Monday, September 28, 2009

Stages

Some say they are seven, others say there are just five stages. However, if you have ever dealt with pain, loss, and suffering, you would know that five or seven is pretty much irrelevant. Grief if just grief.
Who decided to herd grief sufferers into a box, give them a list of steps and decide that that was the way everyone gets through the pain of grief anyway. Before anyone answers, I don't want to actually know their name.

It doesn't really help a person who is grieving to feel boxed in to a way to get through the pain. It makes it even worse when you feel like you're doing it wrong.

I lost my mom seventeen years ago, and for her I still grieve. On cool crisp fall mornings that I know she loved. For the look on her face that I never got to see when I walked down the aisle.
My grandfather, who was in my book one of the most amazing people I have known passed away five months ago. I grieve knowing I missed his last Christmas because we decided to stay in Florida last year. I grieve for my grandma who lost the partner that was her other half for 62 years.
I still grieve the children we lost to miscarriage. I grieve for the moments I longed for that will never come. The first steps, first words, first day of school, and so many more. The grief is different, but in all cases, it still sneaks up on me sometimes.
I still grieve, yet I have grieved according to the "plan". I have processed every step. Am I doing it wrong? Am I broken?

By the list, anger is number two, but I can tell you that I have felt it after number four, before number one, and again and again and again. I don't let it consume me, but the anger is still there.

I still bargain. I bargained on my wedding day, bargained when I sat getting the news that I miscarried, bargained when I knew Jim was the one and wanted to share the news with mom. I bargained back in May when I was booking my flight to let me make it there to say goodbye to Grandpa. I bargain a lot.

People ask if this gets easy, and all I can say is what I know. No, it never ever gets easy. It just get easier.

And by the way, where does happy fit into all of this? What about the moments I laugh out loud thinking back and cherishing the memories I was lucky enough to have?

I find joy in everyday. Everyday I find at least three things to be grateful and happy for. I have gotten past the stages and by all accounts, I have dealt with the loss. I am not doing it wrong, I am not a mess. I am human and I feel.

I guess I just need to say that if you are grieving a loss, any kind of loss, its okay to find your own way through it. Sit in your car and scream, cry when you want, laugh when you feel like it, smile and dance if it feels right.

Know that there is no right or wrong way, and understand that everyone does it differently.

Grief, by definition is deep mental anguish, as that arising from bereavement

Grief for those actually dealing with it is ugly and messy.
Grief, simply put, is as individual as the person experiencing it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's writers workshop time!

This week I picked two of the prompts from Mama Kats Writers Workshop.
# 3 - Tell us about Grandpa and #5 - Three things we want to know about you


#3 - Grandpa

I told you about one of my Grandpas last week on his birthday. This week I will tell about my other Grandpa, known as Papa Jerry. He passed away in May, and I have struggled with the loss since. I miss him very much and still feel guilt for not being there in his final moments and for being in Florida for the last two years away from him and my grandma. Here is my way of telling a little bit about a one of a kind, amazing man.





  • Letting me "drive" when I was little
  • $2 allowance every week (for doing nothing)
  • Werthers candies with every birthday gift
  • Pretending to be mad when I "stole" his peppermint candies
  • Letting me comb his hair..mohawks, barrettes, and spikes were just a few styles
  • Lollipops stocked in the secret desk drawer at all times
  • The handmade tv stand
  • Neon golf balls (and white ones too) stored in egg crates. Lots and lots of golf balls
  • He insisted on wearing jeans even laying in the hospital bed
  • The customary hey little lady greeting
  • Buying me the pogo ball when Dad said no
  • Buying me just about anything when Dad said no
  • Making sure Moms resting place was always clean, pretty, and had flowers
  • Friday night Fish dinners at the Moose
  • Breakfasts at Choo Choos
  • He always had a pen and notebook in his front shirt pocket
  • A gentle giant
  • Always taking care of Grandma who misses him so (married for 62 years)
  • Treating my mom, his daughter in law, like his own.
  • Always feeling safe in his presence.
It's a small small list of just a few of the little things that added up to one amazing, larger than life man. I am beyond lucky to have had such an amazing man for a grandfather.

Love you lots Papa Jerry! Missing you very much


# 5
Three things you might want to know about me

Here goes

1) Even at 32, I am still a little scared of the dark. When Jim travels I leave a light on when I go to bed. Because no one can come into the house and attack me if there is a light on....right?

2) A year ago I took up sewing and now I am obsessed.
I bought the sewing machine on a whim. I was buying fabric to re-upholster a chair and a woman was buying fabric to make a purse. She told me how easy it was, and then pointed to my purse and told me I could definitely make a similar purse with ease. One week later, I bought a beginners sewing book and a sewing machine. I have made purses, aprons, skirts, quilts, hot pads and more. I love it!

3) I wear my heart (and every other emotion) on my sleeve.
I cry when I am happy. I cry when I am sad. I laugh at my own jokes. When I am happy, or sad, or angry, it shows. I spent a long time trying to change it, thinking it was a negative. As an adult, and through my family, friends, and hubby I have realized that it's just a part of who I am. It is one of the things that makes me, well me. They like me (usually), I like me, and at the end of the day that is good enough for me.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Papa


Although I could have thought of better ways for him to spend the day yesterday, I hope it was a happy one nonetheless .

A few fun Papa Mitt tidbits...

  • He can teach anyone to play cribbage, and never gets frustrated. He may even let you win
  • He can filet a fish in record time...and make it look pretty. This may not seem that glorious, but it's impressive to watch
  • He is an example of the kind of man I looked for to be my husband
  • He always seems to have a toothpick in his mouth
  • He drove 7 hours each way from Michigan to Ohio more times that I can remember to be with my mom (his second child) when she was sick. He is also an example of the father I hope Jim is one day
  • He likes to play dress up (see below)
  • He too once exclaimed "Carrie is by far my favorite grandchild" :) (which may change after he sees the picture below)
Happy Birthday Papa Mitt! I love you and miss you!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I'll be happy when...

Prompt is courtesy of Kathy and writers workshop

Is it considered cheating to say I am already happy?
It's true you know.

Then again, I'll be happier when...
  • The tile floor that takes up 85% of our house mops itself
  • The same tile floor sweeps itself first. First with the broom, then with the Swiffer.
  • The tile floor teaches the area rug to self clean
  • Our cat Cagney brushes herself daily
  • I can have a golden sun kissed glow without sun, either real or artificial
  • My husband musters the strength to place the TP on the actual holder.
  • The Dunkin Donuts staff stop asking me "and sugar" when I say "decaf toasted almond coffee with cream only please". I know it's silly, but it bothers me.
  • People stop saying irregardless. I am sure it's listed in some dictionary, but it's really not a word, it's redundant and in my opinion a double negative. The less in regardless makes it a negative (without regard or not taking into account). So wouldn't irregardless mean NOT without regard. Either way you look at it, it's redundant.
  • Giada and I spend an afternoon getting manicures (have I ever mentioned I love her nails), having lunch and cooking together.
  • Alton Brown joins us for dessert
  • Ina, Duff, and Tyler stop for some coffee.
  • They all chat and realize I am just need some fine tuning, talk to the Food Network and give me my own show.
  • My brother decides that Melt just isn't the same without me and stops going unless I am in town
  • West Palm Beach and Cleveland are in the same county, in the same state.
  • Bacon becomes a health food
Its a good thing I am a happy, lucky girl already!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pampering for the penny pincher

We all like a bit of pampering. And let's face it, we all deserve it! If an afternoon at the spa isn't in your budget, and heck even if it is you can save a bundle with these penny pinching tips.

