Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The power of giving

I hate asking for things. When someone asks me if there's something I want for my birthday or for Christmas, I really never answer it. I can have something in mind, and I usually still won't answer that question. I realize that's a little silly, but I have always felt awkward asking for something to be given to me. That goes way back to how I was raised (for which I am very grateful!) that says that if I didn't EARN it, then I shouldn't be GIVEN it. It makes accepting generous gifts utterly humbling.

Giving, however, I absolutely love! I don't talk about it much, but the things that I make on this site aren't solely consumed by the husband and me. What's the fun in that?!

With every batch of goodies made, people at my place of business and my husband's benefit! I love the giddy looks people give us when we hand them a little baggie (and I'm talking little snack bags, nothing fancy here) with a homemade treat inside. I've given strict instructions to my husband to report back every single emotion/expression/comment made when doling out my little gifts. That's MY gift in return.

So to all of the guys and gals that act as my food-testing guinea pigs, thanks for the feedback! As long as you keep lavishing me with praise, constructive criticism, and suggestions; I'll keep providing more little treats for you to test.

I call that a win-win situation.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Great Balls of Fire

As recommended by my lovely hubby, I've tried a new Kelsey ball recipe!

I started with a double batch of ingredients, just like last time. I discovered during the process that I didn't have enough dry roasted peanuts, so this batch had two parts peanuts and one part dry roasted almonds. It seemed to work just fine, and you can detect a hint of almond. Very good sub! I also added 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the nuts as they were processed, since I bought unsalted nuts and the last batch was missing that little bit of salty goodness.

original with coconut and chocolate

Instead of making one large batch of the version I made last time (which coconut and dark chocolate), I split the batch in half. One half with last weeks mix; the other half were spicy!

I left out the coconut for the Great Balls of Fire batch (deemed so by Hairdresser Bridesmaid in the comments last week) and added 1/4 cup of raw rolled oats. I ground the oats, just like everything else. It was added to the dates, nuts, and chocolate along with 3/8 teaspoon of cayenne powder for kick! I started with a 1/4 teaspoon and decided I wanted them just a tad hotter. If you don't like things spicy, go with 1/8 teaspoon and add until you're happy with the heat level. In this household, we like things that are supposed to be hot to actually be fairly warm. These have a lovely warm spice that is barely detectable at first then blossoms by the end of the ball. I love them! Plus, the addition of the oatmeal brings back memories of my mom's no-bake oatmeal cookies from my childhood, and that was one of my FAVORITE things.

Great Balls of Fire

A little tip....I have a larger processor, so once everything was ground to the right consistency on it's own, I added all the ingredients back into the bowl of my processor and pulsed in very short bursts. It combined everything beautifully! Those dates are hard to "mix" otherwise. This took the elbow grease portion out of the process. And hey, the processor bowl was already dirty anyhow. Might as well use it!

So, I hope you don't mind getting the same recipe two weeks in a row, but this variation rocked my mouth. Try it! You won't regret it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Riley at play

This was Riley's second trip to the dog park. This time there were actually little dogs, so that she could play with pups her own size!!! And oh my what a difference it made! She literally ran till she could run no more and loved every second of it. And I actually got to relax instead of worry which huge dog would maul my tiny dog. It was glorious!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Old timer!

One of my husband's best friends called up last night and asked if we wanted to go out for drinks. He's in med school, so we never see him. Of course, we said yes.

We met him and "his" Brandi (we have eerily similar names with different spellings) at our favorite dive bar in Denton at 9:30.

Aren't they cute??

Now, I don't know about you, but I just can't hang anymore! Not too terribly long ago I could close down bars....then go out to breakfast afterward!

Yeah....I was yawning on the way to the bar. At the bar. On the way home from the bar! We wrapped it up at 11 and high-tailed our butts to bed.

We had a wonderful time, but I felt REALLY old the whole time. All I wanted to do was crawl into my comfy bed.

Killjoy, right? At least I wasn't the only one. The other three were yawning too.

We'll miss you while you're out doing your internships! Thanks for visiting with us, and sorry for being so dead on my feet.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Food in Review

This week had a bit of a theme, though I didn’t realize it when I put together the meal plan. It’s sort of funny how I can tell what sort of mood I’m in by what I plan for our dinners. This week, it was 100% comfort foods!

Sunday: Dinner was comfort food, all right, just not typical comfort food for Texas. I made homemade paneer out of organic whole milk. The process was lengthy, but not at all difficult. It yielded a tiny blog of really excellently-textured Indian cheese. I made the paneer very early in the day while making my oaties and Kelsey balls so that it could press out then sit in cold water, as recommended by the instructions. Our patience was rewarded, as Alton would say. I paired the paneer with simmered lintels, carrots, curry powder, garam masala powder (I know, I know….the husband is allergic to cinnamon; but only when he can taste it if you catch my drift), onions, and Greek yogurt and served it over brown rice. We ate it while watching Aarti (the winner of the Next Food Network Star) in her debut show! Totally appropriate, I think.

