Monthly Archives: February 2014

Bring on the Sunshine…Please!

sunshine

This morning, we were awakened once again, to the sound of the phone.  I made a quick wish, “delayed, delayed not closed please…”

We had even more snow overnight, so it was the now familiar voice of our superintendent announcing our fate…we are already giving back one day of our Spring Break vacation, a week that we have already planned on being away.  I didn’t want to give up another!

Fortunately the call was for a two hour delayed opening.  That gave us time to shovel – AGAIN and still have enough time to get ready for work with time to spare.  I am lucky to have a three minute commute to work but not everyone I work with is that fortunate.  The roads are a mess due to a shortage of salt so it was a good call giving everyone time to get to school safely.

By the time we got out of school, the temperature had risen to 40 degrees!  Who would have thought that I, (the girl who despises the cold) would cheer for the day that we reached temperatures of FORTY!?!!?  The sun was shining and some of the snow had even begun to melt.  With snow piled up in mounds over four feet high, it is going to take quite some time to get rid of it all.  My hope now, is that it doesn’t melt too quickly because I don’t know if my basement will be able to handle it!

The weather forecasters are predicting that temperatures may hit 50 degrees by Friday!  With warmer weather approaching and the days staying lighter longer, it actually gives me a glimmer of hope that Spring really is only 29 days away!

Imperfect = I’m Perfect

imperfect

Now that I have been so focused on self-image and trying to embrace myself for who I am, I have been much more aware of it and in turn, I am trying to be less critical of myself.  Perhaps because of this awareness, I have been noticing that I am not alone in my thinking.  So many people, women and men and even young children have been led to believe that there is a standard of perfection and this is so damaging.

As I become more comfortable and begin embracing this new way of thinking, I am trying to put what I think are flaws and imperfections aside and instead, focus on what I find to be my positive attributes.

Here is a video from BuzzFeed and Upworthy.com that my friend Tammy shared today.  Another reminder to let your inner-beauty shine bright!

Gung Hay Fat Choy

gung hay fat choy
“Best wishes and congratulations!”
Since we weren’t able to take the boys away for the weekend like we had planned, (darn snow,) we tried to do some other fun things on our little staycation.  Yesterday I took the boys to see The Lego Movie.  It was much better than I ever expected it to be!  Today, Dave took them along with my dad to a minor league hockey game in Connecticut.  I stayed home and went to a Chinese New Year party.  Our good friend’s hold this party nearly every year and we are so happy to share this celebration with them.
It is because of them that I have learned so much about Chinese New Year.  The celebration lasts for two weeks but theirs is a one day open house that lasts, ALL day and is so much fun.  They serve traditional Chinese cuisine and the children have games and activities to play while they are there.  I learned that tradition says families thoroughly clean their homes, in order to sweep away any negativity and to welcome in good luck. They had their doors and window decorated in red.
This year is the year of the Horse. I found this information on TravelChinaGuide.com
Strengths
People born in the year of the horse have ingenious communicating techniques and in their community they always want to be in the limelight. They are clever, kind to others, and like to join in a venture career. Although they sometimes talk too much, they are cheerful, perceptive, talented, earthy but stubborn. They like entertainment and large crowds. They are popular among friends, active at work and refuse to be reconciled to failure, although their endeavor cannot last indefinitely.
Weaknesses
They cannot bear too much constraint. However their interest may be only superficial and lacking real substance. They are usually impatient and hot blooded about everything other than their daily work. They are independent and rarely listen to advice. Failure may result in pessimism. They usually have strong endurance but with bad temper. Flamboyant by nature, they are wasteful since they are not good with matters of finance due to a lack of budgetary efficiency. Some of those who are born in the horse like to move in glamorous circles while pursuing high profile careers.  They tend to interfere in many things and frequently fail to finish projects of their own.
chinese zodiac
I was born the year of the dog.  What is your animal?

Belle

belle

This morning, my sister Kathi and her family had to put their eleven year old dog Belle to sleep.  She had been ill for awhile and it was a tough decision for them.  Belle was given to them when she was about nine weeks old by my brother Tim.  She was a fairly big dog and more than Tim could handle at the time.  Kathi and her family had a house and a yard and they figured it would be a good placement for her.