I love this article for pretty feet no matter how much time you have on hand. Take a peek

After an at home pedicure, complete the nails with a do it yourself manicure. You know the basics, but to get the complete spa experience give these ideas a try:
  • Soak your hands warm soapy water first
  • Push back (don't cut) your cuticles
  • Exfoliate, and rinse your hands
  • Place a moist towel in the microwave then wrap around hands (and/or feet). This is my favorite part of the spa pedicures and manicure. Now, sit back and relax. Be careful with this step, heat up the towel slowly to ensure it doesn't get too hot.
  • Moisturize, then wipe nails before applying polish to remove oils.
  • Use a base coat first.
  • Paint your nail starting on the side. You should be able to paint your nail in three strokes. (one on each side, and the middle)
  • Finish with a top coat
Finally, treat your hands, feet, and entire body with an easy homemade exfoliater. There are lots of recipes out there for sugar scrubs. Here are my two favorites:

Lemony Sugar Scrub

1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup olive oil
Lemon juice (about a teaspoon or so)

Combine all ingredients, place in a container of your choice and enjoy.

Brown Sugar Scrub

1 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup almond or olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients, place in a container of your choice and enjoy.

*These scrubs are great exfoliaters, but adding items like vitamin E, small amounts of honey, essential oils, etc. can help with extra moisturizing. I don't mess with them.
*You can leave out the vanilla and lemon in either recipe as they are mainly for scent.
*Whether you wash with soap and water first or second is up to you.
*Let the sugar do the work. You don't need to scrub too hard.

Monday, June 29, 2009

It's a process

Earlier in the year, I put the smack down on all things white flour. I read the ingredients on every label for bread, cereal, crackers, and snacks to ensure that the it was indeed made with 100% WHOLE wheat. The first ingredient needed to read Whole wheat.
It wasn't as easy it seems, and we had to make a few switches for the good cause. I purchased a great whole grain cookbook and have made muffins, cookies, and other goodies and you really wouldn't know that I had replaced the refined white stuff with whole wheat goodness. I am currently working on mastering the art of a great whole wheat sandwich bread.

This one simple change led to other healthy choices, most recently the ban of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.

Someday I will tell you about partially hydrogenated/hydrogenated oils, but suffice to say they aren't good for you and we won't be partaking in them any longer. There is a reason the FDA started forcing trans fat to be listed on nutrition labels a few years ago.

For many the jury is still out on high fructose corn syrup, but I don't really trust the Sweet Surprise commercials. I mean sure it's made from corn, but french fries are made from potatoes and last I checked no one was encouraging us to eat those.

Cutting out foods with these items seemed like the obvious thing to do. Actually doing it was a process. I spent so much time reading labels, that I think the staff at Publix were worried I would never leave.

The ingredients seemed to pop up everywhere. Even the things that seemed ok before are now banned. My normal coffee creamer has partially hydrogenated oil, the cereal bars that seemed like a decent snack have both high fructose corn syrup and partially/hydrogenated oils, even ketchup has high fructose corn syrup. I think I spent 10 minutes reading every wrap label until I found a sandwich wrap without shortening or hydrogenated oils. It was frustrating.

The search for all the answers and ok foods just led to one conclusion: eliminating, or at least cutting way way back on processed foods.

I guess I should be clear here. Lots of things are processed. Milk is considered processed since it is pasteurized to kill bacteria, frozen vegetables can considered processed. I think we all know what I am getting at though. Here is what we are avoiding
  • canned foods with lots of sodium
  • white breads and pastas made with refined white flour, which are not as healthy as those made with whole grains
  • most packaged snack foods, like chips and cheese snacks
  • high-fat convenience foods, like cans of ravioli
  • frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners
  • packaged cakes and cookies
  • boxed meal mixes
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • processed meats

I won't say it was simple, but with a bit of planning we have done well. I was never a fan of boxed meals and I cook dinner 5-6 nights a week, so most meals weren't an issue. The occasional grab and go breakfast would be tricky, as well as snacks.

Processed foods are a convenience. It's easy to grab a granola bar or snack pack on the way out the door. The best advice I can give is to plan. Each Sunday, I spend a bit of time preparing easy yummy non processed foods for the week for snacks and/or breakfasts. It's time well spent in my opinion.

My unsolicited advice:
  • Try plain yogurt and add your own fruit or a bit of honey to it. Greek yogurt is amazing and when combined with some berries makes a great breakfast. The brand we recently found makes a vanilla flavor that I love with no HFCS
  • Figure out your favorite convenience (processed) food and see if you can make it yourself. I am not claiming that everything I prepare is extremely healthy, but I like that I know what is going into the food.
  • Portion out the healthy alternatives you create into single servings. The recipe below does that. I also make a fruit salad and place it into individual servings in reusable containers. Jim can grab one to eat at the office if he is running late, and its nice to have it all ready when you want a snack.

Remember that granola/cereal bar that is now banned from our diet? Well, it has been replaced with this yummy favorite. (you didn't think I would leave you without a recipe did you)

Granola Bites

1/3 cup almond butter * (see notes)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup *
2 egg whites
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 1/2 Cups low fat granola*
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250
Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray

In bowl, whisk together almond butter and maple syrup

Add egg whites and spice and whisk again until smooth

Stir in granola and raisins

Divide mixture evenly into muffin cups.

Bake for 45 minutes on center oven rack. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on wire rack before removing from muffin tins.
Store in airtight container

Notes
* You can use natural peanut butter if you prefer. Almond butter is sold at most grocery, but I get the best deal at Whole Foods since they have several brands to choose from. Regular peanut butter has hydrogenated oils, so we avoid it. If texture is an issue, check a natural food store, deli or market. They now make a lot of different varieties of a more natural peanut butter, including no stir varieties that are much creamier and do not have to be refrigerated. Earth Balance is a good one
* You want pure maple syrup. Imitation syrup is basically maple flavored corn syrup
*Watch the sugar content in your granola. Granola with added fruits and raisins may make these two sweet. I buy the granola in bulk. Our favorite is pumpkin flax sold in the bulk section at Whole Foods

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Kitchen Challenge- Baking



Bakewell Tart/Pudding

A bakewell tart starts with a sweet shortbread crust, topped with fruit spread (such as lemon curd, fruit preserves or jam), and it finished with frangipane (a sponge like like filling with ground almonds)

Sweet shortcrust pastry

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)
15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water

Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Frangipane

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is light yellow in color and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color.