Monday: This one is a complete southern classic: fried green tomatoes. I stumbled upon beautiful, huge green tomatoes at the farmers market last Saturday and snapped them up with a squeal of delight. This confused my husband greatly. When I exclaimed “FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!” at him….he still looked utterly confused. Oh right. You don’t know good southern food unless I’ve fed it to you already. I followed Emily’s recipe for the tomatoes to the letter. On the side, I made grits (which was actually yellow polenta but other than color, I can’t find a difference) mixed with bacon and a little parmesan topped in a homemade fresh tomato relish which was simply onion, fresh diced tomato, red pepper flake, garlic, salt, pepper and dried thyme. The tomatoes were crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and oh-so-tart. The grits and relish were hearty and soul-soothing. I was in heaven. My husband, however, said he could live without fried green tomatoes in his life. Grits, however, are a keeper.

Tuesday: German was the order of the day. I sliced up and pan-seared the lovely smoked German pork sausages I’d gotten from the farmers market. The guys at Rehoboth Ranch in Greenville, Texas, make a mean sausage. It was honestly one of the best we’ve had in….well maybe ever! I highly recommend it! I served it with sautéed sauerkraut and brown mustard. On the side, I made a casserole version of hot pepper poppers, since these little peppers were just too small to stuff. I know…I tried last Friday and failed! This side had all the stuff I put in my normal poppers, just layered. I added cous cous to the bottom of the casserole pan to hold the peppers in place. Poppers are my husband’s ultimate comfort food.

Wednesday: Time to bring out the childhood favorite: tuna noodle casserole and mac and cheese, together at last! Lovely, large whole wheat shells were mixed with hickory smoked tuna, peas, and homemade cheese sauce. The sauce is a simple gravy with three left over cheeses from the farmers market mixed in: gruyere, gouda, and garlic cilantro cheddar. I topped the casserole in panko crumbs and parm for crunch and baked until the top looked golden. We ate the entire pan!

Thursday: Fake-it takeout was in order. Well, don’t you find take out comforting? I know I do! We went with a simple veggie friend rice. I sautéed some tofu, again using Emily’s tutorial. This time I added a little marinade to the tofu beforehand of soy, rice wine vinegar, and sriracha. Once it was done, I set it aside and stir fried the veggies and rice. They also got doused in soy, rice wine vinegar and sriracha. My veggies consisted of half a bag of cole slaw mix, shredded carrots, onions, and peas. I combined everything; added two scrambled organic eggs, and called it dinner. This is my favorite at-home Chinese dish!

I’d love to hear some of your meal plans and ideas…..so that I can use them in my planning, of course! I mean, obviously I love trying out other people's ideas and mixing them with my own.

And Riley says "Happy Friday!"

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I have another confession to make….

………….I do not like overnight oats!

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound like a big thing to any non-healthy-living-blog reader. But if you read multitudes of healthy living blogs like I do, then you might understand why this seems like such a big deal to me. I have read the praises of overnight oats almost every morning of this summer. Many mornings, I see bowl after bowl of them. They look luscious. I finally found chia seeds, and my first thought was overnight oats!

Last night, I put my ingredients into a plastic container with much excitement: oats, chia seeds, organic milk, cinnamon, and a splash of maple syrup. I shook them up and plopped them in the fridge next to my drinkable yogurt from the farmers market.

I practically ran to the fridge in the morning! SO EXCITED….to find something rather unappealing looking. It looked slightly better after a stir…..but the texture and flavor were horrid. I very definitely DO NOT like my oats cold. So, I nuked the batch and had hot oats. This made the mixture edible but still not very tasty. And now the texture was completely horrid. It was a bowl of mush. But a healthy bowl of mush, so I forced myself to eat it after the addition of a spoonful of homemade nut butter. I will not be attempting this again, sadly. Hot oats all the way, baby.

At least the drinkable yogurt was as silky and wonderful as ever! If you’re anywhere near Coppell, TX…GO TO THE FARMERS MARKET! There. I said it.

Now go.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


It would happen that I write a sweet post about how lucky I am…..and minutes before the scheduled post, the husband repeatedly runs the dog into my feet trying to “get the dog to knock me off” my high heels. It really hurt too! She managed to hit me with such force, chasing after a rubber mini tire that the husband aimed at me, that she literally turned my foot sideways in my shoe. Oh well. She got him back for “forcing” her to run into Mommy by biting his finger during the same play session.

