Saturday, April 30, 2011

Losing My Religion...Guest Post

Thank you to everyone that has been reading this series and writing me emails, and comments. I am still blown away by the fact that people like what I have to write and want me to continue to write.  I am currently doing some more research into journals I kept before college to get a better picture of my frame of mine for my next installment.  I am leaving you however with a guest post from a high school friend Nicci.  Nicci kindly shared her story of the role of religion in her life.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Losing My Religion...Part 2

Living in the Midwest was an...experience.  I moved there when I was 10, and didn't leave until college. It was the longest I'd ever lived in one place.  Hell...still is.  I loved the smell of wet grass, the chirp of the birds and the sounds of buggy wheels coming down the road.  I loved living in a big old Victorian house that we were convinced was haunted with the soul of the wife of the builder. I still dream about that house, frequently.  I wonder if I'm dreaming about that house because of this blog, and all the memories and feeling it is bringing to the surface.

When I was introduced to the Catholic faith, we were living in New York state, about 90 minutes upstate of the city, in a very Catholic area.  Along with acquiring a rather strong New York accent (caawfee anyone?) I absorbed the culture around the church.  Our community lived, worked, and went to school together. We had a great base, a great foundation that we really lost when we moved. When you go to a church school those people are your family, your friends and your community.  In the days before the internet, and skype it was a lot harder to stay in touch.

My mom talks about how our family changed when we moved, and how happiness left us.  It was really excruciatingly difficult for her to give up this community that supported her during her sobriety and learning to be a good parent.  She credits the St. James community for teaching her how to be a good parent.  We struggled both individually and as a family unit to cope with the changes that we were faced with.

We joined the local Catholic church, but the community there wasn't terribly strong.  It was established and loathe to let new people in, plus we got a new priest right after we arrived.  Fr. P wasn't a very good Priest.  In fact, he was a pretty awful priest that didn't know what he was doing, since he was a Friar that they hooked into becoming a Pastor.  He just wanted to cook, and study and all of the sudden he was in charge of an entire parish.  I can only imagine how daunting that task was and how relieved he was when he was able to retire.

When we lived in New York we had Priests that would give homilies (or sermons) on a level that children could understand. They would tell stories to illustrate their points, and make it interesting and short enough that we didn't completely lose interest.  Someone forgot to tell Fr. P that this was a good idea. My grandfather told me when he was in seminary they were taught to keep Sunday homilies between 5-7 minutes and weekday homilies to 3.  This is exactly my attention span as it so happens (since I've never lost interest in one of his homilies).  Fr. P however would ramble on for a half an hour it seemed like and in the end I would have no idea what was said.  This is an important point since the next step in my journey is to attend a ton of different Protestant churches which are all sermon based, not worship based. The main difference between those sermon's and our weekly homilies was exactly the issue I had between parishes--I couldn't relate to the homilies.  I could relate to the sermons, and the spiffy handouts with outlines and power points to illustrate points really helped.  Perhaps there was also the element of just wanting to get through it. Going to Church was about going it wasn't exactly demanded that we get something out of it.  When I decided on my own to go to other churches, I wanted to go and therefore I had more of a vested interest in it.

What created this interest?  It was meeting people who truly had faith.  They had this aura of peace around them.  They have 'noor' which means God's light emanating from them, and I was jealous. I want that! I want to feel at peace in this crazy world, safe in the knowledge that it will all be alright.  I wanted that noor and so I went out looking for it.  I really think that I thought that I would hear some sermon one day and all the sudden, BOOM there it would be.  I would just...get it.  Sadly, it doesn't work like that.

I remember the moment when I really started questioning what I was taught. I was in the car with a friend and she was describing the idea of being 'saved' and that people that weren't saved weren't going to go to heaven. "What about people that don't know about Christianity?" I'd asked.
"Well, if they truly honestly don't know about Christianity because they live in some remote place then maybe they will be able to, but there aren't many places like that now."
This didn't sit well with me.  Religious exclusivity never has.  What makes one group convinced that their way, the definitively the 'right' way?  I know a lot of it has to do with faith, but as you will read...I never felt that connection to faith.

When I was in high school I, like every other high schooler in the world, just wanted more than anything else to fit in. I joined campus ministry and student leadership (another campus for Christ organization), went to prayer circles in the morning, and religiously read my bible (haha nice pun, right?).  I wanted to find a place where I fit in, belonged, and a place that I could feel trust and trusted. The 'religious' kids were nice to me.  They didn't ask me to lie, cheat or steal and didn't make fun of me. I still felt like I was an outcast though.

It was during this search that I started to go to every church I could, and learn as much as I could.  Living where I did, my resources were limited to attend or learn about any faith outside of Christianity. That didn't really happen until college.

Up shopping, or hopping

Yogurt Making Tutorial

My starter! You need 3-5T, not much at all! I just saved
a bit from my first batch!
I have successfully made two large batches of delicious yogurt and think I have it down.

I measure the milk so I know exactly how much yogurt I'm getting some whole organic milk, and either ask a friend for some starter yogurt, or use some store bought.  Apparently you aren't supposed to use Greek yogurt because it is already strained.  I would suggest you get organic yogurt while you're at it.  If you get non organic milk, it probably won't taste the same. I should NOT  be the extra pasteurized kind of milk that make's it self stable.

Okay people now that you have your yogurt starter, and your whole milk we take some milk (I do 8-9 cups at a time) and put it in a saucepan and bring it to just a boil.  Don't scald the poor milk--this is to kill the bacteria, not to fry it.  After bringing it to a boil, you let it cool off to 110 degrees (bottle hot)  and pour in your starter.  As it is cooling off, I pour it into a dutch oven (since I don't have a ceramic container) and then keep stirring occationally to keep a film from forming.

At the beginning of all this, turn the oven onto about 150-175 and then when it preheats, just turn it off.  You are just making a happy environment for those yummy yogurt bacteria.

 After the starter is stirred in, leave it the hell alone for 8-10 hours. I just put it in the oven in the dutch oven with a lid on and leave it be!

Finished Product!
Okay...just ask if you have questions!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Losing my religion...part 1

Recently a friend on facebook asked my conclusions on religion and I realized that it was time to write this post.  I think that I have had difficulty writing this post as I don’t really feel like defending my lack of religiosity to people who are thoroughly entrenched in their own beliefs.  As you will learn, I love faith and religion and it’s role in humanity.  If you have questions, feel free to comment and ask them, but know that I’m not and will never pretend to be a theologian.

This caveat aside, let’s dive in.  

When I was 8 years old my parents decided to formally join the Roman Catholic Church.  We were, at the time, attending a lovely Catholic school, and my step-father had been brought up in a very Catholic influenced household (German AND Irish, need I say more?).  I once asked my dad about their decision to join the Church and he told me that they (he and my mother) wanted us to have some religious foundation in our lives.  My parents never forced us in any way in our religious upbringing.  We went to Church on Sunday’s and said Grace before meals, and that was about it.  If we wanted to explore, or question we were allowed to, as long and we still went to Mass with them.  By the time I was in high school, I was going to Mass by myself most of the time, which in the end, enabled me to go to other Churches as well.

I still remember the first time I went to Mass (this may have actually been before we were enrolled in the school....I was young and things get moved around in my head over the years).  Fr. Francis a lovely priest with a heavy Ghanan accent was leading Mass.  I did not have a clue as to what he said for the entire hour.  Not because the Mass is such a rich ritualistic prayer celebration, was because his accent was so thick.  If you’ve attended Mass many times, this isn’t a problem since it is pretty much always the same and you can follow along.  For an 8 year was a little daunting.  I asked my dad if it would always be like that, and he explained to me about the whole accent thing. Like I said, I was young.

My brother and I were baptised together when I was in second grade.  My 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Ryan was my sponsor since  my aunt and grandfather that I had picked as Godparents weren’t able to come. Mrs. Ryan scared the crap out of me. I was too young to even know all of the stereotypical ‘Catholic school-teacher’ myths but she sort, she did fit them.  I went from having a huge public school first grade teacher who was very soft spoken; I don’t remember her ever yelling at us, to this tiny class with a spitfire of a woman that could put anyone back in their place with a single glare.  She even scared my mother! She wasn’t all bad though,  she had a lot to teach us, plus I’m sure we were a rowdy bunch.  During my second grade year I was Baptized, received my First Reconciliation (confession) and had my First Communion.  I don’t remember the specifics but my brother was Baptized and received First Communion with my class.  

Attending Catholic school meant that we had catechism lessons during class, and attended Mass at least once a week.  During the period leading up to receiving First Communion we would hang out in the church a lot practicing. We got to eat popcorn instead of the ‘bread’ served during mass, and let’s just say, the popcorn tasted a lot better.  You’d be surprise at how long it takes 15 7-8 year old’s to hold their hands correctly and respond correctly when there is an entire church to look at.  We also got to go back into the sacristy and see where the Priest would get dressed, and all of the ceremonial garb and accouterments. One thing that struck me was this sink with a sieve.  Our teacher told us that it was in case someone were to throw up after receiving communion they could sift out the host.  I have no idea what they’d do with it then, but vomit was a taboo subject and I might have stopped listening.  

Another thing we learned was that the church was named after St. James, and that in the alter there was a box with a tiny fragment of bone from St. James. At the time I thought, and I still do, that this was a little morbid.  I have never felt the urge to keep the bones of a dead friend close to me for comfort.

After we moved to the great Midwest we still attended Sunday school weekly (at this point I’m not sure if my brother attended) and eventually I was confirmed in the church.  I was also, interestingly enough, an alter server. My dad was the one that trained us actually.  If you go to a church where they ring bells, did you know that this is because Mass was originally in Latin and it was to wake up the people that couldn’t understand Latin and alert them that something interesting (in this case the blessing of the host) was going on? I learned that that day!  