Assembling the tart

Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatized for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish. When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Notes:

  • Jim and I both really liked this dessert. Often times desserts are just to heavy and/or rich for me.
  • I was nervous when I pulled my tart out of the oven because it was so dark. It should be a little tan but I thought mine was too dark. I used wheat flour (that's all we use here) and think that may have contributed to it, however, it tasted great. Not at all burnt or too done
  • The recipe states to chill dough in freezer at least 30 minutes. I lost track of time doing other things around the house and mine sat in the freezer for a few hours. It was rock hard when I pulled it out. I had to give it about 30 minutes to get to a consistency to work with.
  • I would definitely make this again

If you like to cook and/or bake, you should pop over to the daring kitchen and see what its all about. You can join as a baker, cook, or both (like I did). It is great way to develop and test new skills without the fear of being judged or critiqued. Most importantly, it's fun!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lets travel - part two: Paris, days one and two

We left Amsterdam Wednesday morning and arrived in Paris around 1:00.

After Jims failed attempt at skipping the taxi line, a 45 minute walk with luggage and carry-on, and a series of count to ten moments, we arrived at our apartment. Jim, the great researcher found a good deal on an apartment that was close to the action, the metro, and cost less than a hotel. The apartment experience was just ok. It wasn't awful, but we wouldn't do it again.

There are just little things that I missed from a hotel. New, fresh towels everyday, knowing if something goes wrong you call the front desk and right away it's fixed. Also, we were traveling for two weeks and thought it would be nice to be able to pack a little lighter since the apartment had a washer and dryer. Here's the catch...dryer, means drying rack. Yeah, that makes a difference. Like I said, it wasn't horrible, but a definite learning experience.

After settling in, we found some lunch (croque madame was delightful) and made our way to the Eiffel Tower. It was my first experience in Paris and I was so excited to see it all.

After the trip to Eiffel Tower, along with some walking and sightseeing, we made our way to dinner. In case you didn't know, I am a foodie (I could go on and on). A lot of our time in Paris was focused on food. I had lists of places to eat. Most people search hotels and attractions. I search for food experiences.
Night one was fallafel. If you think I am kidding, check here (where there are actually several posts on the place) or here. The line was long, but moved fairly quickly and was well worth the wait. Be prepared when you get up to the counter. They are very friendly, but not exactly patient.
I didn't get a picture of the fallafel and that is probably a good thing, because I am hungry just thinking about it, so a picture would be torture.

Thursday started with warm croissants (chocolate filled) and coffee. Then it was off to Fat Tire Bike Tours for a day bike tour. Jim and I are not exactly museum people. It just doesn't do it for us. The bike tours were perfect for us. You got to see the big sites (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Ecole Militaire, etc.), and learn fun facts about them, but you skip the lines and the actual museum. Even if museums are your thing, I would highly recommend the tour on one of your first days in Paris. You learn a lot, get great tips, and it can help to decide what you want to see later in your trip. Like this tip...If you spent 60 seconds looking at each and every item in the Louvre twenty four hours a day, seven days a week it would take you 9 1/2 months to see it all. Yeah, they pack a lot in that place.

We ended the day with a stop to visit my two favorite men, Pierre Herme and Pierre Marcollini, followed by a visit to Notre Dame, and a delightful dinner.

Have you ever had a macaron? In France? O-M-G! For the record, I am not talking coconut macaroon. I am talking delicious, amazing, flaky then soft and slightly chewy goodness.

Notre Dame took my breath away. I had to just stop and stare. We stepped in, grabbed a mass schedule and walked around adoring the history and embracing its beauty.

We packed quite a bit into our first day and a half.

Here are few more pictures (not sure why some are so small). Enjoy


I was totally THAT tourist. And I loved it!

My amazing husband (for seven years now)

Lets start biking!
Luxor obelisk

Notre Dame
Stained glass at Notre Dame
The Louvre (its huge)My favorite picture of the Eiffel.

We love taking our own pictures!


Up next: Paris, days three and four.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some announcement

The saga of Jon and Kate.

I debated on this post. A lot. The thing is, I feel so strongly about last nights stunt, that I have to blog about it.

I tried to stay above it all and not feed into the papers, and magazines, and E Entertainment channel specials, and pure greed. I really, really did. But, I fell of the wagon. I honestly have not watched the show since the first season. Once it started being all about product placement, free trips, hair transplants, and constant nagging and fighting for the sake of free stuff and money.

Before I get slammed, I know that they love those kids. The kids are well taken care of. What is debatable is what you consider "well taken care of". I wouldn't think the kids were neglected if they wore hand me downs that didn't match. I wouldn't judge any ones parenting if the kids didn't have a huge house, crooked play houses, or countless trips to museums, ski resorts, and amusement parks. When you look back on your life, do you remember and cherish the material possessions or the moments of ease and peace and happiness with your family? I remember making chef boyardee pizzas from a box on Fridays nights with my family. I remember the family vacations where we drive for 7 hours to Michigan to spend time with my grandparents. I remember my parents meeting my aunt or grandparents at the Arbys in Flint (the halfway point) to do vacation drop offs. Sure I also remember finally (after what seemed liked years of begging) waking up Christmas morning to a swatch watch (wow, I'm old), and a Guess sweatshirt, but that isn't a moment played back on the highlight reel.

When it started, it was probably really about the kids. Then, once it all starts rolling in, its pretty easy to justify it all by saying "its for the kids". A huge million dollar home is for the kids? My mom grew up sharing a tiny tiny room with three sisters and she turned out just fine. There were six kids, two adults, and one bathroom. If you can overcome that, you can overcome anything. Really though, is it all for the kids?

They can't say this show didn't change them. It's clear that it did. And while that may have been good in some ways and bad in others, it's reality. They also can't really say that the show and the fame and all that comes with it didn't impact the demise of the marriage. No more than any of us can say how changing one event in our life would shape the rest. That is why I don't ever play the whole "if you could change one part of your life, what would it be game". The answer is obvious for me. Then again, that one change, would change everything else. Life isn't a puzzle that allows you to change out one piece for another. At the end of the day, every action has a consequence. Some good, some not so good.


When TLC teased a special announcement, a quote "decision to bring the family peace." I vowed wouldn't watch. Then I thought, maybe these two finally get it and to me "family peace" meant stopping the show. Stepping away from it all, regrouping, getting help and trying to save a marriage and family. Would it have paid off? I don't know, but I think anyone who takes a vow of marriage and then proceeds to bring child into that union ought to fight with every fiber of their being to make it work. If you can say you tried it all and it didn't work, then who can fault you for that. I don't know that I agree with staying together and living a lie, a union filled with hate, anger, and bitterness, but I know that every kid deserves to have someone fight for them. To step back from it all and put them first. Every child deserves to have someone who will try to write their life story filled with peace and love.