Onto other topics though. I’ve been thinking a lot, nearly nonstop because my brain has little else to do during the day, about what I should do to move toward a more fulfilling, happy life. On the way home from the farmers market Saturday morning, with a very tuckered dog sleeping across my lap, my husband and I talked about how passionate the farmers and ranchers were at the market. That is the ultimate to me…..to be THAT passionate about what you do for a living. The guy I buy fish from catches those fish during the week, and he was literally ecstatic about some of his catches. He pulled them out of the cooler with such flair, talking about how wonderful it was and how he liked to cook them. The lady that we bought grass fed, naturally raised beef and pork from commented about how excited I got because I exclaimed to my husband “oh that is some beautiful meat”. She giggled – possibly because of the awkward innuendo – and said, “That’s awesome that someone finds meat as beautiful as we do!” Even my wedding photographer puts up facebook comments regularly saying how much she loves her job.

They live for their work, but not in the way that some people are chained to their desks. They ENJOY their work. They find it fulfilling. It adds to their joy instead of keeping them from the joy of their non-work life.

So how do you get there? I actually googled “how to find your passion” yesterday. Then I felt pretty darn pathetic. All of the findings on the first page were Oprah-esque, self-help, evangelistic motivational speakers. To me, they give you reasons to find your passion (which I already have), but never really any way of helping to locate it. Not exactly a fruitful search.

After much thought, I came up with a couple things that I know I’m passionate about but don’t know how I’d turn them into a career…..especially without a lot of training. I’m so reluctant to go back to school because it didn’t pay off for me this last time. Yeah, I have a bachelor degree but with no real hope of using it. It’s a business degree. I thought that would be useful. Turns out, it’s only useful in booming economies, which we are NOT in. Heck, I’m still paying off my loans on it! Would incurring more debt really be wise, especially when there is never a guarantee that it will be useful at all?

The result of all this mental meandering? Google searches for culinary programs. And a lot more to think about.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Party for Two

Saturday night, I had the most amazing feeling of “all is right with the world”. We headed out for dinner at our usual, monthly celebratory spot: BJs Brewhouse. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but my husband takes me there EVERY month near the 15th to celebrate our first date. Saturday happened to be the 21st, so it was also the six month mark for our nuptials. I am still floored by how romantic it is that he takes me there every month.

When we arrived at BJs, the parking lot was so jam-packed I worried that my mini-euphoria would be disrupted by waiting an hour to get a table. I was dropped off at the door to put our name in and happened to mention to the hostess that I was going to look around the bar for an open table. She turned around, pointed to a table, and said, “that’s considered the bar….you can have that one right now if you like”. I practically sprinted to the little table. SCORE! The quoted 30-45 minute wait was nullified and frosty pints of beer were headed our way.

My husband was a little floored, but extra grateful when I told him what had just happened. As odd as it may sound, that one little thing really made my night. We ended up going with their Party for Two menu. Seriously, go get this. It is two salads, a medium pizza, and a pizzookie to split (all flavors of your choosing) for $19.95. The medium pizzas alone are over $20! He had a Caesar. I had a wedge. Then we went with the BBQ chicken and a white chocolate macadamia nut pizzookie (his all-time favorite cookie flavor). Plus two beers each: a Jeremiah red and Kwak for him and a Harvest Hefe and Jeremiah for me.

We talked for several hours. Good, meaningful talk that seem to only happen under certain situations. It was relaxed and comfortable, but also somewhat serious. We’d talked earlier in the day about possible strategies for me – for taking steps to being happier on a daily basis. The theme of tackling big, important topics continued during dinner. We were able to talk about stuff that we generally don’t bother bringing up on any sort of daily basis. It made me feel so blessed to have such a wonderful man in my life….supporting me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

In lieu of granola

I found some recipes that screamed "MAKE ME" this week. I don't know about you all, but when I hear that demanding inner voice regarding food......I listen!

As part of my Sunday chores, I made two different treats in ball form.

First, I made oaties from Heather Eats Almond Butter. Something about these just look comforting. I'm a sucker for anything that I can deem comfort food (and that's cross cultural for me....I don't limit comfort food to the foods I was raised on in the south....oh no).

The only tweaks made to the recipe for me was that I used my own nut butter (a combo of peanut, almond, and sunflower seeds), went half brown rice syrup and half maple for the syrup quota, and my mix-in was chopped dates in oat flour. I also didn't roll them into balls while still hot....so they're a bit more cookie looking that hers are. They are, however, DE-lish! Totally scrumptious. Honestly, they exceeded my expectations.

Next, more ball action with the Kelsey balls from Bites + Bowls! I doubled the batch since my processor is an 11 cup model and I didn't think it would appreciate the small quantities recommended on Kelsey's site. I did the date and peanuts, as is standard, and added half a cup of 56% Callebaut semi sweet chips and half a cup of unsweetened coconut flakes both chopped individually till somewhat granular. I mention the name of the chocolate chips because, seriously, they're the most silky chips I've ever had. Plus, apparently that brand has a special process that makes it higher in antioxidants, or at least that's what the poster at Central Market said. Good enough for me!