Kathi’s kids grew up with Belle.  She was the same age as my niece.  Today was a sad day for them and we were all thinking about Belle and their family.  Someone shared this poem on her Facebook page,

rainbow bridge

Coincidentally, we had to bring our own little Emmy Lou to the vet this morning.  She has an infection in her paw, possibly a result from the salt being used on the roads during all this snow and ice.  She was given an antibiotic and will be checked up on in two weeks to see how she is healing.  While we were there, a woman was leaving in tears after having to put her cat to sleep.  We did not know the circumstances, but all of us got a bit weepy watching her as she left the doctor’s office.   It sounds so selfish, but as sad as all of us in the waiting room were for her, there was also a sense of relief – happiness even – knowing that it was not us that had to be faced with a tough decision like this.

We know that this was not an easy choice for Kathi and her family but I am sure that they are finding comfort in the thought that Belle is at peace now as she frolics at the Rainbow Bridge.

I’m in love, but not with Valentine’s Day

Valentines Day

Today is the anniversary of the day Dave asked me to marry him.  We were both young and happy and in love!  Fast forward twenty-two years and we are still happy and in love.  The young part, not so much!

Valentine’s Day has always been special to us because of that, but neither of us ever goes “all out” on this day.   We don’t give each other cards or flowers.  Once in a while we will go out to dinner, but it is such a corporate, materialistic holiday we tend to stay away from all that.  Sure it is a great time to shower your loved ones with love and attention, but shouldn’t this be the case everyday?  Neither of us look forward to obligatory gifts.  We treat each other to special things whenever the moment strikes us.  Getting a gift just because I have to get one…there is no spark, no thought behind it and therefore it just lacks meaning.

We “celebrated” today by spending our day together.  Starting with shoveling, (again) and having lunch with the boys.  Tonight we will join my dad, brothers and sister and her family for family dinner.  Just like a typical Friday night.

We don’t need to spend a lot of money to show each other how much we are in love.  When I was a kid, my best friend and I would talk about how great it would be to spend every single day together.  Now, Dave has been my best friend for over 25 years and I get to do just that!

My favorite Valentine’s gift I ever got from him was this video that he sent to me at work a few years ago.  Dave is a huge Football, (or as it is called in America – soccer) fan, so anyone who knows him would understand why this means so much to me!

So whether you play it up big, or keep it small and simple like us, I hope that spend your Valentine’s Day doing exactly what you like!

Best Snow Day Ever

grateful

Over a foot of snow was dumped on us today.  The first foot was light and fluffy and easy to shovel.  The next few inches….not so much!  That snow was heavy and wet and not fun to clear.  It seems like it is all over but the weather forecasters are saying otherwise.  Another 4-6 inches are expected overnight.  I’d say, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that today was a pretty awesome day.  Even my 12 year old, Drew declared, “The best snow day ever” and I have to agree!

I started out pretty early shoveling.  The snow was deep and we needed a path for Emmy Lou to get through so that she could get outside.  I only did the front steps and sidewalk.  By the time I finished that, it was already covered up but at least she could get out to the street.  Our neighbor pulled out the snow blower a little while later and the four of us and he, got the driveway cleared in about ninety minutes.  Not too bad for a foot of snow!

We came back in, made lunch and Drew and I baked a batch of cookies to share with the neighbors.  We made the recipe up as we went along, using what we had in the house and other than not quite getting the baking time right, they came out pretty tasty!  Wewatched a movie, Captain Philips.  All four of us enjoyed it – that doesn’t happen too often!!  When that ended, it was round two for the driveway.  This snow was not as easy.  Not nearly as deep but MUCH heavier.  This was fun snow though!!  It had warmed up to about 36 degrees so it wasn’t too cold.  The boys and I spent a few hours playing in the snow.  I don’t remember the last time I played in the snow.  The snow was so deep, they were jumping off the front stoop into huge piles of snow.  I took tons of photos and laughed so hard my side hurt!  Even Dave joined in for awhile!   Drew and I stayed outside and built an igloo.  Of course I took many more photos.