I loved being involved the church, the choir and the community, even if it was small.  I’m a social person, and I didn’t really fit in at school.  

I love the Catholic church and it’s devotion to social justice.  My Catholic university experience really emphasised that.  I love nun’s who devote their lives to service and helping others. I also adore my grandfather who, after my grandmother passed away, became a priest.  He is such an amazing and awesome man and I can’t thank him enough for all of the long email conversations about religion that we had through my college years, and beyond.  

Even if I don’t consider myself Catholic anymore, I have defended the Catholic Church and what it’s dogma stipulates. For many years after, I still felt like a warm blanket was thrown around me and I was held in my mother’s lap when I attended Mass. It was a comfort.  The familiar words and hymns washed over me.  

I just don’t believe it.  In something like religion that, in the end, comes fundamentally down to faith, I just didn’t have it anymore.  I have however always admired people that lived their faith, and had this light about them of belief.  This comfort in their own skin and assurance for what comes next.  This is the next part of my story....

It was during high school that I started studying other religions in earnest, starting with the hundreds of Protestant churches around me.  

Saturday, April 23, 2011


My husband loves video games.  So much in fact that he started his own video game studio with his friends.  That said, the man owns a LOT of video games.  I asked him to delay playing Portal 2 until this weekend so I could watch/play with him.  Frankly...I suck at the coordination involved in playing most video games, but I like the logic and problem solving involved so I, most times prefer watching him play.

After seeing how excited my hubby was to have me play this game with him (it is an awesome game) I sort of devoted my weekend to it...or so it seems.  We've been at this for like 10 hours, and let me tell you this game is a hell of a lot longer than it's predecessor. It's okay, you can't really go wrong with a game about a psychotic passive aggressive robot and a portal gun.

I make cupcakes...I think it was a mistake. They are beautiful and I've got pictures up on facebook.  The problem I've got cupcakes and I do NOT need them.  Anyone within 20 miles of me want some Easter cupcakes?  I may be willing to drive, otherwise I'm going to hide them until Monday and send them to work with the hubby. I can't guarantee he won't eat them all though.  I really need to stop compulsively baking!

I hope everyone has a lovely Easter!  Don't eat too much candy....I did it already for you and the bellyache really isn't worth it.  No seriously...I really need to stop eating.  The jelly beans are already gone.  Thank God I only bought one bag, but still....we ate an entire bag of jelly beans in less than 24 hours. *moans*

Thanks for all the great comments on my last post.  The hubs and I have made some of our own traditions. I like that we do random awesome stuff just any day verses having to be tied to a particular day. That doesn't mean we don't do special stuff on Valentine's day or birthdays (mostly because I am very demanding about my need for presents) but we do attempt to do something that doesn't feed into money making that society attempts to force us in to.  I really can't wait to see how our traditions develop as a family when we have children.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Easter Tradition...why I miss Christianity, or at least the holidays

Neither my husband nor I practice any religion.  While I love studying and learning about religions I'm generally a failure at practicing them.  I tried Catholicism, I tried Protestantism and then I went a little wild in college and tried Islam. I have studied dozens of other faiths.  Those are all really long stories of their own, but in the end I ended up back where I was in the beginning.  Constantly wondering about the origins of the universe, where I came from, what my purpose is and what happens after we die. I have no answers to any of those questions, aside from deciding that I was going to stop thinking about dying and start living.  I wasn't going just to survive anymore, getting through each day, I'm going to get up and go do something, go see something and go make a memory.
Tangent about the meaning of life aside, the reason that I miss Christianity is because I miss the holidays and the community around them. I miss Easter dinner, eating ham around the table. All the warm fuzzies.  Atheists/agnostics don't really get holidays.  My husband and I don't celebrate Easter, so unless we go out (as we did one year) and dye eggs with a friend's son, it isn't a Sunday any different than any other.
I never really liked Easter that much growing up.  The weather in the north east seemed to always be either cold, rainy or both cold and rainy. I had to dress up in 'pretty' clothing, keep my tights clean and go to a really long Mass first thing in the morning. a 10 year olds world, none of that is fun.  I did however like the candy. I love jelly beans, although I'm rather picky about which ones I like.  I like letting chocolate melt on my tongue, and I especially loved this tradition we had in our family.
In my family you had  to work to get your Easter basket.  You want that chocolate? You want those jelly beans? Then you had to play the game.  Every year we had a an Easter Basket hunt with clues written on little pieces of paper leading to other clues around the house. And somehow there was always an Easter basket at the end, even if you had surreptitiously looked in the pots and pans, or in the tub before the actual start of the hunt and there was nothing there, in the end there was always one pristine Easter basket.  My parents were sneaky like that! There were places that there were always clues such as the piano, our favorite Beatles record (Sgt. Peppers), the dictionary or our encyclopedias.  We always had fun, and I can't wait to teach this tradition to my children.
Another tradition that we had is that my mom gives us toothbrushes on Easter (and in our Christmas stocking).  It seems fitting to get a tooth brush right before the start of the sugar rush holidays.  Also, my mom would always break the ears off of our bunnies.  When we were kids she would steal them (don't deny it mom!) but now she just cracks them off before she send them to us.  It is funny, but tends to confuse friends that wonder why we have broken candy in our baskets.  It still cracks me up when she sends me candy bunnies in the mail with broken ears.

What is your favorite part of the holidays? The warm fuzzy memories? The traditions?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I wish I could send you a smell... (an adventure in homemade granola)

No, seriously.  My kitchen smells AMAZING right now. Why you ask?  Because I embarked on yet another food making odyssey to make homemade granola. Granola cooking might be the best smell ever. It might actually beat baking bread for me right now, and I love bread.  My mom swears she made this stuff when I was a kid, so maybe that is where that ingrained love of the smell of baking granola comes from.

I have been struggling lately with being really tired and having no energy. I'm not sure if I'm sick, or if it is diet (all the crap I ate on 'vacation' catching up with me)or getting used to a new routine of working out, but today by the grace of God, and a lot of caffeine (chai at lunch...they really should cut me off after the fifth mug of it...the mugs are little though) I managed to get my house cleaned, laundry done so my husband has pants to wear to work, and some cooking done.

I think I was laying in bed this morning when I started thinking of the nuts and such I would need, that I didn't already have, to make granola.  It was time for a trip to Trader Joe's.  I think the clincher was that I was out of raisins, and that just wouldn't do.

I figured the recipe couldn't be that difficult (it isn't) and that as long as I didn't let it burn into a molten mass on a cooking sheet, it would be edible enough to pass off to my husband.  I picked up some cashews (roasted but unsalted), two different  types of raisins; since I like them on everything, and some pressed dried mango to chop up to put in the granola when it was done.
Tonight I was planning on making yogurt, since my landlady gave me a starter of her amazing batch, but instead started cutting up nuts and throwing things into a bowl.  This is the recipe that I 'sort of' used, but since I had walnuts, cashews, pecans and almonds I added them all. I also put in the dried cranberries (my addition) and raisins before I read the recipe and saw that it said to put them in at the end (woops), so then I proceeded to attempt to pull as many out as possible.  That would be why in the picture there are very few raisins.  There will be loads in the finished product. I like raisins...a lot.  The whole thing took 5 minutes tops to throw together.  The only 'tough' part is sticking around to stir it every 15 minutes.
Dear Alton, thanks for a great recipe.  I think the maple syrup base instead of another type of sugar won me over. Maybe you could make this a little healthier? Maybe next time I'll throw some stevia in the syrup instead of the brown sugar.  I also sort of fudged on the measurements since granola is NOT an exact science.

Click here for website


  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut (I used unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins


Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.
Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

My advice in making granola--shake it up!  Put in your favorite nuts, not just what the recipe says.  I didn't add didn't need it and neither do we!  My other advice and the most important advice is STIR THE GRANOLA while it is cooking, otherwise you could end up with the molten mess discussed above, and no one wants to clean that up.   
before cooking...looking yummy!

On another fr cat is hilarious.  What you thought you'd get through a post without reading about the infamous Newton? Come on people.  
So my kitty has this ratty old teeny hairband that he stole from my cousin, and since he drooled all over it, my aunt wasn't exactly clamoring to get it back, although I did offer.  This little teeny pink hairband has moved with us from WV and just randomly shows up until Newton yet again, loses it.  He found it again this morning when I lifted up a laundry basket and it was underneath.  How did it get under the laundry basket? Your guess is as good as mine.  Anyways, here are some pictures right before he once again lost it under the couch. I was going to ask my husband to get up off the couch so I could get it out, then I remembered that my husband is working and my cat is...spoiled.  He will have to do without for now.  
See the tiny ratty pink hairband? It is almost gray now because of him carrying it around and spitting it back out.  

The second he realized he lost it (and part of my husband's leg..sorry hun).  He spent the next 5 minutes staring at me, under the couch and back at me sadly.  He is pretty pitiful when he wants to be. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sensational Sunday!

Before I went to bed last night I wrote a list of things I need to do today.  Here is it

*laundry-contine to push through
*make pasta for hubby
do something with the *chicken-make pecan chicken?
*yogurt (skim!)
*get mail
*costco, need lemon juice

Instead...when I woke up unusally early this morning my husband asked for my phone and asked what I had planned for the the day. "Nothing special," I replied.
"Oh good, I've got a surprise for you, and you can't guess it.  Go take a shower and dress up...we are going into DC today." husband doesn't generally like leaving the house. He has this theory about setting his house up as his comfortable castle and never leaving it.  It works for him, but for someone as social as I am, it can get annoying (hence my making up a group!).  Because of the rarity of him wanting to leave the house, much less voluntarily going into the city, I hurried to get ready and tried really hard not to guess correctly (since he said we wouldn't do it if I guessed it correctly).  I have a habit of randomly guessing correctly, and it drives him insane.  We were out the door around 10am heading down to the metro.  I'm wearing my favorite purple velvet coat. It isn't too heavy and it is perfect for the cool weather. Much more practical than the short shorts I saw girls shivering in today.
When we got to the metro and got on the train, the first person I saw was the founder of another meetup group that I met ON FRIDAY.  The probability blows my mind!

Turns out we were going to see the Broadway Musical of The Color Purple!  We had a bit of time to kill before the show...
so we stopped to smell the flowers
ironically purple tulips.  They smelled like honey...

Since it was a Sunday Matinee, there were a lot of empty seats, and we were in the fifth row, center.
obligatory theatre shot...

The opening screen.  Dear God,  I am fourteen years old.  I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me. 

The show was pretty awesome. I would highly suggest seeing it if you have read the book or seen the movie. It follows the movie apparently more than the book. One of the challenges in making a musical that spans 40 years is expressing to the audience the passage of time.  I think that if you hadn't seen the movie or read the book their way of expressing it would be difficult to follow.  
The book is graphic and disturbing at times.  The musical portrayed these hardships while not being overly graphic or glossing over them.  There were some seriously hilarious scenes (including some VERY ripped field workers "flirting" with Celie when she first comes to Mister's house).  The whole thing comes off as a humorous story of overcoming hardship and finding love.  My husband's favorite character was Sophia whose tag line is, "HELL NO!"   The National Theatre is running a special next week for $29 tickets on Easter. If you are interested--check it out! It is worth the time and prices. The acting/singing were amazing.  
Best pickup line from the movie is, "If you need anything else done around here Ma'am, just doesn't have to be plumbin.'"  Like I said earlier--it was hilarious.  

main course was this ribeye steak and onion fries
Next...oh yes, this amazing day isn't over yet, Aaron suggested was meander towards the Ceiba Restaurant where we went on one of our first dates.  Since they take reservations and it is barely 5pm, I didn't think we'd be able to get dinner but Aaron strode in and said "Reservation for 5pm" and gave my name.  Wait...what?!  Did he just make that up to pretend we had reservations?  No...he had made them online earlier when he was hiding in his office while I got ready.  The true surprise was the dinner at Ceiba Restaurant, NOT the show.  See, when we first met he took me there and it was that dinner and the following show we saw, Avenue Q, at the National Theatre, that made me realize how serious our relationship was, and ultimately that I was going to marry him.  It was wonderful to relive those moments and make new amazing memories, plus...the food was AMAZING...

this was right after he told me about the surprise. He still looks...sneaky
We had a lovely metro ride home...seeing the most adorable little Asian baby that I wanted to snuggle so much.  Her mom kept trying to get her to wave at us, and she was like We loved that she was sitting in her stroller with a plastic cover, and propping her feet up on it like it was an easy chair. Too cute for words.  

Now we are sitting at home on the couch with a snoring cat between us, and I can say with certainty that this was a much better Sunday than I had originally planned!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Stupendous Saturday! Friends and yogurt...and mulch?

(insert big satisfied smiley face right here!)

What a great Saturday I have had.  My husband and I both had friends over, and it was a great day, even if it poured most of the day.
Yesterday morning Mona and I headed over to a meetup (with another group) and met some great people.  On the way out, they gave us these beautiful flowers!
This morning I decided to attempt to make yogurt after a friend sent me a link to the recipe.  I only have skim milk and skim fage yogurt, so this might end badly, but oh well I can buy the proper ingredients next time!  After putting the ingredients in the crockpot, allowing the milk to heat for a couple of hours, stirring in the yogurt and letting it cool, I put it in the oven (OFF!) and covered it with everything I could find (including sending my friend upstairs to grab a towel to wrap around it.  I have two aprons around it, and there might be some place mats. works!
you can't really see anything but the string hanging down from my apron
It says 'NO TOUCH! yogurt"  It was a small sticky note...and a bad marker!
Since I didn't want anyone preheating the oven and starting a massive fire, I also put a sign up...

One of the things that my friend Mar and I love doing is coloring.  No joke...I like it more now that I'm an adult than I did when I was in school.  This is our latest...project.  If it were more zoomed you could see how her side is perfectly even and beautiful and mine is...well me.  Not always inside the lines and uneven.  Pretty much sums up my personality-messy but effective...
It is hard to see, but it is apparently a picture of a sorcerer's chamber. The orange thing at the bottom was supposed to a lion. 

Last night the husband and  I hit up Costco for some serious produce.  Mona and I shared some of hers as well, so I now have mangos, cantaloupe, pineapple, avocados, a sweet potato, spinach and 2 asperagus shoots. I can eat asperagus, but no I don't like it.  This fact is making it really hard for me to finish.  I sort of gave mona most of it.
The menu this week worked pretty well.  The hubs either ate a couple of bites of my food or had it for left overs, which worked pretty well. I ended up cooking the hamburger meat yesterday, and then we can make tacos whenever we want.  We ate at Costco last night since we were there, which made me feel a little guilty but my husband doesn't deal well with hunger, so I had to feed to beast.  Here are some yummy produce shots...

Twice a year we apparently have to mulch our front garden.  This is okay in theory, but I didn't know jack about mulching.  I made a big mistake. Instead of getting the more expensive stuff that is darker, I got the cheap red crap that it looked like they had put down before.  Dyed...wood. What was I thinking?  Basically, I don't now won't eat anything out of the garden (there was an herb garden) because God knows what chemicals they use.  Oh well...lesson learned.  Next time, I'm getting cedar or pine. Does anyone know anything about using dyed mulch? I've never mulched before. I'm glad I was planning on simply container gardening anyways!

Before the red mulch fiastco I pulled out a bunch (no seriously, it takes over) of mint and decided to make mint lemonade from a recipe I found online.  It's good...I've had way too much. I ran out of lemon juice...two bottles. I should be shot for using it, but I had it on hand and...they did all the work for me! I just had to measure it, right?  It was a good project for 9pm.

That is it for tonight!  I'm thinking tomorrow will be low key.  I will try to get some pictures of our front garden now that it is mulched, even if I will grimace every time I look at it...just a little.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Water Aerobics

I mentioned that we (my meetup group) started a weekly water aerobics class, but it was such an interesting experience that I think it warranted it's own entry.
I arrived early (as I always do) and stood in line to make sure that we could actually take the class we wanted.  There was a man in front of me trying to pay for summer camp for his daughter. It is April, and all of the spots, except for 5 were taken for a camp in JULY.  Wow...early planning!
Eventually the other three ladies arrived and we all paid and headed to the locker room.  As always, I forgot to take my classes off until I hit the shower and realized they were still on.  They have those lockers that require you to put in 50 cents (they were only 25 when I was a kid!) in every time you open the door, so we all shared a locker.
There was a little question as to which of the 5 pool sections we were supposed to be in.  The pool is huge, and we were confused by the three classes starting concurrently.  The first thing that happened to us in the pool was an older man (70's) coming up to us and telling us "on Mondays we wear gloves!" We were a little confused, but they are these webbed gloves that cause more resistance when you are in the water.  It wasn't the end of the world that we didn't have them, but he was perfectly happy to tell us several times what they were, where to get them and when to wear them!
I didn't know beforehand that our teacher was apparently a drill Sargent in a past life.  "Water walk! Faster people! Faster! Get that blood flowing" She yells over the splash of 30 people sloshing through 5 foot deep water.  We walked so fast that you could lift your feet up and be carried along the current, that is until you hit a corner and went careening off into a wall.
We walked for a couple of minutes to get the blood flowing and started marching, jumping, hopping, scooping from one end of the pool to the other. The drill Sgt. turned out to be a very nice lady who kindly showed us most of the moves, since everyone in the class were apparently regulars and she merely just had to yell the move at them.   Some classes have teachers standing on the edge yelling out the different moves, but she was in the water with us, actually doing most of the exercises with us.
The bunny jumping with wavey hands from one end of the pool to enough was fun enough, but then she added in water dumbbells.  The teacher told us that the blue ones were the hardest resistance, and she "didn't want to see ANY dumbbells above the water!"
Threat in hand we moved onto doing bicep curls, back curls and a myriad of other bends.  Then...we had to put the dumbbell between our legs. As my friend Kiki says "It is every day that you are working out and they tell you to put a dumbbell between your legs!"  From that position, those of us that didn't immediately flip backwards, or have it pop out, ( were able do some ab exercises.  Next time I'm going to get a tougher dumbbell. I have pretty strong muscles from working out before I moved here, but I didn't want to hurt too much the next day.
After class we hung out in the hot tub for a bit, and then headed over to kikiverde's to play with her puppy and eat the most amazing salad.
I wasn't sore after class, or the next day and it didn't hurt my back at all.  I was however incredibly ravenous and exhausted.  I had a great time and hope to try the deep water class next week with Mona.
Have you ever taken a water class? What was it, and how much did you love it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My life is getting busy!

I haven’t written a blog entry in awhile that didn’t involved a lot of pictures so I thought I’d do an update.  

My meetup group is doing really well.  I have a group of 5-6 women that come to almost all of the events, so we have an excellent group going on.  On Monday we started with water aerobics, which was a lot of fun.  We were the only people under 60 in the group of about 25 people.  I loved it! we started out water walking, and chatting until the teacher told us to split up. We were apparently talking too much, and not walking enough. Mona and I loved it so much that we are going to take it AND deep water aerobics next week.  My schedule has the potential to get really busy, but I am really enjoying it.  

Our new semester of yoga just started today, but unfortunately our regular teacher (whom we adore) wasn’t present. She was taking a workshop and had to miss this week.  We had the same sub as we did last semester and none of us really like her.  She is VERY technical and expects us to hold poses forever while she is incredibly picky about how we do them.  Ourn regular teacher is relaxing and melodic and puts us at ease.  Instead, I was super stressed. It just isn’t a great combination.  we can’t wait for next week, and our favorite teacher to return.  

Today I seem to have the klutz sydrome, dropping things left and right.  First I realized the chicken packets were leaking (so gross) and when  I went to clean it up, I knocked out my yogurt, breaking one of them.  Granted, I got to eat the yogurt but then I dropped the spoon on the couch and had to clean that up.  Big sigh...

I am sick of eating out. In fact, I am really happy that I set a menu, even in a rough form, to shop and eat for this week. I cook for myself, but have enough also for Aaron if he wants some. If he doesn’t, one of us has left overs the next day.  
Meals this week have been
Havarti chicken sandwiches (as always, delicious) with roasted brussel sprouts.  I didn’t know that roasted is code for really burned.  They were good, but a little too mooshy. Ironic since I cooked them less than they suggested. I will definitely try again in the future, but I’m out of sprouts this time.  My friend Michelle told me about a recipe her husband uses which basically caramelizes them.  
sliced chicken breast sandwich (I just used the round bread, toasted it with a little Havarti and then put some chicken breast and spinach on it.
Panko crusted chicken w/ spaghetti and spinach salad
I realized that my other recipes for pecan chicken and tandoori chicken requires marinating time, so I took some of my chicken out and tried out panko breadcrumbs for the first time. I pounded the chicken thin (warning, it will shrink back up during cooking), dusted with flour, dredged it in egg and then put it in the panko breadcrumbs. I put this in a pan with a little olive oil, put a top on it and cooked it for a few minutes, flipped and cooked a few more minutes.  After I turned the heat off I put a little grated cheese on top, and put the top back on for a little bit so that it melted.  While the chicken was cooking I made a little spaghetti.  I drained that while the cheese was melting and poured a little sauce on top.  
Tonight: Tandoori spiced chicken with naan.  I got the naan frozen at Trader Joes. It doesn’t take long to make, and is really good.  On the side I’ll probably make some asparagus, or spinach salad.  

Everyone knows that I’m hooked on hulu. I have a new show which is called Body of Proof.  It is a very interesting forensic show that, best of all isn’t as gory as the show Bones. I generally likes bones, but Dr. Brennans character this season seems even more badly written.  No person is that socially inept but incredibly intelligent and is, apparently incapable of learning.  It’s like she is purposely dense.  The only problem with Body of Proof is that it is almost predictable that it is a family member who kills the person.  Come on writers, shake it up, your characters are great but endings of your shows are a little too predictable.  I love how it isn’t just about dead bodies, but about learning ‘the stories of a life, and it’s our job to tell them.’

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What is in YOUR refrigerater?

Yesterday morning I drove from my parent's in Ohio to WV where I got to hang out with my friends for a bit before picking up some eggs from my friend's farm. I hope hoping for 6 dozen, but since it isn't terribly warm yet, I only got four.  Coming back up I got a text from the friend I was going to stay with saying that their daughter wasn't feeling well. It was enough to push me into driving all of the way home (another 3 hrs) to surprise my husband by coming home a day early.  It worked, and I was so happy to sleep in my own bed again!
Today my hubby and I headed to Trader Joe's to pick up lots of food since, of course, he didn't shop at all while I was gone (except to pick me up some flowers while at Costco!!).  I am so sick of eating out. Wow...did I say that? Anyways, I was dying for fruits and vegetables and my kitchen!
I'm going to post our shopping list, and then some pictures of our fridge.

Fruits (I wanted to make fruit salad to always have around!)
-small container of organic blueberries

-sweet onion
-baby spinach
-brussel sprouts (I had them for the first time last week and may be in love. I'm planning on roasting them)
-asparagus (something else I didn't think I liked, but with olive oil, salt and pepper it's yummy!)
- carrots
-sweet peppers

turkey lunch meat (good in scrambled eggs, salad, and sandwiches
ground beef (85/20)

loaf of round bread (for Havarti sandwiches)

skim milk (I don't mind drinking only almond milk but it doesn't taste the same in tea, and has NO protein)
buttermilk (didn't end up getting, but I can pick some up, or curdle milk from the pecan chicken recipe)
Greek yogurt (1.5 cups in tandoori chicken recipe)
laughing cow  cheese (for greenlitebites recipe, but TJ's didn't have it...I'll have to pick it up)

seltzer water (TJ good)
Green machine juice for Aaron
lemonade (to mix with seltzer, not drink straight...or it will be gone in 24 hours)
orange juice

We were each allowed 2 'treats' that weren't on our shopping list.
Hubby: raw mixed nuts, and coconut water (wow his are healthy...)
Me: Orange Chicken and baked onion ring snacks (totally not healthy...but totally good)