Once everything was chopped and mixed, I set to making these as spherical as possible. It required a lot of squishing the ingredients together. The crumbles did not want to stick to one another without ample encouragement to do so! I blame this on the fact that I had to settle for bagged whole dates instead of the plumper, juicer bulk bin dates. I won't try this again with bagged dates, even whole ones. It's just no substitute for the quality you can get in bulk.

These balls had an amazing texture though. They were chewy and crumbly and melty all at once. The flavor, however, missed the mark just a touch. I think it needed a little kick of something for me. I would say cinnamon, but I cannot cook with it since my husband is allergic. So, his idea was to put cayenne in it! That would give them that Mexican chocolate flare. I'm excited to make another batch with my husband's idea. Till then, I think I'll be just fine with these babies in tow!

I'm so glad that I spent Sunday morning making these so that I get to eat them all week long. Yeah, I've got it rough sometimes. ;)

Have a ballin' Monday! And if it turns out rotten, go home and make these balls. You'll feel better, promise. Or just giggle at the number of times I managed to say balls. I did.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Work day!

The post is late, but it's not because I slept in. Oh no, I've been up since 5am. Thanks Riley!

That's okay because today is a work day. I've cleaned up my entire Gmail inbox. That was quite a feat. I never, ever organized it. Finally, I have a clean inbox. It's lovely. I also make blueberry pancakes from the Great Harvest mix and organic blueberries from the farmers market. They were to die for. Next, I'll be making goodies for the rest of the week's lunches and pre-cooking some dinner items. Then Riley's class. I love days like this. I like all week for this right here.

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Early mornings

I got up at six this morning with Ms. Restless Wiggle Butt herself. Seems Riley has her own little body clock going for her. She's usually out of bed and playing by 6am, and it being Saturday did not make one ounce of difference to her!

Thankfully, 6am is still sleeping in by an hour for me. Not as much "make up" sleep as I'd hoped for though, considering the last three nights were sleepless.

Riley's restlessness and being up all night ill from a vaccination weren't the only things keeping me awake those nights though. I wasn't able to quiet my mind long enough to sleep. That comes and goes for me. And it happens far, far less now that I have such a great man in my life. But it still happens occasionally.

The last three nights I've felt as restless as Riley in her kennel at 6:01. The need for a change feels strong and imminent. Perhaps soon, a door will open. Or heck, someone crack a window. I'm willing to work to pry it the rest of the way open!

Until then....I have the farmers market, a girls' lunch, and celebratory dinner with my husband! Oh what, you think I'd forget that we've been married for six months as of today?! Not a chance.

And so, I leave you with this....

Friday, August 20, 2010

Food in Review

We MADE it!!! Happy Friday.

This week was full of great food, but I'm not sure I can properly convey it due to my lack of photos. Again.

Sunday night, we had a scrumptious steak salad with mixed greens, avocado and a few tidbits from the farmers market! There were grilled red onions, tomatoes, wax peppers, gruyere, and strip steak! Sadly, even though this steak is from a grass-fed cattle, it was tough as rubber. (Whaa, whaa). I'm willing to try again though.

Next up: sliders! I made the patties from more grass fed beef, but this beef was amazing. I mixed in a little finely diced peppers and onions, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. The patties were so, so good! I served them on hawaiin rolls with grilled onions and spicy cole slaw made with shredded cabbage mix, yogurt, mayo, and chipotles. Served with sweet potato crinkle fries.

I was craving pasta, but we can't just have spaghetti in this house. My husband had far too many bowls of "plain" spaghetti in his lifetime, so I have to be a bit more creative. I made grilled chicken parmigiana with free range chicken breast, pounded out thin and grilled. I served it on a bed of whole wheat angel hair, sauced with arrabiatta sauce with fresh spinach and red onions. I topped the whole thing with mozzarella and broiled it. I REALLY wish I'd taken photos of this! I even did it in individual casseroles! So cute. And so tasty.

Thursday brought about time for a meatless meal. We had cheese and jalapeno tamales from The Tamale Company with seasoned black beans. Simple to make but totally decadent. These tamales are totally worth the trip to a local farmers market! Find them. Find them now!

And because I can.....Riley had a vet visit yesterday! She's growing at two pound a week. That's insane to me. Look at how big she is!

Enjoy your Friday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blogging for the better

I (obviously) didn’t go to Chicago to attend the Healthy Living Summit (HLS), and I’m not really a healthy living blogger. I mean, I don’t post what I’m eating daily or even get in a good workout every day. Sadly, I can’t even remember to take photos of dinner to post on Friday like I’ve been trying to! (Why is that hard….I mean, really? I’m hoping to get better about that, promise…..unless you all hate that segment??) Yet, I’ve been touched by HLS, and it’s sassy, smart bloggers.

Just from following the bloggers day-to-day, I’ve made many, many of their recipes:

The Edible Perspective’s zucchini bread

Mama Pea’s KIND of bar and vegan energy bars

The Fitnessista’s crepes

Eating Bird Food’s oat squares

The Front Burner Blog’s tofu tutorial

fANNEtastic food’s blueberry apple yogurt cinnamon bread

But I’ve also just been all around inspires by their healthy attitudes and food choices which have lead to better choices for my family. I make our nut butters now. Our favorite is peanut, almond, sunflower (I used about a 3:2:1 ratio on that). I started buying whole grain, organic spelt flour from the bulk bins. I tried quinoa and loved it. I started going to the local farmers markets every Saturday morning (for the last four weeks!) to get the freshest goodies I can find. I’ve been making homemade spreads (mostly cannellini bean-based) for our sandwiches every week and using them instead of cheese and/or mayo. I buy a loaf of Great Harvest bread or use sandwich thins in our lunches now. We have organic yogurt “messes” in our lunches every day. I make granola bars! I buy organic eggs, milk, and cheeses as much as possible. All of these things have happened because of the knowledge and personal choices these ladies choose to share with us every day. I’m grateful to have this little community - even if they don’t really know I’m reading - because I feel that they are empowering me to be the woman I truly want to be and fight the negativity that I often carry around with me.

Speaking of negativity, Katie AKA Sweet Tater’s blog post of her speech about how blogging changed her life spoke to me. I’ve never starved myself. I have eaten poorly in my life though. I’ve tried to change that slowly and steadily since 2005, when I lived alone for the first time in my entire life. Since the decision was mine alone for the first time, I started choosing healthier foods and healthier cooking methods. I continue to do so even still….it’s something you have to choose to do daily. My downfall is that I feel I have to be perfect about those choices. And I read over and over on these lovely blogs that perfection is not the goal! Health and enjoying life are really more important and satisfying than perfection. That’s a lesson I greatly need. Just like Katy’s vicious cycle….I had mine own. I’m still a work in progress, after all.

The battle I fight most often nowadays is learning to not compare myself to everyone else, which was a topic covered at HLS. It only makes me feel inferior! Why I put myself through that is beyond me, but I do. I look at someone’s successes and feel like I’m failing. I look at someone’s better choices in health or fitness and feel like mine aren’t good enough. I hear that someone thinks it’s “too hot to eat” and feel like maybe I should skip dinner too. Yes, rationally, these are probably ridiculous things to feel, but logic doesn’t always win. My hope is that with the support of my wonderful husband, family, and the healthy living community (which I’ve packed my google reader FULL of), I can squash the negativity before it creeps in…..eventually.

Till then….this work in progress continues.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gaming reviewed

Guest again! If you’re curious about the semantics of how the game went for me, please check out the hubby’s blog. I wrote a little something, something for him.

But over here, I wanted to expand on the mushier side of why I did what I did. Cool?

Okay, so overall, the battles were fun (after I figured it out a bit) and the non-battle were boring, nuff said.

But there’s more to it.

Like when my husband reached over and held my hand during the game.

Or how he spent every evening last week creating my little Halfling character, trying to make it as streamlined and straight-forward for me as possible without making the decisions for me, so that I legitimately made my own character! (Just with oodles of help from him.)

Or how he created a little mini battle for me Friday night so that I would feel more comfortable Saturday morning during the game.

Or how his friends were genuinely excited that I was joining them instead of looking at me like some tag-along or dead-weight.

I don’t consider myself a gamer, and I certainly won’t play in every campaign, but to have my husband WANT me there and be supported by his friends too…..now that’s just priceless and worth a couple hours of my time every now and again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I don’t know about you all, but I am just about sick of summer. That’s right, I said it. SICK.OF.IT! It’s been 100+ since July 31st! The humidity has also been purely insane. It makes it hard to do anything! It makes it even harder to WANT to do anything. Is anyone else feeling as beat down and lethargic as I am about this oppressive heat?! What’s worse, it’s still sticky hot at 3am when we take Riley out for her late night restroom breaks! Yep….there’s just NO reprieve. Riley doesn’t even want to take walks right now. You know it’s hot when a four-month-old puppy can’t seem to muster the will to roam the great outdoors.

I’m trying to drag myself to the gym at lunch, and lately this is just an effort in futility. It’s hot in my office. I get overly hot at the gym due to not cooling off enough at any point in the day. Then I end up feeling ill all afternoon from getting too hot while working out at lunch. I’m starting to wonder if I just need to take a break until the temps aren’t triple digits anymore.

Suggestions? Thoughts?

And let’s not even get started on what my electric bill will look like because of this hot mess!

Oh, I went to the gym anyhow. It was just as nasty as I suspected it would be. Bother!

Monday, August 16, 2010


My food addition did indeed lead me to the Coppell Farmers Market on Saturday morning before the D&D game. Sadly, I forgot cash! In my pursuit to find an ATM, I got turned around and got stuck in stand-still construction traffic! So frustrating. Wish a car-sick pup no less! Riley was not pleased. Our persistence eventually paid off in a bounty of fresh meat, veg, dairy, and baked goods! Plus, Riley LOVES saying hello to every single human and animal there. It wore her out! She slept most of the D&D game.

And what else has my little food addition lead me to? A few hours of food prep for the week. It's totally worth it so that I can manage to throw our lunches together quickly every morning instead of using up valuable morning time to do what can be done en masse on Sunday. My prep includes 10 yogurt and fruit parfaits (one for each of us per day) and making this blueberry apple yogurt bread (sans cinnamon due to the hubby's allergy). Plus, I want to try out a chipolte spread for our sandwiches this week!

What do you do for your "addictions" that might seem nutty to others?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I'm a guest

...over on my husband's blog! Check it out, won't you?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Food in Review, but not really

I’ve become a food snob!

There I said it. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

The realization came this week. Honestly, I think the knowledge of this has been secretly building for quite some time now, but it was really driven home THIS week.

What’s so special about this week?

Well first, we had a company luncheon. We have about one a month. Lately though, I’ve been really, really picking around what they bring. A few months ago the luncheon was chicken fried chicken or steak with mashed potatoes and salad. I love mashed potatoes, but I’d probably die if I knew EXACTLY how much fat were in these mashed potatoes. That time, I made the best of it and brought stuff to put on the green salad: boiled eggs, feta, crumbled turkey bacon and some other veggies. Most people neglect the salad anyhow so it worked out. This time, however, they said they were bringing in Chinese from a well-known Chinese chain fast-food restaurant. Yeah, I couldn’t bring myself to eat that. I packed my lunch as usual. (They ended up getting some sushi from another spot to supplement the meal and I did have some of that!) I’m sure that seems odd. It’s a free lunch after all! But it isn’t what I want to put in my body. And I think I’ve finally realized that it’s okay to skip a “free” meal and not care about what other people might think about that choice.

Secondly, I have an overwhelming urge to go back to the Coppell farmers market to get our weekly groceries BEFORE the 10am D&D game on Saturday! The market is only open on Saturdays. So, it’s before D&D or not at all this week. I’d have to be there at 8am when it opens to do that! Really?! Ugh. What is WRONG with me! But, but, but…..grass fed, free range meats and organic dairy and veg and Great Harvest breads!!! Do I really want to go without these goodies all week just to laze around a bit on Saturday morning?

I have a problem. I need help.

Also...I didn't take a single food photo this week. I know, I am ashamed. So, as a run down, we had:

  • Steak sliced and dipped in a balsamic reduction with pear onions and baked potatoes
  • Patty melts with free-range, grass-fed beef and artisan rye
  • Stomboli with seasoned ground beef and smoked ham and two very tasty specialty cheeses wrapped in Great Harvest whole wheat pizza dough
  • Pasta primavara with market-fresh zucchini, onions, tomato and spinach "pesto"
  • Ruebens on the rye above with the ham from above and the cheese from above with fresh potato salad with a greek yogurt sauce
Not bad if I do say so myself! Happy Friday - it's nachos tonight!!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Adventuring I go

Maybe it’s the heat of summer. Maybe it’s that the only “time away from home” we’ve had since our honeymoon was a weekend-only (as in no extra days off but the usual weekend) to Houston to visit my in-laws and Oklahoma to see my uncle’s plays. They were lovely trips, but very rushed with long hours in the car consuming chunks of the trip. Maybe it’s the tedium of work. All I know is that I am jonesing for a real adventure. A nice long one. Sadly, we are extremely shy on excess funds vacation days. I believe both have to do with a little wedding thing we threw. Have I mentioned the wedding on here before? Hmm, maybe I have. ;)

Anyhow, in search of a much needed adventure (and as a promise made during our best man’s speech which made addendums to our vows), I’ll be embarking on an ENTIRELY new-to-me voyage……into the realm of Dungeons & Dragons…..my husband’s greatest love, save me and the dog….maybe.

Now, I know someone has to be thinking a few things about this little adventure of mine. One, I’m a Rennie. I dress up funny and run around the woods with other people dressed funny and pretending to be from a completely bygone and often fictional place. How is my favorite activity so far removed from D&D? Okay, so to clarify, I don’t “play” other people. I’m me. Also, it’s active instead of on my couch. BIG differences. Plus, the only “quest” I have when at a renaissance festival is generally the search for good beer and maybe a new piece of costumry. Two, how does this count as an adventure? Well, I get to spend time doing something my husband absolutely loves and obsesses over. This is his baby. He’s running this game, straight out of his head. Time with my husband doing something at least one of us love counts for something. He dresses up with me, so it’s only fair(e!). Plus, it’s free. We don’t have to take time off work to do it, nor spend hours in the car.