We all experience pain in some form or another. I was picked on at school, and watched my mom fight, and eventually lose a battle to cancer. I have close friends whose parents have divorced, under both civil and not so civil terms. Each persons painful experience is different. No matter how you look at it, pain is pain, and no one can shield children from facing pain and adversity in their life. On the other hand, you can try and contain the damage.

The older girls are 8, and can certainly read. Their friends and classmates can read. And if they have a computer at home, they can access youtube, hulu, and various other sites. That means that they can read that magazine headline "We might split up", or "Jon is a dirt bag", and "Kates is a control freak". Who wants to go to school and be faced with all of that. Who needs more to add to the list of scrutiny that kids already face. And more importantly, who wants to have an on air account of their parents playing he said, she said and announcing the demise of their marriage. I don't know first hand the pain of divorce. I do know from many close to me that it resonates through your life. I can say with great certainty that most don't want to think about those first moments of learning about divorce, and they definitely don't want to be able to watch it over and over again on youtube.

No one stopped to contain that damage. Why didn't anyone think, maybe selling my story to People magazine isn't best for my kids. Why didn't anyone think that perhaps playing the victim might make you feel better, but it only makes your now ex spouse look bad to your children. Who cares who wins, who cares who did what first. What matters is that your kids deserve peace.

I can't and won't say that I know what is best for this family. It may be true that two happy parents living apart is better for them than two unhappy parents living together. However, I can say and will stand behind my stance that announcing your separation, and subsequent divorce for the world to see isn't fair to your kids. Using the separation announcement as a rating play isn't fair or respectable. I won't waiver on that.

I fell off the wagon and watched last night because I was truly hoping that they would announce they were ending the show to try and focus on their family. I am disappointed I watched.

The more I think of it, I realize that maybe my post is just more fuel to the fire. Maybe it feeds into the viscous cycle. And maybe it's none of my business. Then again, they kind of made it my business when they invited me and millions of others to see it all play out.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lets travel - part one: Getting there and Amsterdam

In May, Jim and I took a trip that we had dreamed of for years. It finally come to fruition after lots of saving, planning, and research. Because after all, I am married to the man that researches Consumer Reports before buying a bottle opener. That is another story for another day.

Needless to say, after recent events, I was more than ready for a trip away. Away from real life, away from Florida humidity, and away from range of Jim's blackberry service. Seriously!

So, where did we go, you ask? Amsterdam, Paris, and NYC. I am a lucky lucky girl.

My only concern was the flight. I am a bit of nervous flyer. And by a bit, I mean crazy nervous. The quick two hour flight from West Palm to Cleveland is old hat to me, but 8 hours overnight to Amsterdam? A bit scary. So, one Lunesta and sedative later, I was good to go. So good in fact, I fell asleep at takeoff and woke up in time for breakfast just before landing.

I could go on and on about British Airways Open Skies, but who wants to hear about the flight? Well ok...Let's just say, Open Skies is all business class (or better), huge, fully reclining seats, great staff, and awesome food. When we boarded the plane for the night flight we were handed a glass of champagne, an eye mask, ear plugs and sleeping socks, as well as a really nice comfy cozy blanket. I felt high class.

There really is no other way to fly. Jim secured some crazy good deal (I wonder if it had to do with all that research he does), but I was hooked. About the food. It is real food. I didn't eat on the flight to Amsterdam, but on the way home, we had a meal that consisted of an appetizer, main dish, and dessert (all served in courses), and a small snack just before landing. This was good food people. I hope Jim is realizes that this is the flying experience I am now accustomed to. I mean, don't show a girl the good life and then snatch it away.

Amsterdam was gorgeous. We stayed at a hotel with the tiniest winding staircase. No elevators in the place and I nearly fell going both up and down the stairs many times. Still, the staff was nice and our rate included yummy breakfast each morning. Does anyone know the secret to yogurt in Europe? It is good stuff. We spent the two days there relaxing, taking walks together, and enjoying being away on a vacation together, alone.

We toured the Heineken brewery, relaxed, visited pubs, and joined a group GUIDED, INFORMATIONAL tour of the red light district.

Let's discuss what everyone wants to know about Amsterdam.
Every person who I told about our trip asked this question as soon as I completed my sentence. "Are you going to go to a coffee shop?
It actually got a little annoying, and here is why.
Amsterdam is full of charm, history, amazing architecture, and gorgeous canals and landscapes. The people there are friendly and kind and we spent one afternoon just sitting at a restaurant people watching and chatting. Coffee shops are an actual legitimate business there and people treat it as such. There rules about the amount sold, who it can be sold to, etc. It's strange to me that someone would actually go to Amsterdam just for that. We weren't going to Amsterdam because of legalized pot, and I can't imagine anyone really does. I don't want to get into whether I support or am against legalization, I just think its too bad that it's what Amsterdam is know for.

We spent two days in Amsterdam, and although I took tons of pictures from the trip, not a lot were from Amsterdam because we kept it low key.

Here are a few pictures.


One of the canal photos. And no, there is no guard rail for those cars.

See this waffel stand? I bought a waffel there Sunday night. Monday morning the place was shutdown, and Tuesday it was gone. Sorry guys!

At the Heineken Brewery. We like to dress like that on vacation. And look at my arms...I have been working out.
A stop at the Old Bell Pub. We stopped there more than once.
That crazy staircase.


Stay tuned for part two: Paris memories


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chicken Fried Rice - Dinner is served

Tonight's dinner is an old standby that we enjoy. Its easy, quick, and best of all...good!
Chicken fried rice. The picture isn't that great. It really doesn't do it justice. I need to brush up on my food photography skills.


Cut chicken cutlets into small pieces. Cook until done. Add the green onions and cook for about a minute. Transfer to a bowl.


Meanwhile, get your rice cooking. It's no secret I use boil in bag rice. You will need two bags for this recipe.

Once you have removed the chicken and green onions, get the eggs cooking. You want to get them to a nearly dry scramble.
Here's my tip for the day: Poke your egg with a fork a couple of times to get it to start to break, then whisk. I also add about a teaspoon of water to the eggs.



Add the chicken and onions back to the egg.

Finally, add your rice and soy sauce. Stir together and serve.

Chicken Fried Rice

2 bags of boil in the bag rice (or 2 cups uncooked rice, cooked)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 package chicken cutlets or 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
2 eggs, beaten
2 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Heat butter in skillet. Cook chicken until done. Add green onions and cook for about one minute. Place chicken and onions aside.

Add eggs to skillet and cook to a slightly dry scramble.

Add chicken and cooked rice back to skillet and combine.

