly friend of Heather’s, was like an adoptive grandmother who taught her to believe in herself and to forge her own path. Sandra, Heather’s best friend’s mother, counted Heather as one of her daughters and always offered a listening ear. As for me, there were men like Al, a teacher and journalist, who taught me the power of the written word and infused me with the courage to use my voice to raise awareness and affect change, regardless of people’s personal opinions. We’d love to tell you about countless others, about friends who became family, who taught us important lessons with grace, laughter, love and respect, for each of them touched us in their own unique ways and truly live on within us, as parts of us. Undoubtedly, you have similar memories too.

The reason we share these stories with you, though, is to help you realize that even small, altruistic acts of compassion and generosity, create a ripple effect of change. One act of kindness begets another. Some refer to this as karma, the golden rule, or even paying it forward. Regardless of what you want to call it, however, if we stop and really analyze the precious moments and people in our lives, this will likely serve as impetus to do something to improve the lives of others and the world we live in.

This month is National Adoption Month, when we raise awareness about adoption and the youth in foster care. Currently, thousands of children are in the system, waiting patiently for their forever families. These kids, each beautiful in his own unique way, want desperately to belong, to have families they can trust and who love them unconditionally. Perhaps you’ve known people who have adopted, or were even adopted themselves. When my uncle John was a sheriff in California, he and his wife adopted three children, rescuing them from a nightmare situation, so I’ve witnessed firsthand what a marvelous thing adoption can be.

On the flip side, however, I also understand how badly children can suffer. If you live in Cincinnati, you may have read or watched reports about children like Damarcus Jackson or Marcus Fiesel, toddlers whose lives were snuffed out by the people who should have protected them, rather than murdered them. These stories are heartbreaking and tragic, and in many ways are more horrifying than something even Stephen King would write. That’s why we want to encourage you to open your hearts and consider adopting a child into your family. For more information, including valuable resources, financial assistance, photo listings of children currently available for adoption and more, visit AdoptUSKids.org. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption also offers great links, workbooks and other informative tools to help you build your family today.

If you can’t adopt now, there are other ways to get involved and help at-risk children. Volunteer to tutor at your local schools, and in as little as one hour per week, you can build a child’s confidence and help him excel academically. You can also mentor children through Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization we’ve supported for years via donations, and by volunteering at events, and even by having Littles of our own. Helping out doesn’t have to take much time, but it will definitely reap big rewards for both you and the child you mentor. Learn about BBBS below or watch the inspiring stories of this years Big Brother and Big Sister of the year.

These days when it appears that the world is coming apart at the seams, it may sound naïve or misguided to say that we live with hope. Yet we believe that conditions will improve, that one day we will awaken and realize that the crises now enveloping our world will be a thing of the past. But until that time, each of us has to step up and pursue change, working ordinary miracles every day. As we do, perhaps we’ll make an indelible mark in someone else’s life, so one day they too will know that no matter where they are or what they’re going through, we’ll live within their hearts, always inspiring them to live their best lives and discover their possibilities.

Live well,
Jathan & Heather

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.

2Cellos

2Cellos

Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser make up the dynamic duo known as 2Cellos. Photo © 2011 Stephan Lupino.

Once in a great while, new talent comes along that totally blows everything we know about art. That is what happened when two musical rivals, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, classically trained cellists, discovered rock and roll. They have since joined forces as 2Cellos, performed on tour with Elton John, released a self-titled album in Summer 2011 that became a worldwide sensation, and have performed on television shows around the world, including the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Lopez Tonight and online as part of the iTunes Festival, streamed live from London. If you haven’t discovered them yet, watch their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” below. They’re an act you are not likely to forget anytime soon.

Prior to playing together, Luka and Stjepan had each become accomplished musicians in his own right, playing since childhood. Luka studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London on a scholarship from Sir Elton John. He went on to perform at venues like London’s Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and Vienna’s Musikverein, among others. He’s also won numerous international prizes, including first and second prizes at the VII Lutoslawski International Cello Competition in Warsaw, 2009.

Stjepan studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Since, he has performed at numerous venues around the world, including most of Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Asia and the USA. Already, he has won 21 national and international competitions and has performed twice for Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace.

Visit their Website at www.2Cellos.com or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.

September Song

Cincinnati fireworks

A Labor Day weekend tradition, the Cincinnati Bell/WEBN fireworks display by Rozzi's Famous Fireworks during the P&G Riverfest marks the end of the summer season.