The husband started explaining things to me last night in order to build a character. My head swam! There’s so much to know! Ugh. It’s like homework. But I’m usually a quick study, so I hope that I get over the “this is too hard to think about” phase quickly in order to actually experience what he enjoys so much. Right now, all I have is a character race and class. That’s not much. We have another “session” tonight to perhaps develop the character into something I can actually play. I was promised frozen yogurt upon completion. Hey….I need motivation too, right?!

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Next steps

So, if you couldn’t tell explicitly from yesterday’s post, yes, I am quite bitter over having to pay back a student loan on what has turned out to be a useless waste of a degree. But…..am I glad I got the degree? Oh yes. Hands down, I’ll never regret fulfilling the promise that I made to myself to get at least a bachelor’s in this lifetime. Preferably before 30. Both of which I did. It’s important to keep promises to yourself, don’t you think?

So what now? Keep looking for a new avenue, I suppose. I’m not unemployable (obviously, as I’ve been with the same company just a few months shy of 10 years). I just have a regrettable major! Surely that isn’t the same as being unemployable.

I feel that there is so much more out there for me. Like I’m simply not living up to my potential. That’s not something I really ever felt until I met and married my husband (this post describes how I feel about that to a T). And clearly, as I no longer have work or school related challenges to face, I’m not. It’s only when faced with things to hurdle that we become something greater. Or at least that’s how I’ve always felt. I create challenges in my personal life to compensate (this blog, my etsy store, raise and train a dog, cook healthier and cleaner, lose those nagging pounds, be a better wife). Those things are very fulfilling, but I feel like a piece is missing when I’m not doing something I’m passionate about for a living. And I cannot seem to convince anyone that they NEED me on their team. Am I simply looking in the wrong places? Not just in the wrong place for job postings, but am I looking in the wrong field entirely? Just because I have a business degree in financial services and have worked as an accountant for all these years….does that mean I should continue to do so? And what should I do if not this? I don’t feel qualified for anything else.
I’m totally at a loss as to what the next steps should be for my life…for our lives as a couple, because my decisions have an effect on our family unit. This is something I literally struggle with daily, but have kept off the blog as much as possible. It’s definitely on the forefront of my mind today, and so, it seemed time to let it out on my little public forum.

I’ll come up with something brighter and cheerier tomorrow. Promise.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two years

I graduated two years ago today. Technically, you'll be reading this in two years and a day, but hey.

After my divorce, I allowed myself to "miss" one semester, but promised I'd start the following semester, Fall 2006. I worked full-time and went to school full-time at night. I took 12-15 hours during the long semesters and at least two classes per summer. Since I started with my associates, I finished my bachelors in exactly two years. My goal was to finish before I turned thirty. I made it by three months! I was so excited, and my then-boyfriend took me on a celebratory trip to Vegas, baby!

I was on such a high!!!!!!!!!

Until the financial market crashed nearly the same month I graduated......with a finance degree. Yeah. True story.

Two years later, I still haven't found a new job. It's disheartening to actively look for a new career for two straight years. I'm thankful I didn't leave my old job, that's for certain. Still, I'm hopeful that I didn't put in ALL that hard work for nothing more than a loan to pay off. I'd like to hope that it will lead to opportunities....someday.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ode to napping

Is there anything more glorious than napping on Sunday?! Seriously. I think not.

After brunch, we were full of carb-y goodness from the whole grain spelt and millet crusty artisan bread I put in the strata and mimosas. We loaded Riley into her kennel so that she'd be forced to calm down a bit. Company had her very excited!

I took a piece of the sectional. He took a piece of the sectional. Riley laid down in her "house". Oliver cuddled with me. And.....all of us PASSED OUT for over two hours. It was epic in its gloriousness!

See, my husband is the world's worst napper. Me, I could do it any time, any where. That's a trait that runs deep through my entire family. So, for him to be in a deep restful sleep speaks volumes to how much we needed a family nap. We wouldn't have made it through puppy training class without it!

Three cheers for the nap!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Excellent weekend

So far...this weekend rocks!

We took Riley to her first farmers market in Coppell. The market is AMAZING. Fresh veg, fresh organic dairy, fresh grain-fed beef, fresh tamales....oh my! And dog. Oh the dogs. She nearly choked herself at first from pulling on the leash with excitement. Then she calmed down when she realized we'd actually let her get to each and every dog if she'd just relax a bit. We came home with some lovely things and a very tired, very content Riley.

The rest of the day was spent lazy with our little family. I cooked. Riley played. We all napped!

And today, I have a strata working in the oven, giving off to-die-for smells and stuff for mimosas chilling in the fridge. Why?
Because these two are coming over for Sunday brunch! And to meet the little wiggle butt.

Then puppy training class! See you tomorrow.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The destoyer of toys!

I feel the need to document all the toys that my little puppy has been able to destroy in just two weeks. Two of which, the orange star "hard to destroy" toy and pink rope were both torn to shreds in mere hours!

For that, she's been relegated to nylabones along. She seems to be unable to destroy those no matter how hard she tries.

Poor puppy....she did this to herself!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Food in Review

This week was a series of repeatable meals for the sake of ease. Well, ease, and great farmers market finds!

We had black eyed pea stew - simmered fresh peas, okra, and onions from the market with organic fire roasted tomatoes, hot sauce and old bay. I added grilled turkey smoked sausage and cornbread for two fantastic meals this week.

We also had veggie enchiladas, also filled with market finds of zucchini and onions. I added frozen spinach and corn along with a bevvy of spices (cumin, chili powder, cayenne, garlic, and salt) to make a nice Mexican-style veggie filling to stuff into corn tortillas. They were topped in salsa verde and mixed cheddar cheeses to make them out-of-this-world good. Sadly, they refused to hold together. So, they were more enchilada casserole by the time they hit the plate than enchiladas. By hey, it still tasted good! I even made a pan of them for my Grama. It's her favorite dish of mine. We had that twice as well.

Lastly, I used free range chicken breast cut into nuggets to make buttermilk ranch oven-roasted chicken nuggets. The key to crispy nuggets that aren't actually fried is panko crumbs as the outer coating + baking at a high heat on a cooling rack. I cooked these for 15 minutes on 425 (or there abouts), but be sure to cut one open or use a thermometer to ensure they're done please. These babies were eaten as is with mashed potatoes the first time and on a salad of greens, apple, feta, and avocado the second time. Totally delicious. And not nearly as bad for you as it sounds! I used buttermilk and a spicy ranch packet (a bit of the packet, not nearly the whole package of seasoning) as the "ranch"m portion. Buttermilk is naturally low in fat.

And....because it's Friday and that makes me happy.....a little puppy love for you!

Get that rope Ri! Show it who's boss!!!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rockstar or dud?

Sometimes I feel like a rock star of a wife! Every day, I pack a healthy lunch for both of us. These usually include a main lunch item (either left overs from a dinner, a sandwich on some sort of whole grain or artisan bread with homemade spreads, veggies and meat, or homemade quiche) and at least two but preferably three snacks (like homemade granola bars or yogurt messes with plain organic yogurt and berries with kashi cereal in a bag on the side to preserve the crunch factor. The husband’s lunches even include his daily soda and silverware. This seems like a small thing, but it takes me at least 15 minutes every morning (or the evening before when I can) to do. It saves us money, and I feel good about us eating healthier foods instead of some drive thru garbage. I try to make a meal plan every week, grocery shop every weekend, and make healthy meals for us all week long. Again, seems simple enough, but it is a time consuming process. Thankfully, I love doing it. As a reminder (or if you missed that post), food = love for me. So, I love cooking for my husband and I think, hopefully, he realizes that I do it because I love him.

But then….sometimes I feel like the world’s worst wife too. Because, obviously, it’s about way more than food. By mid-week, I’m fairly beat down. I tend to leave the kitchen a mess after I’ve cooked instead of tidying it. Other little things go undone that I would normally do right away. And I get whiney. Really whiney. No one really wants to be around someone that, predictably, by Wednesday night is cranky and totally worn out. Being a good partner involves feeding your spouse emotionally not just keeping his belly full, and I fail at this one by the end of the week. I get self-absorbed in my dislike for certain areas of my life, and I shut down emotionally in order to keep from being so consumed by what’s eating at me.

Perhaps this is why he instituted the Friday Treat…..to snap me out of the end of week-malaise that I fall into. I just hope that he realizes that I don’t like this pattern any more than he does. And I also hope that it will lessen or maybe even stop when the situation causing it is changed. One can hope!

For now….beer, baby….and puppy!.....will have to be my reason for trying harder to be cheerful at home on the week nights.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Memory Lane

So, I decided to go through our photos for today's post. Here's the little gem I came up with for you all!

This was March 6, 2008 - three weeks after I'd met my husband-to-be on a "blind" date (a.k.a. Match.com date). My job has a policy that we don't really shut down for weather related issues....um, ever. I was at work when it started snowing. A little snow is no big deal. Snow coming down as heavy and fast as this WAS a big deal. When we were finally released, three hours after the snow had been falling heavily, the damage was already done. Every highway was a disaster area. Most were completely still. Work is 40 miles from where my boyfriend was. My house was closer, but I lived in a cabin in the woods where you can literally see the outdoors through cracks in the walls in some spots. My house would literally be too cold for me to sleep in during a storm like this.

It took me over three hours to reach his duplex. I literally broke down and cried half way there. I called everyone I could think of to get me through the madness of sitting in traffic and sliding off the road until my phone ran dead.

But when I got there.....he hugged and kissed me and we played in the snow.....where I got a snowball directly to the face! Um....oops?!

I had the next day off for a doctors visit; a follow up to see if I had cancer. Which I don't. But that's why I remember the date so well. A bittersweet day made better solely because of this cute guy I was falling in love with, only I'm not sure we really knew it yet!