Add soy sauce, stir together and serve.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Divine Dessert

Sundays are special for Jim and I. We pick a new recipe and cook together. We have made homemade, fresh pasta, chicken schawarma, crab cakes, just to name a few. We split up the chopping, mixing, and stirring and spend the afternoon around the kitchen island. We have a great time together and I look forward to it all week. This past weekend we made Giadas egg, gorgonzola, and pancetta sandwiches and a scrumptious dessert - bread pudding. We stepped it up and made pecan praline sauce, then topped it all off with homemade whipped cream. Lets pause, shall we and discuss homemade whipped cream.
Homemade whipped cream is amazing. It is super easy to make and it is just so much better than store bought whipped topping. (notice how its called topping not cream.). If you have not experienced the this treat, I demand that you make yourself a pie, and top with some homemade whipped cream. Or just eat the whipped cream on its own with some coffee for breakfast. I have heard that is really good. From a friend of a friend.
Don't be scared....I'll walk you through it.

Bread Pudding: (recipe follows)

Get your bread ready

Give it a nice bath in some milk, eggs, and spice


The yummy yummy in the tummy finished product. Holy cow...it was good!


Bread Pudding

6 slices day old bread *(see my notes)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins, optional *
4 eggs beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
t teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.
Break bread into pieces and place in an 8 x 8 pan. Drizzle melted butter over bread. If using sprinkle with raisins
In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread and lightly push down bread until all bread is covered and soaking up mixture.
Bake for 45 minutes or top springs back when lightly tapped.

Pecan Praline Sauce


1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans (pieces or halves)

Combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter in heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently* for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until candy thermometer reads 210 degrees. Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir well. Stir in pecans. Cover and refrigerate unused portion. Or eat with a spoon directly from saucepan. It's totally up to you.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream (bet you don't see that in the whipped topping ingredients list)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

In large chilled bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not overbeat*

Serve with your favorite dessert, or breakfast. Again...its up to you.


Notes
*I use cinnamon raisin bread. I did shop until Sunday morning, so I just pulled the bread out and let it sit for a few hour to get a little stale.
* Since I used cinnamon raisin bread, I didn't add additional raisins
* When making the sauce, be sure to keep an eye on it. If you scorch the sugar, its over. Low and slow. Slow and steady wins the race
*You need to whip the cream at a relatively high speed to get it just right. It's right when you have peaks that start to form and then fall over. If you overbeat it, the cream will become lumpy and butter like.

Monday, June 15, 2009

No Iron, No Cry

Dear any shirt manufacturer that makes a non no-iron shirt:

Perhaps you don't iron. Or its just that you since you are crazy rich shirt manufacturers you have someone else iron your non no iron shirts, leaving you ignorant to the difficulties involved.
Maybe its just some sick twisted game you play. You like the non no-iron shirt. You revel in how wrinkled it is even if you pull it out of the washing machine the moment it stops it's cycle. You sit back and cackle at the fact that it seems as if someone purposely snuck into the wash and manually put thousands upon thousands of wrinkles in the shirt. I bet you sit around a table eating fancy catered lunches cracking up about how some poor sweet wife irons the front of a sleeve only to put those wrinkles back in the shirt once she irons the back. It's mean how you have no regard for the kind sweet wife who spends 30 minutes of her day getting that shirt nice and crisp. The stock price for Magic Sizing probably soared as I ironed that shirt, spraying it over and over. You two are probably in cahoots. You should be ashamed!

Then again, what idiot buys a non no-iron shirt anyhow?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My first daring cook challenge - Potstickers

I recently joined the Daring Kitchen - a group the tests your baking and cooking skills each month with a new challenge. What is great about this group is that there is that you try a new recipe each month and learn and develop new skills. It is a fun, non judgemental group. You can post in forums for tips and help with the challenge. Everyone is in it for the love of the food and cooking and baking.

This months cook challenge was hosted by Jen at Use Real Butter and called for you to make Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers. You had to make the wrappers yourself (no cheating by purchasing store bought wrappers).
I made the wrappers using whole wheat flour and filled them with a pork filling. They turned out great. Pleating the wrappers was a bit of a challenge for me, but all in all it was great recipe and a delicious meal!

The filling - Ground pork, bamboo shoots, green onions, ginger, shitake mushrooms, and cabbage


Getting the dough together
First disc of dough for wrapping


My dumpling - not the best pleats, but they will do


Dinner is served. Nice crispy bottoms. Served with dipping sauce and broccoli slaw.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It's not you, It's me

Writers Workshop #3

It's been two months. I know, two months!
I am sorry. Things just got rough, and then we went on vacation and one thing leads to another and I start to think...."Should I even start up again?"

Where do I start, what do I say.
Then, I remember why I started. For me, for an avenue to vent and release and be me through some writing. I love comments, I really really do. Hopefully I will lure you all back.

I lost my job, and three weeks later, my grandpa. He wasn't just any grandpa. He was a friend (for real), and so many memories of my childhood have him in them.

Those two losses got me down. Really down. My friends and family know that I am not one to not have something to. I stay active. (not the exercising, healthy active - the always doing something kind of active). I can't sit still, I need to multitask and I like to squeeze as much in to my day as I can.

Well, after those couple of weeks I did nothing. I sat around watching movies, sleeping, reading the gossip columns. It was depressing. Really. I allowed myself to be that way for a while until I had a little "meltdown". Jim, my sweet loving Jim, assured me it was ok. I was grieving two losses (one more important than the other). I felt a little better, but by then, it had been a month away. Next thing I knew we were off on a dream vacation we had saved and planned for. I got back, and by then it had been over one and a half months away.

You get the idea. It got crazy, life got in the way. I was nervous to come back, but I am here. I hope you all still like me!

Thanks for the prompt Kathy!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's still half full

I have had a rough week. On Tuesday, I became part of a statistic. Jobless.

I liked my job...a lot. I was beyond shocked that it had happened to me, and four days later, the reality is still setting in. I have cried at least once every day. My sister in law recommended allowing myself to grieve the job loss, many have told me to take a few days to relax and regroup. I am doing both. It has gotten much better every day.

I am riding a roller coaster and heres the thing...I hate roller coasters. I don't like scary yet safe, I don't like not being in control of what is happening to me, I don't enjoy the feeling of panic even when it is quickly followed by joy and safety. I would never voluntarily hop on a roller coaster. Nope, I say enjoy the ride and then I find a shop to visit or a snack calling my name. I sit and people watch while the others enjoy the thrill of unknown moments of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Not knowing whats ahead doesn't really work for me.

Through it all though, I have continued to see my world through a glass half full. I won't lie and say that it's been half full every moment, but when all is said and done that glass is half FULL. The half full glass is a reminder that:
  • Jim is my rock. He was out of town when it all happened. When I picked him up from the airport, it all started to feel better. He reminds me it will all work out.
  • I have amazing friends.
  • Sometimes, even as an adult, all you need is to hear your dad tell you everything will be ok.
  • People that I called "friend from work", are actually just friends.
  • When you spend a Thursday morning cleaning, it leaves your weekend wide open

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Much appreciated

Thanks to my buddies for the comments to the last post.

