Thursday, April 3, 2014

On Birthdays and Boys.

My birthday was this past weekend.  Let's just say that my expectations were not met by my husband.  We've been together over half of our lives and I thought we knew each other pretty well.  I do not wish to publicly malign him, but I will say my birthday lacked anything celebratory.  Now, this is partly my fault.  He asked if he could take me out for dinner.  But, it was pouring, we'd had a volleyball tournament all day, and the girls' had a friend over.  Plus, I wanted something more.  Something planned out, considerate, extravagant (but inexpensive), and special. 

Let's just say that there were tears (mine) and a 10:30pm trip to Wal-Mart (him). 

I don't know where he found this little story, but he sent it to me last night -

The Difference Between Men And Women.........

Let's say a guy named Fred is attracted to a woman named Martha. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Fred is thinking: that means it was...let's see...February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means...lemme check the odometer...Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Martha is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed - even before I sensed it - that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Fred is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Martha is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Fred is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty...scumballs.

And Martha is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Fred is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their...

"Fred," Martha says aloud.

"What?" says Fred, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have...oh dear, I feel so..."(She breaks down, sobbing.)

"What?" says Fred.

"I'm such a fool," Martha sobs. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Fred.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Martha says.

"No!" says Fred, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"It's just's that I...I need some time," Martha says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Fred, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

"Yes," he says. (Martha, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

"Oh, Fred, do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Fred.

"That way about time," says Martha.

"Oh," says Fred. "Yes." (Martha turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

"Thank you, Fred," she says.

"Thank you," says Fred.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Fred gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a college basketball game between two South Dakota junior colleges that he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it.

The next day Martha will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

Meanwhile, Fred, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Martha's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: "Norm, did Martha ever own a horse?"


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


1.  This girl just turned 12 years old yesterday.  She is amazing.  At this point, her grade point average is a 95.  I don't think I ever had a 95% in any class.  Ever.  She is determined.  Strong.  Kind.  Talented.  We just love her!

2.  The stomach bug has been rampant in our house.  All three kids.  It started Saturday night and didn't let up until this morning at 10:00am. 

3.  I've been cooking.  Trying new recipes and sticking with some old favorites.

chilled avocado soup

peanut butter pie

chilled avocado soup

cauliflower gratin, flat iron steak, avocado soup

pizza with onions, peppers, and fresh mozzarella

4.  My newest obsession: poblano peppers.  And tomatillos.  They are so easy to prepare.  I have been popping them on a cookie sheet and broiling both sides for about five minutes until they're deflated and blackened in spots. 

before broiling

turkey sandwich with avocado, poblano slices, and fresh tomato

filled poblanos with ricotta, sharp cheddar, and breadcrumbs

5.  I prepared food for Rob's organization last night.  The event was held in a beautiful historic building WITH NO KITCHEN.  So, I prepared everything in my home kitchen* ahead of time.  I placed it in large aluminum trays and transported it all to my mother in law's house.  We heated the food, placed it into large rented coolers and transported them to the event.  We kept the food heated in chafing dishes and prayed it would stay hot.  I made appetizers, entrees, and desserts.  I only took a few pictures, and none at the event. 

I made seafood lasagna and tenderloin tips with mixed mushrooms and a red wine reduction sauce.  We also had caesar salad, grilled vegetables, carrot cake cupcakes, lemon meringue tarts, and chocolate truffles.  I slept all afternoon today.  I seriously don't know how people can cater full time.  It's no joke. 

spinach artichoke dip

roasted fingerling potatoes and beef tenderloins

croutons for caesar salad
*Disclaimer: Because I work as a personal chef, my home kitchen is not licensed.  I was only able to utilize my home kitchen in this case because I did not charge for my services. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Unless you like playing in the kitchen as much as I do, I'd file this post under more of a hobby endeavor. 

I have a client who requires a low sodium diet, which has stretched my cooking ability.  I do have to say, though, that while cooking without salt requires extra care, it's fascinating how much flavor can be created with spices. 

I try to brainstorm different foods that will taste nostalgic while sticking within that parameters of low-carb, meat-free, and low sodium.  I originally thought of a zucchini "lasagna", but I have to be careful with packaged foods.  I did some quick research on homemade ricotta cheese and found that it's super easy to make and that the result can be decadent. 

There are several food blogs I swear by, and smitten kitchen is one of them.  Back in 2011, Deb made ricotta cheese.  As she discusses, the method she uses is not technically the traditional way (traditionally, ricotta is made from the by-product of cheese making, whey).  So, if you're interested in making a ricotta-like product and happen to have whole milk, heavy cream, and a fresh lemon on hand - you're in luck!  The recipe (click here for her recipe) calls for salt, but I simply omitted it. 

Four cups of milk and cream produce about one and a half cups of ricotta, so there is a bit of waste - unless you keep and use the whey (I've got mine in a container in the fridge, still deciding what to use it for). 

this is halfway through the draining process

This was the finished product for my client: grilled eggplant and zucchini stacks with a roasted tomato slice, fresh mozzarella, and a smear of homemade ricotta.  This was labor-intensive, but decadent (especially considering this is meat and gluten-free). 

I still have a bit of ricotta left - it is creamy, rich and indulgent, while still remaining light.  If you have some extra time and the desire - go for it!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lemon Chicken with Potatoes

This was one of the easiest meals I've made in a while - and the one of the tastiest! 

I needed to make a meal for a family who'd recently welcomed a baby, but had several food allergies.  I think I must have seen something on Pinterest that led me to think that maybe lemon chicken would be a satisfying dish that they could enjoy even with their limitations.  Sometimes I can't remember where I get my ideas for food - or if they're ever original. 

With a quick google search, I found several recipes that I used to inspire me.  I used a mixture of chicken tenders and boneless, skinless thighs, but next time I'll use all thighs.  I also steamed some broccoli for a side, and it was the perfect accompaniment. 

This is flawless one pan cooking at its best.  The lemon flavor is very reminiscent of spring. 

I love that the potatoes get browned and crispy on the outside

Lemon Chicken with Potatoes

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (2 for each person)
2 lemons, juiced
2 lemons, sliced (you'll need 4 lemons total)
4 large yukon gold potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
salt, pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, oregano, or rosemary (I had parsley on hand)

1.  Place chicken thighs, lemon slices, and potatoes into large baking dish, overlapping if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
2.  Mix chopped onion, garlic, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil into mixing bowl.  Pour mixture over chicken pieces, potatoes, and lemons. 
3.  Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes. 
4.  I shook the pan every 15 minutes or so, to try to get as much browning on the potatoes as possible. 

the lemon slices become addicting - just a warning!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Longboat Key, Florida

Rob and I make it a point to get away for a week by ourselves each year.  This year, he had to be in Orlando for meetings and we planned to add three days of sun and relaxation on Longboat Key. 

When we left, this is what our street looked like. 

While we were gone, most of our county lost power.  My grandmother, aunt and uncle spent a night here with my mom and our three kids.  I heard it was real cozy.  :)

The day after we returned, our street looked like this. 

The first part of our trip was a little chilly and dreary, but we ended on a good note.  Sunshine, time together, and lots of good food were the components of the break we needed. 

this was the view from our hotel in Orlando - dreary and 50 degrees

We rented a 'villa' (I use the term loosely), it was perfect for us.  We were literally maybe 50 feet from the beach, and it was pure perfection.  I wouldn't describe our accommodations as five-star, but we really didn't care.  Sure, the refrigerator leaked, and the sofa was crazy uncomfortable, but we were on vacation. 

We spent our time walking on the beach and soaking in the sun.  We ate a lot of fresh citrus and local strawberries. 

We discovered a new (to us) place - Boca Grande, also known as Gasparilla Island.  It's a little fancy-schmancy, but the sights are quaint and timeless.  It was about an hour south of where we were staying. 

We also walked to an amazing restaurant for dinner - where Rob almost got picked up by two ladies.  It was hilarious.  I could see it happening from across the room and when I finally walked over, I heard him say, "and I'm Rob" probably helps that we were the youngest people on Longboat Key by about 30 years. 

I think our week away every year is one of the things that cements our relationship.  It is necessary for us to have time together without distraction. I find that I have to share my husband every other week of the year - I'm a firstborn and not very good with sharing. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Our Recent Travels to Upstate NY

In December, we took the kids to the Adirondacks in upstate New York.  We surprised them with three days of skiing as their big Christmas gift.  We rented the cutest cottage in Paul Smiths, NY, and skied at Titus Mountain.  We were less than an hour from Quebec, but none of have passports, so maybe that will be our goal for the next time.  I'd love to investigate some French inspired cuisine, and possible a maple sugar shack (featured on Bizarre Foods). 

I thought I'd show you a few pictures.  We didn't take many, but here are a few snapshots (some of them iphone photos).

This is just some of the stuff we needed to take.  And then the day before we left, our truck wouldn't start.  And there were no parts closer than Texas.  Thankfully, we were able to have our truck towed to the mechanic and we borrowed a much smaller vehicle from my father-in-law.  It saved a bunch on gas! 

we bought used skis and boots for the kids' at a local swap

I hope you don't mind all of the pictures of the cottage where we stayed!  It was just so quaint.  And clean.  It was perfect - three bedrooms, the perfect amount of space, no internet or phone signal.  Pure bliss.   We stayed for four nights and the price was $165 a night.  It was originally a cottage that was built for a community of loggers, in the late 1800's.  The new owners have completely renovated it.  It was immaculate.  I didn't think anyone could be more cleanly or organized than my mom, but Anne just may be!

mudroom with washing machine and drying racks for ski stuff
woodstove in the living room

the bedroom where Josh stayed
the girls' room

living room - they had a great library and lots of games!

I made all of our food ahead of time - $215 total for five days

(Well, now, that is not exactly true - we made a pit stop at a grocery store halfway through our trip and inhaled a rotisserie chicken in the car like we were a pack of hyenas.)

it was quite a process getting packed up each day

this was the girls' first time skiing - they did great!

having a blast!
love that guy!

And this......was the last guy.  Holy cold.  The wind chills were -15 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was icy and not fun.  Don't we look great?  Josh actually had a patch of frostbite on his face (that was completely covered). We took lots of breaks!

No, I hadn't been drinking. 
yes, -4 degrees.  That was the actual temperature, and our cue to head home.

We hope to return to the Adirondack region in the summer, not this year, but maybe next.  The outside activities sound amazing, the black flies do not. But, there is bug spray and we will use it. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Keep Your Head Up.

I am no expert in anything.  As you all know, that doesn't prevent me from having an opinion on everything.  It's one of the curses of being a firstborn. 

I've noticed, mostly on facebook, but also in talking to people in real life, winter has been hard on all of us.   I am certainly no exception.  I took a personality/vocational assessment in high school, and the results suggested that I would be prone to depression.  Looking back over certain periods in my life, I think I have struggled, but that struggle has always intensified in the winter. 

I have discovered a few things that have helped me get through the dark days of winter.  If winter has been especially hard for you, I hope some of these suggestions are able to help. 

1.  My light box. I honestly don't know how I was able to get through winter before.  It has saved my emotional stability.  I am not being overly dramatic. 

2.  Eating healthy.  For whatever reason, studies have shown that people who struggle with seasonal depression crave starches.  This is especially problematic for me, because I happen to love starches.  I've found that the less starches I eat, the better I feel.  I still love crunchy things, so I munch on nuts.  Staples of my daily food include: grapefruits, roasted almonds, fage yogurt (whole milk only), and dark coffee with a splash of light cream.  I then usually eat salads or leftovers for lunch and a full dinner.  In perusing pinterest, some of the desserts that are being pinned just make me a little nauseous.  I actually saw a "fruity pebbles" cupcake.  I don't know about you, but I just can't eat like that anymore.

I cannot get enough grapefruit!

 3.  Sunlight.  While our winter has been brutal in terms of temperature and precipitation, it seems to have been rather sunny.  If the sun is shining, I bundle up and head outside to walk for at least 30 minutes.  It helps.  Trust me. 

our street - the sunrises have been magnificent

4.  Vitamin D supplements.  I take 5,000 mg per day.  Yes, I'm a self-diagnoser, why do you ask?  You can go to your doctor and have your levels tested.  I don't need to be tested, I know I'm deficient!

5.  An orderly house.  I should preface this by saying that I feel best when I'm surrounded by order.  My mind will not function properly if I am surrounded by chaos and clutter.  You might not even notice your surroundings, and that's great!  In late January, I de-cluttered and re-organized everything (except Rob's garage and the attic).  I pared down and tidied up.  It helps me focus and keeps my mood bright. 

6.  Something to look forward to.  Rob and I try to get away every year for a week by ourselves.  He realizes that this is something that is a priority for our relationship and also for my mental health.  We don't spend a lot of money or go anywhere lavish, but we try to get away to warmth and sunshine.  This year we were able to spend a week away - three of those days we were able to spend together and in warmth and sunshine.  Heaven. 

in Boca Grande, Florida

It will be spring eventually.  Keep your head up!