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There are many people who have inspired me over the years. Dave Ramsey, for his financial advice that turned my life around. Marie Kondo, for her wise instruction on eliminating clutter to make more room for joy. Dolly Parton, because who doesn’t love Dolly?

I’m pretty good at following instructions. The Dave Ramsey Plan, the Marie Kondo Method. If there are steps to follow, I like to learn how to follow them.

A few years ago, I had a New Year’s resolution to not waste things. There were two cookbooks on my shelf called Magnolia Table, Volumes 1 and 2, by Joanna Gaines. My husband and I had purchased the books at Target, and I had not made one recipe out of them. I decided that I needed to either start using the books or get rid of them because if I didn’t, I was wasting space on my shelf and maybe someone else could get some good use out of them so they wouldn’t be wasted.

I systematically started choosing a recipe or two each week from the books to try to make. I started with the breakfast section in Volume 1. Every Saturday I would make the next breakfast recipe in the book. By doing this, I learned how to make my own pie crust for quiche, homemade biscuits, and canned strawberry jam, just to name a few.

I also bombed quite a few recipes. I made Syrian Donuts that were the consistency of hockey pucks and tasted like playdough. I’ll have to try that one again someday. The recipes that did not work for me usually involved yeast. I was doing something wrong. The good news is that over the last two years I’ve been trying Joanna’s recipes, I’ve gotten better and better at it.

When I finished the breakfast section in Volume 1, I moved on to the breakfast section in Volume 2. I also started making the lunch recipes in Volume 1. My daughter’s friend said that the BLT Sandwiches that I made from Volume 1 were the best BLTs she’s ever tasted.

I’ve made homemade salsa, guacamole, and queso out of the appetizer section of Volume 1 multiple times for fiesta-type parties, and I’ve made several of the dinner recipes for guests too.

Every month I send my college daughter a care package, and I try to include something homemade in each one. The chocolate chip cookie recipe is a favorite, and that one ships nicely too.

I’ve also learned to make my own chicken broth and homemade noodles, and it all turned out delicious and made the house smell so good.

My resolution two years ago to stop wasting things has helped me to become a better cook. I’ve learned so much and had such a good time in the kitchen that I even bought Volume 3 when it came out this year and have worked my way through all those breakfast recipes too, and a few others.

While Joanna’s cookbooks have taught me so much, they have also worked against my other resolution to lose weight since many of her recipes call for at least a stick of butter and a lot of sugar. I’m not sure how she stays so healthy if she eats those things. She must be good at moderation and portion sizes.

Oh, well. There are recipes in those cookbooks that I know I will make repeatedly for years to come. It makes me feel good to be able to make things that I never thought I could master and after only working at this for about two years.

My mom and grandma are and were always the best cooks. I grew up with homemade turkey dinner at Grandma’s house with scratch made dinner rolls that were so light and fluffy. She also made cinnamon rolls for all of us to have at our house for Christmas morning. To this day, I’ve never tasted cinnamon rolls as good as the ones Grandma used to make.

Mom would bake Christmas cookies with us every year, and everything she touches is a masterpiece in the kitchen. This year we’re using her recipes for prime rib roast, twice baked potatoes, and peppermint patties for dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner while she’s a snowbird and in the tropics this Christmas.

Yesterday morning I made Everything Bagels from Volume 3 of Joanna’s cookbooks for my husband, daughter, and her boyfriend for breakfast. I made egg sandwiches with my homemade bagels. Never in a million years did I think I could pull off making my own bagels and have them turn out.

Thanks, Joanna Gaines, for inspiring me to cook in my kitchen. I’ve learned so much from your cookbooks, and I know some of your recipes will stir up happy memories in our house for years to come.

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone!