Posted in Blog, Family, Holidays & Birthday, Self

“Don’t Go Overboard”…

…from your mouth to God’s ears.  Apparently November makes people crazy with the stressors of the holidays, and apparently I am no exception to this rule.  I tried to brush off Thanksgiving this year, simply because I just don’t feel much like hosting, cooking, cleaning or eating anything except perhaps some Chinese take out.  After declaring my boycott of our typical traditional Thanksgiving, I was “strongly encouraged” to cook dinner and invite the normals.

Sooo here I sit here trying to pull together a menu of foods that I don’t like – all so I won’t be inclined to eat “all the carbs” since that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple weeks – non stop.  I’ve had the blah’s and I’m sure it’s the fault of the weather and the impending holidays.  Thing is, I’m not a holiday hater at all, in fact I love Thanksgiving and Christmas, like a lot!  But…I am a do it all kinda person (read control freak) and I’m tired.  I’d rather focus my energies somewhere else.  A trip perhaps, a family vacation – a relaxing Alaskan cruise, a red eye flight to Bermuda, a leisurely drive to South Dakota – all scream YES?  I really don’t want to put a lot of effort into the holidays because really…who cares?  It’s all been taken for granted for years and who am I to believe I haven’t created monsters out of the people that do enjoy these seasonal traditions?  Packing on the over-indulgence repeatedly only to have it repeated a couple times a year – with again, more indifference to the day – seems kinda mind-numbingly ridiculous to keep putting myself through this considering I’m not sure what my “pay off” is.

I surely don’t care about gifts, I don’t care about working constantly to make sure the house is perfect and all the lights on the tree are placed correctly, I don’t care what people think about me, my home, my traditions or lack thereof.  I care about spending time with my family, having fun and making memories.  I just wonder if finally I’m completely brainwashed on one the two schools of thought; 1.) That Christmas is pretty much a thing of the past since religion is a dying belief and not to mention WAY over commercialized for it to be anything good or  2.) Christmas is THE holiday, the ONLY holiday!  Go crazy!  Start in July – the over planning, over indulging, over feeding, over spending!!  Jesus is the reason for the season!!  I lean towards 2, but it’s simply not effective for me any longer, at least not the way I’ve done it in the past.  It simply does not garner what I am in search of.

The girls are in their teens now, so the magic of Christmas is not what it used to be.  The joy and excitement of Christmas morning is lost on “more sleep” and snapchat streaks.  As of this very moment, I’m leaning toward one tree instead of three, a small dinner for the four of us and simple minimalistic gifts.  As my best friend’s words ring in my ear concerning my now revised Thanksgiving plans, “…don’t go overboard…”.  I’m going to try to heed her advice and simply chose to do what matters.

Wish me luck, as I am really no different than the other millions of sheep, I too become caught up.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this year I can focus on the things that ultimately do matter and truly enjoy the holidays.

xoxo

 

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Posted in Family, Food, Holidays & Birthday

Flu Shot Season

Ahhhh, here we are – mid October; a break from school when it seems it just started, winter clothes shopping and a visit to the med clinic for the dreaded annual flu shot.  I know, I know, it sounds like a blast.  My kids bitch at me because I have a tendency to schedule such “unfun” things on what should be “fun” days.  My oldest daughter constantly reminds me that in the past I scheduled a couple of her dental visits on her birthday.  With all her crabbing, you would have thought I’d FORGOTTEN it was her birthday altogether, but no, it was just a day that was convenient and that I could remember!

Yesterday, I told everyone to get up and get movin’, we were heading out…for flu shots.  They were anything but thrilled, but thankfully we got it done.  It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, but hey, I hear it’s better than the flu!

We had had the better half’s family over for a birthday get together on Saturday.  Since we have so many October birthday’s, I considered making birthday cakes for everyone, but instead I decided to go with cupcakes and an apple crisp.  I didn’t really ask how everyone felt about the cupcakes, but personally, I loved them!  These “not too sweet” pumpkin cupcakes with Kahlua cream cheese frosting hit the spot!

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Look deep into my eyes…lol

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Kahlua Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 12 (although I made 19 with this recipe)

Cupcake:
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/3 c. milk
3 T. vegetable oil
2 T. applesauce
1/2 c. walnuts (optional)

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
2 T. Kahlua
2 c. confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 400*. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In another large bowl, whisk the egg, brown and white sugar together until smooth. Stir in milk, oil, applesauce, pumpkin and walnuts, just until combined. Don’t over mix. Fill a cupcake pan with batter 2/3’s full.

Bake in oven for 16-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and Kahlua together using an electric mixer. Gradually add in confectioners sugar until smooth and creamy. Frost cupcakes, serve and enjoy!

Making 12:
342 per cupcake (eek)

Making 19:
Cal: 216
Fat: 8g.
Carb: 35g.
Pro: 2g

These were more adult than kid and really fit this time of year.  It goes without saying that I love Kahlua, but if you don’t the taste can be a little strong.  I’d half it or omit it all together if you’re not a fan.  If you give them a try, let me know what you think!

xoxo

Posted in Family, Self, Travel

Home Again

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This morning, I plugged in my card reader to go through the photos I took Monday at my best friend’s mother’s graveside service.  I’ve known my best friend since we were in Kindergarten, we were 5.  Our birthday’s are only 12 days apart, to this day on my birthday she calls me “old”.  That’s basically the only chance she has to throw that word out there and it not quite apply to herself, but only a few days later, she catches up!

My best friend’s mom was considered my second mother.  That’s even the way she signed her cards to me, she was probably one of the only people I could be myself around and she’d still accept me when it was all said and done.  This being said, my best friend wasn’t always my “best friend”, but she’s always been the friend I’ve known and kept the longest, 40+ years!  I was the only non-family member at her mother’s service there on my bestie’s behalf.  The service was bittersweet.  Since my best friend and I don’t live close to one another any longer, we don’t see each other very often, but when we do, it’s exciting and fun and it’s great to see one another.  This time, we came together with many different emotions being involved, but thankfully, the service went well and visiting her family went well.

I’m so glad I was able to be there, to give my second mother a final farewell and to remember her for who she was.  A beautiful, kind woman who gave birth to my bestie and loved me despite the fact I was no relation to her.  I will remember her forever and miss her always.

Posted in Family, Food

Menu Monday

Just a word of advice for March, you can go ahead and cut the crap and start following suit with February.  She behaved herself and showed mercy; weather in the 60’s and 70’s, warm enough to play outdoors, ride bikes and to actually enjoy “winter”.  You can take your wind and the rest of your 20 degree days and stick ’em!  I’m really over you and we’re only a few days in…

Anyway, enough about controlling Mother Nature, let’s talk strategy.  I have approximately 20 lbs. to lose by June, to do so, I need to strategize something that’s actually going to work with my out of control eating – well, it’s not really out of control.  It’s more like, not consistent.  I go a couple days doing SO well and then – it’s on.  Sweets, wine, fast food even, just overeating in general, exercise slacks off, don’t drink my water, ya know…just fall back into the old habits which ensure that I do not lose a pound – ever.  Not really working for me.  The last week or so I’ve done fairly well, only 2 days of not eating properly and both coincide with my BMA* (baby making’ abilities).  Reality is, I do great for about two weeks out of the month and then I bomb the other two weeks, all because of my BMA.  I figured that out a while back and haven’t quelled it yet.

To stop making rushed decisions when I’m starving, I’ve decided to food prep.  I have tried it, but of course, follow through is needed and I’m very short on that.  I make it and then wind up eating something else.  I’m going give it another try and see if I’m successful at losing weight and eating what I make!  I’m working on making homemade chicken salad now, I’m going to boil some eggs, cut up some fruit and veggies and have it with some chicken broth.  I can and will do this!  I’ll take some photos as I go today and post them here later.

This is my dinner menu this week for the family.  Thought I’d share this as well, sometimes I wind up eating something different than I plan for them depending on the fat/carb content and especially if I chose to have a glass of wine while I cook dinner!

Beef Sunday: Tomato Beef Country Casserole

Fish/Seafood Monday: 20 Minute Honey Garlic Shrimp & Miso Wonton Soup

Pork Tuesday:  Low Carb Pork Loin Piccata

Chicken Wednesday: Jalepeno Popper Chicken

Ethnic Thursday: Thai Inspired Hot Dogs

Soup/Salad/Sandwich Friday: Baked Mustard, Ham & Cheese Sliders & Tomato Basil Soup

Eat Out or Kids Choice Saturday: No decisions or ideas yet!

This morning I’m taking the youngest to the clinic.  Last night she “fell” off the bed and hit the top of her foot on the nightstand hard enough to make it swell and give her a limp.  Just want to make sure it’s nothing serious.  Hope you all have a wonderful Monday!

xoxo

 

Posted in Family, News, Travel

Show Me the Mickey!

Well – I’m doin’ it.  I’ve been in a rut long enough now.  Time to shake things up and git to gettin’ happy!

(First, I have to admit – I absolutely freaked out a little while ago.  My blood pressure went up, I started to shake and I felt like I was going to pass out, all because I updated the OS on my mac!  I started thinking about all the stuff I don’t have backed up!  Does anyone else do that?!?  Good Lord, I thought I would jump out of my skin waiting for this thing to update.  Thankfully, it’s all still here!  UGH!  Can you say heart attack!?!?  Yeah, not a good way to go out for sure!  Anyway…here’s my happy!)

The last couple nights, while lying in bed NOT being able to sleep, the gears were a-grindin’.  ‘What sounds good, fun, exciting!?’  I’ve been toying with the idea of a cruise for a while now.  It’s been FOREVER since I’ve been on one.  Just few months ago, I posed the question on my personal FB page, ‘what cruise line do you recommend?’ and after a few posts, I started my research there.  Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity were all mentioned – even Carnival, but I know better than that!  I started looking and pretty quickly thought I’d made a decision.  Then – somehow for some reason – Disney came to mind.

Now let me give a brief background here about my relationship with Disney.  I have a long term love affair with WDW that started when I was about 2.  I have always loved Disney, suffice it to say – a lot, whole bunches with my heart and soul.  I won’t go into too many details because I’ll start to get emotional and probably won’t be able to finish this post.  Over the last few years I allowed my love affair with Disney to die a peaceful death when my ex started going on a regular basis with his current wife.

There’s a LOT of sadness and a LOT of baggage there.  I mean, it was my most favorite vacation destination EVER!  But in the last 10+ years, I’ve been only once, for an afternoon, with my girls.  My youngest daughter’s face in the photo below tells you exactly how I felt about being there at the time.

But now, I’ve come to the realization that I’m tired of allowing the old to disturb the new, I’m sick of missing out on the fun and the good times, all because of something I can’t and couldn’t control.  I miss Disney, I miss the fun, the colors, the movies, the rides, the attachment to a place that was always so good to me, I miss the resorts, the food, the monorail, I miss the anticipation and excitement of planning, I miss the hospitality and I miss the awesome, personalized customer service!  Screw it, I’m not missing any more!  I started reading the cruise reviews and all of them are exactly like I left them 10 years ago – Top Drawer – without question – they are – the Premier in Pampering!  And by God, I am so ready to be pampered!!  My decision was made…but first I had to clear it with the gang.

I was a bit hesitant about approaching the 15 year old, as ya just never know.  It’s hit or miss during the teen years.  I was surprised when it was my 14 year old that was like, “eh, I don’t know Mom, that sounds kinda babyish”.  But then I hit her with the Teen Club thing and she was in.  As of this morning, I have everyone I need on board!  I’m in this and I’m so totally excited!!  My 15 year old said, “and you can get married on the ship!”  Say what did you say?!  Hey…yeah…we could do that!!  Because Disney’s all about making Fairy Tales come true!

xoxo

 

Posted in Family, Holidays & Birthday, Home

The SLow Down

Ah, February – the month of Love!  January did a fly by on my radar.  It was a busy month, full of emotionally charged days that I’m glad are past me.  I ate my way through the month and I’m currently trying to come down off the high of feeding my stress.  As I sit here typing this, I’m wishing I had on my pajama pants since my jeans have become less like clothing and more like a torture device.

My mother had her aortic aneurysm surgery in the middle of January and she did very well.   I can now say with certainty for a fact, I am not capable of taking care of her in any way, shape or form.  And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  The facts are as follows:

#1. She wants things the way she wants things and I am too much of a controlling person to be ok with that.

#2.  She’s not willing to help herself and I cannot feel responsible for that.

#3.  She does not trust me, never has, never will.

We are oil and water and a life and/or death situation does not change that fact. Those reasons are enough to fuel the fact that this type scenario will not – can not – take place again.

However, every rain cloud has a silver lining.  About 7 years ago when we moved to Indiana, we (I) gave away our dachshund and I’ve never really gotten over wanting another one (or feeling guilty that I gave him up).  Knowing this, the Better Half decided to buy me a new dachshund puppy as a late Christmas gift.  She is an absolute joy!  She’s adorable and so, so sweet!  My youngest daughter named her “Gretchen Wieners” but to simplify things a little bit, we call her ‘Indy’.  She, like most doxies, is a cuddle bunny, her favorite thing is to be held and snuggled.  She bunks with the oldest as she doesn’t have a “pet” other than her Betta fish, Bae and he’s too hard to snuggle with.

It’s been chaotic trying to potty train her and to keep up with everything else, but I have no doubt as things calm down and I can focus more attention on her she’ll have it in no time!  As they say, there are no bad dogs, only bad owners and I don’t want to be a bad owner!

It’s only the 1st, but I’ve already started working towards Valentine’s Day!  It’s one of my favorite days of the year. Here are some of the ideas I’m tacking for this Valentine’s Day.

Valentine Pretzel Buttons

Seven Days of Love, for both the Better Half & the girls

and because they know I love to make them, the girls requested my cut out sugar cookies, which I’m happy to do because really, who doesn’t love ❤️s?!

Yesterday I jumped in feet first and decided to experiment with my new silicone heart molds, I melted some Ghirardelli dark chocolate wafers and some Ghirardelli white chocolate wafers.  I put in the heart molds, pistachios, craisins, dates, toffee chips, mallow bits, rainbow & crystalized sugar sprinkles and then piped in my melted chocolate.  Placed them in the fridge for abut 30 minutes and boom!  Instant “homemade” chocolates!  Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!  You can see it here at No.2 Pencil!

I do hope you all have a beautiful and love filled February!  I hope to see more of the blog this month!!  (I’m saying that a lot these days, aren’t I?!)

Do what makes your heart happy!

xoxo

 

 

Posted in Family, Food, Holidays & Birthday, Home

Brownies with a Twist (actually more like a sharp turn)

Good morning!!  I owe you a huge thank you if you’re still with me!  I’m not doing my part here at ALL!  Hard to fathom it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted anything.  The last three to four weeks has been filled to capacity with one thing after another.  After our trip to Shipshewana, we all proceeded to enjoy a viral infection that ran it’s course through all four of us and has really taken it’s time leaving.  The better half and I still have some congestion, but thankfully the girls are all clear.  We do believe our cat has it currently, as she’s sneezing and her eyes are squinty and watering.  We took her to the vet on Tuesday and they gave her an antibiotic injection.

My mother flew in from Georgia the week before Thanksgiving.  She has come for the holidays as per tradition, but this time she will be gracing us with her presence for a bit longer than usual.  She has an AAA, an abdominal aortic aneurism that will need to be fixed via “open” surgery.  We have been running to and from doctor’s offices during the past couple weeks to make sure all is well.  She’s already met with the surgeon and recently took a stress test, which we are now awaiting the results.  I believe then the surgery can be scheduled.  Once the three hour surgery is complete, she will spend a week in the hospital and another 6-8 weeks recuperating.  It’s going to be a very long, long three months for me.

This Christmas the girls will head to their dad’s.  We will delay our Christmas with them until the end of the month.  It’s not the worst thing in the world, it gives me a little more time to shop for last minute gifts but I sure don’t like them not being home – no matter what time of year it is.  All a bit stressful, but so far manageable with wine.  But despite all that – the REAL news here is – I baked something AMAZING yesterday!  This is the first thing I’ve baked this holiday season (other than a poundcake that turned out to be pretty gross).

Let me introduce to you…Godiva Liqueur Brownies!  Holy Smokes, these little beauties are to DIE for!!  Godiva became my favorite chocolate a few years ago during my stressful, five year divorce I was going through.  We really bonded during one New Year’s Eve, when I broke down and spent $350 on a box of handmade Godiva chocolates and spent that night in bed watching the ball drop and all whilst marveling over every bite.  Yep – it’s a tight bond.  I’ve never forgotten her getting me through that New Year’s.  She will always hold a special place in my heart.

I don’t drink alcohol any more only wine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like liquor, I just don’t drink it – but I will eat it on occasion!  Like when I saw this recipe and immediately said to myself, “yep, that’s gonna be in the Christmas Lineup!”  So without further ado – here’s the recipe, found in the December 2016 Taste of Home 12 Days of Christmas Cookies by Terry Rasey, Cadillac, MI.

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Godiva Liqueur Brownies

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
2 T. chocolate vodka (I used 360 Double Chocolate)
2 T. creme de cacao (I used dark)
 1 1/3 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. baking cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)

Glaze: (although I turned mine into icing by tripling the recipe)

1 c. confectioners’ sugar
4 t. butter, melted
2 T. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1 T. chocolate vodka 
1 T. creme de cacao

Preheat oven to 350*.  Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the liqueur, vodka and creme de cacao.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking cocoa and baking powder until well mixed.  Stir in the semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture just until combined.  Transfer to a 13×9″ baking dish coated with cooking spray, bake just until center is set, 24-28 minutes (do not overtake).  Cool brownies completely in the pan on a wire rack.  

For the glaze, mix all ingredients until smooth, spread over brownies.  Cut into 24 bars and store in an airtight container.  

Really, these are super delicious!  If you’re baking for adults (my kids tried them but weren’t big fans of the icing) that enjoy a little nip with their holidays, give these a try!  Have a wonderful day and I swear, I’ll post more than this one post this month!!

xoxo