Kendall...I JUST figured it out with this post. (I'm a loser), but I appreciate the support.

Heather was sweet as ever, and being reminded that I haven't had to shovel or even scrape a car window in two years helped deal with the heat.

And Amanda was hilarious. A mix of friendly advice, encouragement, and a tiny splash of motherly guilt. Classic!

Tomorrow is a new day, and I am ready to run (if I keep saying it, eventually I will believe it).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Still balancing, oh and I need some encouragement

Remember this post? You know, where I told you that Jim balances me? Well, we balance each other.
And Friday as we completed the second week of our eight week running program I was reminded why. The running program that I hate (and I won't even apologize for using that word), that I feel like a loser doing, and that I really really want to give up on. Until, as I was "cooling down" in the 6:15am heat and lovely Florida humidity, Jim said to me "Hey, its ok if you're not perfect at it, at least we are exercising, and I need you to get me up and motivated to keep going." And there is the balance. I have to tip the scales back sometimes as well.

Maybe I should back up.

You may know, and if not, are about to find out that two years ago we moved to southeast Florida from Northern Ohio. It was a big change in many ways. Many are amazingly positive, some are negative. One that is neither great or awful is the physical differences. It's hard to explain, but a friend said it best once when he said "In Ohio I am a bit out of shape, in Florida I am morbidly obese!" It's a bit of wake up. It's not just the stereotypical changes. I am not talking about the clothes, cosmetic surgery, or the cars. Sure, its a difference, but I don't care about those things. I haven't changed the way I dress (Jessica would still probably put money on me being the first to where a sweater with snowman buttons to a PTA meeting), the things I value, etc.

So let's just put it out there, sometimes it's hard to feel like you are in a sea of fit people and not be there yourself. I have often said that my weight didn't matter, but being fit did. The numbers on the scale don't mean as much to me as knowing that I am in shape. And the thing is, I could use some work.

We have taken great strides in eating better, but neither of us were really exercising. A few weeks ago Jim told me we should start exercising together. I, in a moment I will forever look back on with great regret, said "Why don't we start a running program?" And like that, it was done.

We found a program called "From the Couch to the 5K". Over the course of eight weeks, through interval training, you work your way through the program and are at the end, able to run a 5k. There are no promises for speed in the 5K, just the ability to endure and run the distance. Pretty simple right? Well, I would have thought so too. Then there was me on Friday, sweating and trying to breathe at 6:15 in the morning (and btw it's like 70 and humid at that point already).

I wanted to quit, and Jim kept encouraging me. I kept thinking, six more weeks, just get through it. Then the moment happened. I realized that he needed me for this. To get him up 45 minutes earlier than normal, to make him do this, to help us both. CRAP! It's my turn. I can't keep whining, and hoping we can quit. I have to make this happen, I have to be the balance. Did I already say CRAP!

How do you runners do it? Did you ever hate it? Is it bad that I have to remind myself to breathe? Am I loser because I struggle to run 90 seconds straight? How many Ibuprofen do you take before, during, and after each run? Are you suppose to lose 8 gallons of sweat during your run?

The truth is I want to enjoy this. I want to want to keep doing this after eight weeks. I do.

Do me a favor please. Send me comments and emails and tell me I am a loser if I can't do this. Tell me to push through this program or you will make fun of me. I need a kick in the pants.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lost in Translation

Jim and I are planning a vacation. Part of the trip will be spent in Paris. We are both excited, and recently ordered a phrase book so that we could communicate in French. I won't be able to speak fluently, but I think its respectful to at least order a coffee and say how ya doing.
The phrase book arrived the other day and I decided to flip through and get started. As I was flipping through I noticed a few unusual phrases. It made me think, "Who in the honk would need to say this in any language, let alone a tourist just trying to get by using a foreign language?"

Here are a few examples of the phrases I am speaking about:

I am married but...
Um, really? Now this one isn't that odd, but I find it unnecessary to need this phrase. I mean, if you are buying a phrase book, you probably aren't going to carry on long conversations with singles. So, what do you just walk up to someone in a club and say "I am married but...."

Do you want to arm wrestle?
Seriously? This made me laugh out loud. Perhaps instead of the customary nod that guys use in the US to greet each other, the French arm wrestle. Or maybe the way you tell a chef the meal was spectacular is by challenging them to an arm wrestling contest. Thoughts?

I only eat insects
OK..this one is plain strange. Perhaps if you were an American frog this would come in handy. Otherwise, when would you ever need to know this phrase? Lets think about this, when was the last time you said to someone "I only eat insects"? I get "I am a vegetarian", "I am allergic to garlic", etc. But I only eat insects. That one baffles me

Did someone fart?
OK, sorry if this one is offensive to anyone. But here is the thing: We wonder why we get a bad rap as tourists, and I think I figured out why. We travel to other countries, can't ask for directions, but go around asking if they farted.

I am really excited for our vacation. I just hope I don't think I am ordering a latte and end challenging Jim to a duel with a local

Friday, March 20, 2009

Weighing in...

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I converted to weighing ingredients when I bake. It is much more consistent and ensures accuracy with your baking. I resisted the idea at first, however after reading several cookbooks and articles (and with Alton Browns prompting), I realized this was the way to go.

It can be a bit tricky since not all recipes include weight. I was able to find weights for AP flour, sugar, and brown sugar. Now that I am making a switch to whole grains for baking, I will eventually have to find weights for whole wheat, and white whole wheat flour. Luckily "King Arthur Whole Grain Baking" uses weights.

To illustrate the benefit of using a scale, I conducted a little experiment. A cup of all purpose flour should weigh 4 3/4 ounces. I had Jim measure out 1 cup of flour (scooping out of the flour canister and then leveling off by sliding the knife across the measuring cup), I measured 1 cup of flour as I normally would in the past (same method as Jim), and I then measured 1 cup of flour using the scoop method recommended on websites and food blogs. This method tells you to fluff the flour, scoop it in to your measuring cup, and level it with the scoop.





We weighed each of the three measurements and here are the results:
Jims "cup" of flour weighed 5.3 ounces
My "cup" of flour weighed 4.6 ounces
My scooped "cup" of flour weighed 4.4 ounces

None of these weighed 4.75 ounces and my scooped cup weighed nearly one full ounce less than Jims.

Convinced? Give it a try. It really will make a difference in your baking.

Here is my scale. It was around $20. My recommendation is a scale with a tare function. This means you weigh your flour, hit tare and the scale goes back to zero. Now you can weigh the next ingredient in the same bowl. Keep weighing, taring, and weighing in the same bowl. One bowl is surely better than eight measuring cups to wash.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In just three minutes or less

I am back on Kathys Writers Workshop

I can......