-pecan crusted chicken (recipe in cooking light)
-tandoori spiced chicken (sides yet to be determined, another cooking light recipe)
-our chicken/havarti sandwhich
-cheesy beef tacos ( recipe)
note: if you notice a chicken theme, it is b/c cooking light had a recipe on 20 chicken breast recipes, and...I've got chicken in the freezer.

fruit salad --I always want to have some on hand to snack on so we make healthier choices

I took some pictures of my fridge--do you dare to do the same?  I took a tip from Roni and reorganized it.  No longer does my produce hide in the bottom to rot, unseen. Rather, it sits at the top and middle of my fridge, the grapes and blueberries nestled next to a bag of brussel sprouts.  I'm excited to start cooking! The first thing I made was a fruit salad.  Oh so good...
Eggs, meat, and lots of produce
See above for every fruit that is in that bowl!

My seltzer is in the drawer rather than putting my produce in there...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CD's killed the record star, a record altering adventure

Not too many people have turntables these days, and a lot of people (like my uncle) are more than happy to unload unwanted record.  What is a crafty girl to do?  First I made bowls, and gave them away for Christmas.  Next a clock which hangs in my house. It was fun to make, but putting together the clock mechanism was really annoying.  Today, my dad and I had fun with his lathe making....coasters!

you start with a pile of records, and apparently a spring form pan that I found sitting around to put the finished product in

My dad used two pieces of wood with a screw to hold them together and put the record between them.  This way when  he turns the lathe on, the record doesn't wobble...

Taking the record off of the screw holding it on

Hi Dad! He's holding what is left of the record.


a pile of coasters
After some experimenting my dad almost had it so that I didn't have to sand the edges.  Now I need to coat them with polyurethane or something similar to make them waterproof. I think that they turned out really well. I was thinking of doing something with the 'shell' of the record, but the edges aren't terribly even since the record actually melts a bit if it spins too fast.
We had fun! Hopefully our adventures will continue tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My day in pictures.

I had such an awesome time today! I woke up early, had breakfast, showered and headed over to visit my friend Eric.  After watching Megamind (hilarious!) and catching up I headed over to see my friend Sophia.  Eric and I have been friends ever since he started talking to me his freshman year in band class. I quit band, since I was getting tortured daily by this girl behind me (and oh yeah, private lessons actually taught me something) but I kept Eric.  Good  choices on my part. 
She requests that I write about how much I totally love her. Sophia--I LOVE YOU (and you are awesome)!
Now that that is out of the way, Soph is like my sister. In fact, I call her that frequently. She is awesome, fun and hilarious. She's 8 years younger than me, so when I graduated from high school I handed down my locker shelves that my dad made.   As we were leaving the middle school one woman asked if I wanted to join the PTA. I told her that I would have to have been eight years old to be Sophia's mom, and we walked out.  Nice to know that I can look mature occasionally, right? Either that or it speaks to how young some parents look. 

Picture time! People seem to love the pictures, and unless I run out of space on here I will continue to post copious quantities of them. 

First to Eric's house! 

Eric attempting to remove a dog from my lap

there are 3 dogs there all sniffling each other and attempting to sit in my lap.  The small dogs weren't bad, but that big dog is HUGE (like 250lbs).  Yes, one of the dogs is licking my chest (hence my laughing so hard)

When I arrived we were chipper and awake (mostly)

When I was younger my dad took me to this Chinese Buffet.  I felt this need to find it again to have lunch with Sophia. It isn't in as good of shape as it was 10 years ago, but the food was still yummy.  The wallpaper however, garish beyond all description, so of course I had to take a picture!
 Next we went to the mall where we walked around for awhile. On Monday I start water aerobics and I needed a swimsuit which we quickly found.  Basically I sent her out to get anything in my size, and then she told me which one she liked best. It worked well for me!
After seeking 'nourishing liquid' (in the form of Starbucks Frappachinos) we were getting tired and then saw...a Brookstone! I love Brookstone and I love the man there named Gary who hooked us up in these awesome massage chairs for 15 minute massages (he would have let us stay longer but we didn't want to hog the awesomeness).

I was captured

We saw this guy walking around with this odd thing on his head. It is a head massager.  Sophia gets migraines, and immediately fell in love with this device. Find it here!
It's experience, but man it works!

We each got a pillow too so we could get a sale and split the cost.  I finally got my memory foam pillow. I love it! We actually hung out on the tempurpedic beds in the back for awhile trying out all of the pillows.

My dorm room sure as heck wasn't this big!! Plus she's got a sink, and a bathroom across the hall. I'm a bit jealous. 

At the end of the day, we were tired but happy!
If anyone noticed that my shirt changed half way through the day, it was because the first thing I did when I got to my friend's dorm was buy a school t-shirt. It is so soft, and I'll advertise.  

Thank you my wonderful friends for a great day! Next my mom and I head back to my parents house so my dad and I can play with records.  Want to know what I'm talking about? Check back in a couple of days for details.