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A Look Back: 10 Years Ago

So much can happen in a decade. People grow. Interests fade. And yet, we march on. We connect with communities, nurture relationships and seek inspiration. In the spirit of the upcoming "holiday" associated with love, I'd like to remember a few events from 10 years ago that will forever inspire me to appreciate the people, places and things I love most.


In February of 2003, I went to England.

In fact, 10 years ago today I was waking up in another country for the first time.

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I had decided to take a semester off between junior college and university and, if I'm being honest, the opportunity to visit England with my aunt and nana was a big reason for that break. We were only going to be there 12 days, but I didn't want to lessen the excitement of travel by lugging along giant text books and prepping for make-up exams.

We visited every tourist spot we could find: Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare's Globe, Harrod's, you name it. We also had a chance to visit family. My napa, papa, dad, aunt and uncle came to America by ship in the 1950's, but we still have family across the pond. Meeting some of them for the first time was definitely a highlight.

I'm sad to say that I haven't traveled outside of the United States since then -- not even to Canada or Mexico! We've had such a great time visiting places here in the U.S. and haven't really felt the pull from far away places -- yet. That said, we're in the process renewing our passports. We're always watching the travel deals and you never know when an overseas travel opportunity might present itself, right? Right.


I opened my first email from my husband 10 years ago.

This guy. I'm not sure that I've really written about it here, but my husband and I met online 10 years ago. Mmmmhmmm... that's back when we had dial-up, ya'll.

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I specifically remember heading to the lobby of our London hotel to check my email because I only checked it once the entire trip. I paid the nominal fee to use the computer, logged on and there it was: a match.com email from the man I would marry. A few short weeks after my return, we went on our first date and the rest, as they say, is history! We got married in 2008 (photo above) and have been attempting to live life to the fullest ever since. It's hard to believe that we met nearly 10 years ago, but I'm so glad we did.

Can we take a moment and raise a glass to the internet? People thought we were nuts to be searching online for love. Yes, we were young and everyone else was meeting in bars (I'm not even going to begin discussing the success rate of those encounters), but we gave it a shot... and it worked.


10 years ago, I had no clue how studying literary greats would shape my future.

If you told me 10 years ago that I would be reading and understanding Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales in Old English or delving into the authorial intent behind the works in Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, I would have called you crazy.

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While I was taking a semester off from school 10 years ago, I was also preparing to finish up my English degree at California State University, Sacramento.

You must know this: I have terrible handwriting, I can't speak in public to save my life and I produce fairly crappy first drafts. However, I have read great works.

I learned more about Native American history through literature than I would have ever learned from a textbook. I had time to absorb both the classics and contemporary works. I studied authors who dedicated their lives to the appreciation of nature (they've had a profound influence, if you hadn't noticed).

I was also a writer 10 years ago. I wasn't paid for my work and the results of my efforts were often questionable, but I wrote everyday -- in notebooks, on the old Compaq, in the margins -- and I loved it.


It's amazing how much can change in 10 years, but what really strikes me is just how much remains the same. While there have been bumpy roads and uninspiring moments, I'm still exploring a love of travel, building a true partnership with the man I love and aiming to read and write as much as possible.

Here's to discovering what makes us happy and sticking with it!

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Your turn: How have you all changed in the last 10 years? How have you remained the same? What "loves" have you found that stand the proverbial test of time?


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Recipe: The One With All the Rum

When most people smell rum, they probably think of tropical drinks. You know, the ones with those tiny umbrellas? Well, when I catch a whiff of rum I think of Christmas at my Nana and Papa's house. Yes, the deliciously strong smell of alcohol synonymous with pirates (yo-ho-ho, anyone?) conjures up fond memories of my British grandparents.It's not as strange as it sounds. You see, my family, both immediate and extended, show love with food. For generations, we've been offering up goodies in times of great joy, terrible sadness and everything in between. My Nana and Papa were no different.

At Christmastime, they would get to work in the kitchen creating goodies like peanut brittle, mince pies and Christmas pudding. The standout for me, however, was the simple rum ball. Some people in our family love them, some don't. For those of us who do, the rum-laden treats are like gold.

Now, I know it seems early to start sharing favorite Christmas recipes, but stay with me. These goodies are best if made well in advance and kept in the refrigerator to... ahem... cure.

The best part of this rum ball recipe has to be that it only involves 5 ingredients: walnuts, vanilla wafers, honey, rum and cocoa.

Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder

We recently scored a huge bag of walnuts from my in-laws, which is awesome. Walnuts can be a bit pricey at the store, so we're always grateful when we can get them for the low, low price of a hug. :)

Let's break this down:

The walnuts and vanilla wafers act as the base for the "cake." This time around, I used my pathetic little dorm-sized food processor (a grown up food processor is definitely on my Christmas list this year), but I've also just chopped the walnuts and used a rolling pin to grind up the vanilla wafers in a plastic zip lock bag. As far as consistency goes, it's really up to you. I like processing everything to a fairly fine consistency (think cookie crumbs), but some would rather have large chunks of walnuts in their version of the recipe.

Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder
Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder

Once you've chopped everything, it's time to add the honey and rum. The honey acts as a sweetener (obviously) and helps bind everything together. The rum adds moisture and, of course, flavor.

Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder
Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder

Once you mix everything together, it's time to get to rolling. If you're like me, you're cool with just estimating the amount dough you need to make a nice golf ball-sized rum ball. I'm sure there are folks out there worried about each treat being the same size. You could probably use a melon baller or small scoop to ensure consistency, if you're interested.

After rolling comes the final touch: a coat of cocoa:

Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder
Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder
Recipe for traditional rum balls via Jennifer E. Snyder

When you're done, you'll be left with dozens of delicious holiday treats ready for the festivities!

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Holiday Rum Balls:

  • 3 cups crushed vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup rum
  • Cocoa to coat

Mix first 4 ingredients well. Shape into balls and roll in cocoa. Keep in an air tight container in refrigerator.

If you're planning on giving these away for the holidays, you can easily double or triple the recipe. I also find that I end up adding a bit more honey and rum to this recipe at the end, so adjust according to your taste.

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The second best thing about this recipe is that there are substitutes for every ingredient. Prefer graham crackers to vanilla wafers? Go for it! Have an affinity for almonds? Use those instead of walnuts. White corn syrup can be used in place of honey to help keep it all together and, believe it or not, you can trade out the rum for brandy or sherry. Even the cocoa can be swapped out if you have Nestle's Quick on hand (in fact, some prefer it).

'Tis the season to work with what you've got, so it's no surprise just how many variations of this recipe exist. I say experiment and make them with whatever sounds good to you.

Me? I'm sticking with rum. :)

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Anyone else have fond holiday memories associated with alcohol-infused treats? Spill it, people. Link up in the comment section if you have a tasty recipe to share!


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