Make a yummy latte. Technically Giovanni can, but he belongs to me so that counts as something I can do. (Giovanni is the coffee machine)

Empty the dishwasher

Tell a corny joke...Why was the math book so sad? Because it had a lot of problems!

Remind myself of things I should be happy and grateful for

Call my Dad and get cheered up (he is sweet, but he gets right to the point)

Leave a comment on a blog (subtle hint)

File my nails

Find something funny (and clean) on YouTube...like this or this

Remind you all that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. (Really, pay attention people)

Buy a new cookbook at Amazon that I am super excited about. King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. I'll let you know how the recipes work out after this weekend.


By the way..I really want to be friends with Giada De Laurentiis, and Alton Brown as well. I love Giadas cooking, and her nails are awesome. Really, every time I watch I want her manicure. And Alton could answer all my food questions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Taking action

March is National Colorecal Cancer Awareness month.

My mom was just 39 when she lost her battle with the cancer that began as colon cancer and eventually spread.

In light of that, here is some information that take note of:

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It is equally common in men and women. An estimated 148,810 people will be diagnosed in 2008, and an estimated 49,960 people will die from the disease. It is also one of the most preventable cancers, because it develops from polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous.

AT RISK

  • Men and women age 50 and older
  • People who use tobacco, are obese and are sedentary
  • People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
  • People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as long-standing ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
  • People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer

RISK REDUCTION AND EARLY DETECTION

  • Be physically active and exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains.
  • Consume calcium-rich foods like low-fat or skim milk.
  • Limit red meat and avoid processed meats.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Don't drink alcohol excessively.
For more information go to this site

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'm back, and I'm in business

I have been in a bit of a funk lately. I'm snapping out of it, and what better way to get back in the swing of things than to tell you I am an Etsy shop owner. Check out my site for fun, cute aprons!

I'll be back with more later!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You say it's your birthday? It's my birthday too!

I turned 32 today! Holy cow!


I don't feel old, or different. I am however reminded of how lucky I am.


The calls, emails, text and facebook messages. Cards and gifts that arrived over the last week, all reminding me how blessed I am.


Nik, in true tradition and fashion started birthday week last Wednesday. I revert back to the age of five when it comes to birthdays. I simply can not wait to open anything that arrives in the mail. Nik knows this and clearly marked the box letting me know I could open early.


Jim and I celebrated with friends at Melting Pot on Saturday. I got the cutest latte cups, and Jim surprised me with a purse and matching wallet from Dooney and Bourke. The boy knows how to give gifts.


PJs (my fave) and lotion courtesy of Jessica and Allison, gift cards to Joann Fabrics from Mom Richmond, Joe and my co-workers (oh, how I love that place) money from my parents (which will go well with the Joann cards) and cards wishing joy and happiness from family. There is a even package still set to arrive from Trish, which means my birthday will last even longer.

Tonight we had pizza and breadsticks for dinner. And my birthday cake was Pizza Hut chocolate dunkers. Works for me!

I am spoiled, and I know it. I don't deserve it, but I try to return the love and kindness.

I use to make big plans for the future and gauge my happiness, my success as a person, and my life based on those things. Married, by this age, kids by this age, etc etc. Now I take time each year on my birthday to look back briefly at the year past, and remind myself how lucky I am. To have had the last year, to have another to look forward to. I get to share a birthday with an amazing husband, awesome friends, and an amazing family. I have met so many of my goals, and there a few that I have not. It's ok though. I am a work in progress and so far, I think its all turning out pretty well.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

On my mind

For Mama Kats writers workshop

A list of ten things on my mind this week (in no particular order)

1. If the neighborhood security guard will ever stop laughing at me since they had to come and show me how to turn off our smoke alarm. You mess up flat iron steak ONE time....

2. If I will be considered the old parent when my kids are in high school since I am almost 32 and still don't have kids yet.

3. How much I miss my nieces and nephews

4. How many seconds would I last before Gordon Ramsey made me cry

5. Do people REALLY think Punxsutawny Phil will predict the weather.

6. Does Ang still want to change her name to Punxsutawny Phil?

7. My grandparents

8. Is it possible I should really be turning 62? I just started a quilting class. No joke

9. When a recipe calls for 1/2C nuts, chopped do you measure then chop, or chop then measure? Things that make you go hmmmmmmmmmm? (for the record, I chop then measure)

10. What makes Sonic Cherry Limeade so addicting?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's hard to find the words

It's hard to know what to say as I sit and cry, hope, and pray with other blogging friends for this little girl who is in the fight for her life. Her name is Cora


And now the family of this little girl named Tuesday whose family sad goodbye to their sweet 2 1/2 year old yesterday.

I do not have children of my very own, but I know that NO parent should experience this.

Perhaps today you hug your babies tighter, you appreciate your spouse more, and you look to those around you and be grateful and thankful for every moment you are privileged to share with them. It kind of makes you stop and think doesn't it?


And now I say this

Cancer -
I hate you.
I know hate is a strong word, but it is actually a kind way to describe what I feel for you. I hate you with everything inside me.
I am united with Kathy in my hatred for you and agree with Meg and want to punch you in the face.
I won't even get into what you have done to me, and my family. But now, to these sweet innocent little babies. You are just evil.
You truly suck!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Miss Independent

Mama Kats Writers Workshop
Other than the birth of a child or your wedding, write about a joyous moment.

This is our old house. Isn't it adorable. It is 100 years old. I loved that house. It was charming, it had character, and the turret going up the side just screamed "Buy me, I'm cute You need me". It also laughed in my face and heckled "You now have to cut about 10 more corners in order to paint the rooms I am part of. BA-HA-HA-HA!!!"
Jim and I walked into this house and just knew it was ours. Being that it was 100 years old, it came with some "quirks", but that was ok. We took care of our baby and enjoyed the time we had with it. When it was time sell her, we were embarking on a new adventure and we were ok leaving the house behind. It was during this time I had an amazingly joyous moment.

Jim and I have a fairly traditional marriage in my opinion. We both work full time, so household duties are pretty much a 50/50 split. The split is traditional in the sense that he thinks little elves put away his laundry and I have no clue when the oil in my car needs changed unless he tells me.
When the time came to sell our house, we both struggled with our "roles". Jim began spending the majority of his time in Florida in Jan 2007, and made the permanent move in March. I didn't move til May. Things needed to get done to sell our house during that time and he couldn't be in Ohio to take care of it all. We had plenty of people that would help, but once the ball started rolling we were under a huge time crunch. I had to step up. Jim felt bad, I was less than thrilled, but it didn't matter, things had to get done. Our normally traditional roles had to shift.
Nothing major needed done, but little things add up quick. One of the first things our realtor told us when he came in March (um still snowing in Ohio), was that we needed to paint the porch. Curb appeal is big he said, and even though its winter, you can still make a statement. We kind of panicked. The porch need painted, closets needed emptied, the worlds tiniest, weirdest shaped, impossible to get a ladder in bathroom need painted, etc. etc. It was winter so we had weather among other things stacked against us. The only weekend Jim could have done it before we listed it rained/sleeted/snowed. Finding a painter was ridiculous, and we were both freaking out over getting it all done.
One day after work I did what I do best. I made lists. Lots of lists. Then, I yelled at myself and reminded myself that I could do this. "You are a strong, smart woman. You are independent. Jim is always there for you and now it is time for you to step up and take care of things. He is living alone in a condo in Florida, starting a new position, and has a lot going on. Get it together, make a plan and make it happen." And I did.
I watched the weather for a nice day, took a vacation day, enlisted our friend Joe and painted the porch (and didn't tell Jim - I wanted to surprise him). Joe arrived at about 1 and I had been painting for hours. He stayed til dark and we finished up what would have been a two day project with the porch light on to help us that same day. I felt awesome, I felt strong, and it was truly a joyous moment.