I came inside and made dinner.  A new recipe.  I had to include it because it was so good!  I found it on Pinterest but of course, like always, I altered and changed it and made it my own.  Dave LOVED it.  I’ll include it here because it is definitely a make again meal!  (This is starting to turn into a recipe blog lately…)

We are now all sitting around watching Jeopardy.  I am drinking a glass of wine and eating cookies.  We are all warm, showered, full and happy.  Tomorrow, we may wake up to a lot more snow.  I doubt we will be able to repeat such a perfect day, but I am so happy to have the memories of today.  As we built the igloo today, Drew told me, “this is one of those days we are going to remember forever isn’t it?”  I could only reply, “Yup.”

Porkchops with Mushroom Bourbon Cream Sauce

Breaded pork chops recipe, served with a mushroom bourbon cream sauce.

  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound sliced button or cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (e.g. Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey (I did not have this so I used Brandy)
  • Salt and pepper
  • (I added arugula and cherry peppers)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 4 6-7 oz center-cut pork chops
  • All purpose flour
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil

Method

1 Sauté onions, garlic, and mushrooms in 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat until the mushrooms are browned – about 10-15 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and boil down until the liquid is reduced to almost a glaze, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bourbon, boil until reduced by two thirds. Add the cream and simmer several minutes until the sauce thickens.

2 Whisk an egg and 2 Tbsp of water in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. Dip chops into the flour, then egg mixture, then breadcrumbs, coating completely. Heat olive or grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork chops and cook until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Turn the chops one more time, lower the heat to low, cover, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Alternatively you can put the chops in a pre-heated oven at 400°F for 5-8 more minutes.

3 When about to serve the pork, bring the sauce to a simmer and add the chopped basil to it. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Winter Break….or a Break from Winter!?!

winter break

I just got home from work.  The start of a five day weekend!!  Our school district has been giving us this break from school for as long as I can remember – even when I went there as a student myself!  Some years it varied from an entire week off, to a few days like this year.  It is always a nice break in the winter, but now that we have had so many snow days, we haven’t really had a consistent week of school so I am not even feeling like we need it as much.

Now, with another “record breaking” storm on the way, it seems like Thursday and Friday may have wound up as snow days anyway so I guess we are better off.  We have already begun digging into our Spring Break days!  Enough is enough!!  I am tired of snow!

We had planned to go to The Poconos for a few days.  Drew wanted to try out his snowboard on the little mountain in Saw Creek and we thought it would be nice to just spend a few days away.  Then my dad reminded me that NO ONE has been there all winter and none of the snow, (and they’ve had more than us) has been shoveled and we’d probably not even be able to get in!  So, those plans were nixed.  Instead, we decided on small day trips and activities.  Dave might take Drew to a closer mountain to try out his snow board.  He will also take the boys to a hockey game to watch The New Jersey Devils and The New York Islanders minor league teams play.

We had a few get togethers with friends that we had not planned on going to because of being in The Poconos, but now we can stop by.  I guess, even though our little get away did not pan out the way we had hoped, getting to be with family and friends is still a great way to enjoy the time off!

Now if only we were not going to be snowed in and shoveling the predicted foot of snow tomorrow we could actually relax!  On the bright side, it is another day of cooking and comfort food….yum!

I realized that I have written about snow more than any other topic lately!  The first one was joyous and fun.  Each one after became more and more disheartening.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I am ready for Spring!

The Back Up Plan

family dinner

A few nights ago, I got a message from my cousin Lisa’s husband, Josh.  He asked me if I’d be his “back-up” for a few days.  Lisa was going to be away on business and his in-laws who are usually around are also away.  I told him of course and that we’d be around for emergency pickups or any last minute help he might need with their daughter Harper.  She is three and my boys adore her!  Since we knew Lisa would be away we invited Harper and him to come for dinner tonight.

It was a quiet, easy dinner. Harper met Emmy Lou for the first time and the six of us had a nice dinner together.  Nothing big, nothing elegant.  A good comfort food meal of crockpot chicken and dumplings.  Perfect for this cold night!  (Drew wouldn’t eat it, neither did Harper, they had some macaroni and cheese instead.  DJ picked his apart, but at least he tried it.)

Josh and Harper brought chocolate chip cookies and we ate dessert watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  Such a simple night, yet such a nice time.  A change from our routine.  Something we should do more often.  Normally our family get togethers are huge and although they are always fun, sometimes getting a chance to spend with just bits and pieces of the family is a treat.  Since my mom passed away, my dad comes now and then and my brothers do too.  When we are small groups, we can actually fit around the dining room table.  I don’t think our house could hold the whole family at once!!  That will have to wait for nicer weather when we can bring the party outside, (or win the lottery….)   For now, I look forward to these small get togethers and getting some quality time to spend with the family.