September 2011

Dear Friends,

September always feels like a time of new beginnings for us. Even though autumn doesn’t officially begin until the 23rd, the Labor Day weekend is like the last blowout party of summer. Perhaps that feeling overwhelms me because I first arrived in Cincinnati in 1999, just in time to join a crowd of nearly half-million people for a day of family entertainment at the P&G Riverfest and the truly awesome Cincinnati Bell/WEBN Fireworks display. That also happened to be the weekend I forged some of my strongest friendships with people in the area.

But even as children, the first weekend in September was a time to take a last-minute vacation, go camping at our favorite state park (like Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky), or simply grill out at home with friends. Regardless of the activity, this always seems like a moment of transition, a time to get together with our favorite people and wrap up yet another summer of fun in the sun. This is when we send the kiddos back to school, brace ourselves for another year of hard work, get geared up for fall festivals, and reflect on how this summer changed us.

Last month, I wrote about a good friend who died, Nelda Paschal, and I later posted a recipe in memory of my great-aunt, Editha Hayes Spencer. When writing those dedications, I thought that even though these women are now gone, the impact they had on those who knew them was transformative. Both women were the epitome of grace, and when they smiled at someone, it was as if they sent out rays of positive energy and love that enveloped the recipient. Memories of people like them, people who truly impacted our lives for the better, make times of change, months like September, seem like the perfect time to focus on what is truly important: reassessment and fortification of our authentic selves, and the ultimate redirection of our life’s path.

Recently I read a quote by Maya Angelou that really resonated with me. She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The more I’ve thought about those words, I realized that what she said is true. There are many instances in my life where the particulars of a situation are foggy, but the emotion surrounding it still burns within me, whether someone made me feel special, loved, inspired, or motivated. But I also remember those times when someone made me feel embarrassed, frightened, appalled, guilty, or angry.

Angelou essentially raised a question that makes each of us accountable for how we treat others. We all need to ask ourselves, ‘How do I make others feel when they are with me?’ Am I hospitable, empathetic and compassionate? Or do I criticize when I should praise? When I’m unsure how to best handle a situation, do I err on the side of kindness? Of course, none of us are immune from saying things we shouldn’t from time to time. But for the most part, is love the basis of my modus operandi? These are questions we all have to answer sooner or later. Doing so now, will help us improve our lives, ease stress, find contentment, and truly feel loved.

For as long as there have been writers, filmmakers, musicians and other artists, creative people have also focused on what brings true happiness. One of my favorite songs delivers a message I’m sure Angelou would approve of. Originally featured on Broadway in Do Re Mi in 1960, “Make Someone Happy” was composed by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. I first heard Jimmy Durante sing this song on the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack in 1993. Most recently, Barbra Streisand recorded it on her Love is the Answer (2009) and One Night Only albums (2010). You can watch Streisand’s performance of this tune at New York’s Village Vanguard below. I’m willing to bet that the lyrics will haunt you too.

There are countless ways to make others happy though, and they usually boil down to putting others ahead of self or doing something special for someone else. At work, we can give the best customer service possible and make everyone’s day a little better. In our personal lives, we can give a gift or make ourselves available to others by freeing up our calendar. For Heather and I, our favorite way to make others happy is by demonstrating hospitality, cooking for friends and loved ones and dishing up something a little extra special when we do. If you want to try making something memorable for your favorite people, try one of August’s many featured recipes, including our Banana Crunch Muffins for breakfast-on-the-go or Mexican favorites like Chicken Enchiladas Salsa Verde, Toasted Flautas, and Jalapeno Creamed Corn.

Want something a little more traditional? Make our healthy Ya-Ya Chicken, dished up with Spinach Béchamel and Pasta Rouge. In the mood for Italian? Our Rotini with Sugo Fresco Giardino is light and goes great with Neapolitan Green Beans. Complete your world tour with Asian-inspired dishes like Kung Pao Chicken with Peanuts, Chinese Celery Cilantro Salad, and Cold Sesame Ginger Noodles.

Need a little comfort food? Jathan’s Split Pea Soup and Skillet Cornbread are awesome at lunch or dinner. And if you want something yummy to drink, pour our Hawaiian Breeze or Blueberry Mojito. They both go down smoothly and seem to make even the harshest day a little easier. Finish off your meal with sweet treats like Banana Cake or our gloriously pink Strawberry Dream Cake.

Not in the mood to cook? Visit our favorite new restaurant, French-inspired It’s Just Crepes, a revolutionary dining venue in Cincinnati with three locations that pack both savory and sweet goodness into a paper-thin crepe. So good!

Whatever you’re doing this Labor Day, have a marvelous holiday weekend, be safe and remember that September isn’t just the end of summer, but the beginning of what can be the best year of your life!

Love,

Jathan & Heather

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Every road leads back to you

Heather made a new little friend in Arkansas.

August 2011

Dear Friends,

I wrote an article a few years ago called “The Long Road Home” that chronicled my trip to meet family members in California who I had never met before. In that piece, I reflected on how amazing a blood connection can be and that despite time and distance, our connection was so deep and instantaneous it felt as though we had known one another all our lives.

Still, when asked about our “family,” our first thoughts are not usually about kin: the cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and others that are bound to us by blood. In fact, as we were just sharing with someone quite dear to us recently, for us our friends are the family we get to choose. This statement has never ringed more true than during the course of the past month.

Nelda Paschal

Nelda Sue Paschal died Friday, July 15, 2011 in Texarkana, Ark.

As many of you know, in July we had some vacation time and we were supposed to simply enjoy some time off around home, checking out venues and attractions that we had never visited before. We did get to do some of that, including our visit to Big Bone Lick State Park in Union, Kentucky and our trip to the Smithsonian-affiliated National Underground Railroad Freedom Center here in Cincinnati, which we’ll write more in depth about later.

The bulk of our vacation time, however, was spent back to Arkansas, where I grew up. My mom called to tell us that two of my best childhood friends had just lost their mother, Nelda Paschal. She was so beloved that the building that held her memorial service nearly burst at the seams trying to contain all her friends and relatives. There wasn’t even a question if we would go or not, we knew we had to be there to support our friends during this difficult time, so we packed up our things and made the 13-hour trek to Arkansas.

As we drove, “Every Road Leads Back to You” played on the radio, a song recorded years ago by Bette Midler as part of the For the Boys soundtrack. Since then, the lyrics to that tune have been haunting me, particularly this verse:

Old friend, here we are
After all the years and tears
And all that we’ve been through.
It feels so good to see you.

Lookin’ back in time,
There’ve been other friends and other lovers,
But no other one like you.
All my life, no one has known me better….

From the moment we arrived in Texarkana, we were warmly greeted by both friends and family, people who have known me my entire life and have known Heather for over a decade. Many of these friends no longer live in town, but have moved away to other places, bigger cities and busier lives, yet they too knew the importance of returning home to celebrate the life of this wonderful woman who died too soon.

Still, it was so good to catch up with each and every one of them, whether we were offering condolences or laughing about old times. As one of my dearest friends, Sheila, said, “This is one place we can come back to that never seems to change. We can pick up right where we left off.” Moments like these, filled with love, warmth, big hugs and good food are precious reminders of who we are, the people who helped shape us and make us into the individuals we are now. For Bette sang it best when she said, “It feels so good to see you…No one has known me better.”

So in memory of dear friends and in tribute to true Southern hospitality and home cooking, this month we’re going to share some of our stories from our own journeys. Along the way, we’ll also introduce you to some of the tasty recipes that we helped cook up with friends during our trip. Stay tuned for favorites like Pork Chop Casserole, Braised Greens with Peppers and Onions, and Wanda’s Chocolate-Strawberry Torte.

In the meantime, enjoy the remaining weeks of summer and try to beat the heat with a good book, a tall glass of your favorite iced beverage, and some silky smooth music to ease your end-of-summer blues.

With love,
Jathan & Heather

p.s. Here’s a video of Bette Midler performing “Every Road Leads Back to You.”

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment.

Gershwin: Two Ways

George Gershwin

Celebrate George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue this winter.

Music has always been a big part of our lives. As children, Heather learned to play the violin, while I spent years taking piano lessons.

Whether you’re singing in the choir, or learning to play an instrument, you’re bound to discover various composers whose works stick with you. Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Mozart. As young musicians, we learned something from each of them.

But it was George Gershwin’s masterpiece, “Rhapsody in Blue,” that captured my imagination from the first time I heard it. And Gershwin’s music continues to wow me to this day. Read more of this post