I should note that the joyous event left me on high. Joe left, and I proceeded upstairs to paint the bathroom. I still curse that teeny tiny awkward bathroom. I was on a roll and stayed up all night cleaning closets, scrubbing floors and making chandeliers sparkle. So as joyous as it was, I didn't sleep at all that night and when I arrived at work at 7 the next morning one of just two guys in our pretty girly department, Nick said "Hey Carrie, how is everything going". I then proceeded to start crying because I still needed to paint the trim in one of the crazy turret rooms and I just wanted it all to be done with. I think I may have scared him. Poor Nick.

It was worth it though. Jim looked so happy when he came home you would have thought the Browns won the Super Bowl, The Indians won the World Series, and the Cavs won the NBA Finals all on the same day. We sold our house in less than one month and when I arrived in Florida in May, we didn't have the house to worry about and could concentrate the adventure ahead.


ps - did birth of A child, mean any child, or one of your own children? Cuz I was there when my niece Kara was born and it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. She is eight and I still tear up thinking about it. I am also still mad at her for saying Jim first. I witnessed your entrance into the world kara! That ought to count for something.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Birthday!


Happy Birthday to my aunt and friend! I love you!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Getting real about cooking and baking

If you have read from the beginning you know that this blog started out with recipes and cooking tips. That was it. It has since expanded, but my love of all things culinary is still quite evident. I started recipe of the week for 2009 and hope you enjoy it. Some weeks are quick and easy, some will be a little more complicated. Either way, it will be fun and I will keep it real.
In that same light, I want to tell you this. Its quite a confession, so I hope you are ready:


I use boil in the bag rice.
There I said it.

OK, I am saying this because as much as I love cooking and baking, often its about necessity over desire to do it. We have to eat. We don't do fast food, and I am not a fan of prepared boxed meals. This leaves going out to dinner or actually cooking as the only two options (I guess there is always not eating as an option). Cooking and baking for fun happens on the weekend.

To be fair, my reason for being against boxed meals is first, I don't like the flavor, second, I don't like the preservatives and sodium. We are by no means health nuts, but every person/family has their views on what they eat and that's ours. I still by some boxed side dishes, and will always have a deep love and devotion for Macaroni and Cheese in the blue box.

I am not a cooking expert, but over time I have come up with a few tricks that can take the pain out of the necessity that is cooking. Feel free to follow along.

1. Make a list and check it twice. I work until between 5 and 6 every day and trying to figure out what to make after that is a drag.
I meal plan a week at a time. I found two weeks to be too overwhelming and would get frustrated. Frustration translates to being discouraged, and that will have you hating cooking.
Scan the cupboards and refrigerator and make sure you have it all. Put it on the list and head to the grocery.

2 Post the list. Anywhere you will see it helps. You may need to rearrange if your schedule changes and its good to know what meat needs pulled from the freezer.

3 Plan a leftovers meal. I don't do this every week, but it is a regular on the meal plan.You don't have to have Mondays meal on Tuesday as leftovers. Wait til Wednesday or Thursday. It gives you a night off!
It may seem like this is not a possibility for larger families. I can't speak to this from experience since there are just two of us. However, if you have a recipe/meal that easily doubles (spaghetti and meatballs, cheeseburger or chicken pot pie) give it a try. Double the recipe, make two, etc. Save the extra portion and pull it out for dinner
I don't have children, so I don't want to be one of those people. However, I do have a husband who was anti-leftovers. I played along at first, but then I stopped. Is it a little boring? Of course. Is it easier for the person doing the cooking? Um, yeah, and sometimes that just wins out. It's leftovers or whatever you can find on your own to eat. Tough love baby!

4 Have ingredients for standby/backup meals on hand all the time.
You would be surprised what you can make with baking mix (like bisqu!ck).
I keep bacon and baking mix on hand. Bacon thaws quickly and there is nothing like an occasional breakfast for dinner.
We always have two boxes of pasta and spaghetti sauce in the pantry, and garlic bread in the freezer. Quick, filling meal that doesn't take long. If you want to jazz that up, try this:
Cook 1 pound ground beef. In large pan or bowl add the cooked ground beef to two jars of spaghetti sauce. Divide between two freezer containers and place in freezer. You now have hearty sauce for two spaghetti dinners. You don't even need to worry about thawing. Just can toss the frozen sauce in a saucepan and slowly heat through. (If it won't come out of the container right away, place the sealed container in hot water to start the thawing and then remove)

5 Try new things. Pork chops every Monday, Chicken every Tuesday, and Lasagna every Wednesday gets boring. Not just for the people eating the food, but for the person cooking it as well. Try to change it up and be confident about what you are cooking.
Allrecipes and Betty Crocker are two great sources for recipes with reviews by recipe users and tips to help you cook.

6 Slow Cooker love.
If you are gone for long days, you can get a slow cooker with several temperature settings, a removable cooking container, and a timer that turns the heat to warm for less than $50 if you watch sales. Or you can buy a basic slow cooker and an appliance timer (keeping in mind that the appliance timer will turn the slow cooker off completely and since I have never done this I can't attest to its quality)
Its great to literally plop some food in the slow cooker, turn it on and have a tasty meal 6-8 hours later.
The slow cooker gets its feelings hurt when people think it can only be used for roasts and stews.
Try Stephanies site (one of the first blogs I ever visited) for great ideas, google search crockpot and any word (chicken, pork, etc), search slow cooker in All recipes. Also, the Fix it and Forget series of cookbooks is great.
Not everyone is cool with leaving the slow cooker on all day unattended, and I understand. However, Saturdays and Sundays require dinner too. This could be an option for weekends so you can spend more time relaxing, enjoying family, nurturing your hobbies, etc. You're still home, and dinner is magically cooking away. If this is how you will use the slow cooker, you won't need any fancy bells and whistles and a simple, inexpensive slow cooker will serve you well.

7 Treat yourself. Going out to dinner may not be an option every week, but try to plan a meal out, take out, or pizza night every once in a while.

I hope this helps some of you. If you have questions, email me or ask in the comment section. I would love to answer.