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

  • Chicken breasts cut up
  • 2 cans of Cream of chicken soup
  • One can of water
  • One chopped onion
  • 2 pats of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • One can of refrigerator biscuit dough

Mix all ingredients except biscuits in crockpot.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  At the 7th hour, rip apart the biscuit dough and toss into the cooked chicken.  Cook at least one more hour.

 

Love to Cook, Love to Eat

cooking

I have loved to cook for as long as I remember.  I also love to eat.  I do NOT like to bake.  Baking and following a recipe is too scientific for me.  I like to throw things together and merge the flavors to create something new.  I will often take a recipe and change it to suit our taste.  I eat pretty much everything but can get particular when it comes to meat.  Not sure why or what it is about it that makes me this way.  It is not for ethical reasons or because I am a vegetarian, I just don’t like the flavors of many meats.  I like beef, chicken, fish, pork.  I don’t like lamb or veal (although I will occasionally buy  a ground meat mix that has veal in it for when I cook up meatballs.)

Dave doesn’t like cheese – my all time FAVORITE food!  Our kids eat terribly.  We tried getting them to eat everything when they were babies but that did not last.  I am not sure why they are this way.  My oldest son DJ said once that they prefer “beige food.”  You can probably imagine what that includes, chicken nuggets, cereal, bread, cheese (only American – the one kind I don’t like,) and french fries.  It embarrasses me to even admit but I am almost at the point of buying a deep fryer so that I can fry up vegetables and sneak them into their diet!!  My kids aren’t little either, so hearing, “they’ll grow out of it,” doesn’t work anymore.

Tonight was one of those nights that I threw together a bunch of things from the fridge and made a dinner that was so good.   I did not write down the recipe.  I never do –  although I should.  I am posting it here so that I will be sure to remember it – Dave declared it a “make again” dinner and so did I.  The kids wouldn’t even try it.  It doesn’t have a name so Dave came up with one.  I served it over pasta, but it could be served all sorts of ways.  I also did not measure any of it so add as much or little as you like:

VEGGIE SAUSAGE SLAM

  • Trader Joe’s Chicken Sausage
  • Zucchini
  • Squash
  • Yellow Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Arugula
  • Red pepper
  • Yellow Pepper
  • Orange Pepper
  • White Wine
  • Cream (about 1/4 cup) (add at the very end)
  • Salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes to taste

I took the sausage out of the casing, cut it up and cooked it up in olive oil before adding all of the other ingredients

Cook on stove top until all vegetables are at desired tenderness.

That’s how I cook.  Amounts are questionable, time it takes is as well.  That is what makes cooking fun and interesting to me.

We have definitely had a few meals where we declare it a “don’t make again meal but the majority of what we throw together is pretty good.  Occasionally I even make one that we call, a “make for company” meal.  I would never experiment with something new on others.  We are  our own guinea pigs!  This one is definitely a share with friends meal!  Hope yours turns out just as good!

U Rock

beautiful life

After several coaching classes dealing with Self-Image, I went to an exercise class that I have been LOVING.  It is called “Pound” and the teacher of the class is fantastic and full of energy.  She motivates us all to work hard and to be comfortable in our bodies no matter what our ability is.  She was the one who first posted the Pay it Forward Challenge and since I responded to her, she gave me my pay it forward treat last week.

It was a small, smooth rock.  On it was this symbol:  The Goddess Symbol.

goddessalong with it was a note that read:

“U-Rock”

(You Rock)

 

This U-Rock has been given to you to symbolize your uniqueness.  Like this rock, you are special and truly one of a kind.  You have strong areas and areas that could use improvement.  You are resilient and you play an important role in things bigger than yourself.   You play an important role as an individual in the greater world around you.

 

On this rock you will find the Goddess symbol.  The Goddess symbol represents the source of life, beauty, grace and the supernatural power that is inside of every woman.  Let this rock serve as a reminder of the importance of your mind, your experiences and your unique personality.  Rock out in all that you do!

It was so fitting and fell right into place with what we have been discussing.  So, yesterday in our group I gave each of the women their own “Goddess Rock.”  I encourage you to do it too.