Saturday, December 31, 2011

A (Decadent) Year in Review

This morning, I bid 2011 a farewell by running 8 miles, 5 of which were with Zooey (I had to drop her off at home, as she pretty much taps out at mile marker 5).  It was a glorious morning - a sunny Arizona "winter" day, which started off at about 46° at 9:00-ish; by the time I finished, it was at least in the 60s.
When the year began, I had never run more than about 4 miles, and I was gearing up for my first 10K (a scary 6.2 miles).
Now that the year is ending, I am getting ready to run my first half marathon, twice as far as a 10K - and then a little bit more - a feat that I never dreamed I would entertain, much less aspire to, when 2011 dawned.  I can't lie - it was due mostly to my friend Katie, who told me about the Disney Princess Half Marathon (hello, tiaras!) and to my friend Veronica, who just laid on the guilt/pressure.  I also have to credit my friend Allison as well (no, not me - I don't talk in the third person.  Usually.).  She started running marathons just a few years ago, qualifying for the New York marathon basically immediately.  While she encouraged me in my baby steps of running, I flat out told her she was crazy.  I really hope I don't decide to do a full marathon, as then I'll have to eat my words, and I'm more comfortable being right in my diagnosis of her.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I Love Elastic Waistbands

After suffering some sort of health ailment for most of the month, it was so nice to have my appetite back (remind me I said that when I can no longer fit into those size 6 jeans, OK?) in time for Christmas weekend.  It was also nice to have gotten off antibiotics so I didn't feel badly about having a glass of wine... or six.
The holidays are a good example of why this blog is titled the way it is - it's one of the times over the course of the year during which, as my darling husband (I'm still excited about the heart rate monitor) says, we dine like decadent philistines.  I'm not one for gluttony (unless chocolate covered mint Peeps® are involved), but it's nice to sit down to a top notch meal a few times each year, especially when I'm able to share in that good fortune with family and friends.
And of course, it's a good excuse to pull out the china.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The One Where I Ask, "Will I Ever Run Again?"

So I thought I beat the flu and went for my usual Monday morning run this past Monday.  However, I realized that I was still a bit under the weather, so the two days leading up to my colonoscopy were reserved for "rest" (I really didn't want to do anything on my prep day, anyway, although I had thought about running, but since I couldn't eat anything, I thought better of it).  I had planned to do my usual long, slow run on Saturday.
And then Friday - BAM!
The cootie express rammed right into the Philistine house, knocking me back.
I *think* it's a cold instead of the flu, but I have a fever and some aches, so who knows?
The most frustrating thing is that it's smack dab in my training for the half marathon at the end of January.  I missed a 7-mile run two Saturdays ago, and this coming Saturday (Christmas Eve), I am supposed to run an 8-mile run.  I"m not sure I'll be prepared to do it, regardless of how slow I make Zooey go.
Thus, I have a decision to make - do I go ahead with the half marathon training for London's Run (its last year!), or do I opt for the 10K and do a half marathon later on down the line (knowing full well that it won't be long after London's Run that it will get too hot for me to realistically want to run farther than 2 miles)?
I'm pretty sure I'm a little too loopy from this bug to make an informed decision today, but I'll have to make one here soon - I need to register for the run as well as let Veronica know if I'm going to disappoint her by doing the 10K.
Have you ever been flattened out from illness in the middle of your training?  What did you do?  How did you recuperate?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Be a Good Cookie Week - My Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,
I'm sure you already know those things that I want for Christmas - an iPhone 4S, a heart rate monitor for my workouts, stuff for the house, a pair of Christian Louboutins, but I've been remiss in sending you the wish list of what I really need.
So here it is.
Santa, I need you to find a cure for cancer.  It's more than just a terrible disease; it's a malevolent fiend who purports to be altruistic and without bias, never discriminating.  What a bastard.  Cancer took my dad from me, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish desperately that he had lived to see his granddaughter.  There are days that the pain and grief and anger I feel because my daughter will never get to meet her grandfather is so raw I can hardly breathe.
Then I look at that little girl, who is my entire world.  I would move Heaven and Earth for her.
And I can't help but remember that there are some moms who can't look at their daughters and sons without a constant worry, fear, and pain that an uninvited guest will be more powerful than their children.
Moms like my friend Alicia, whose daughter Lily is, thankfully, in remission after battling alveolar rhabdomysarcoma for nearly a year.
And then I remember those moms who can only look at pictures of their children because cancer crept in, unseen and unwanted, and stole those beautiful lives away.
Moms like Heather Solomon, who said goodbye to her 7-year-old daughter London, her baby girl, after London's 7-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
Moms like Heather Rebeor, whose 16-year-old song Dylan lost his fight with colon cancer hours before his football team won the state championship.
Santa, it isn't right.
Moms should draw countless pumpkin patches with their children.  They should pretend to eat pizza fresh from their children's play kitchen (and imagination).  They should help their children learn how to brush all their teeth, not just the front ones.  They should roll their eyes at the umpteenth viewing of Dora the Explorer.  They should snuggle with and read a story to their children before kissing them goodnight, every night.
Moms like Gretchen Holt-Witt should never have to bake 96,000 cookies to help raise money for their child's cancer treatment instead of doing all those other things that I take for granted.
Oh, but Santa, I'm so grateful that Gretchen did.  And I'm grateful that people have taken up her battle cry to fund the fight against childhood cancer, to stop it in its tracks and force it to beat a hasty retreat like so many other cowardly menaces who threaten those we love.
And, Santa, I am also grateful that I have been given the wonderful opportunity to make friends like Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic, Jeanne at Inside NanaBread's Head, Megan at Wanna Be a Country Cleaver, Kat at Tenaciously Yours, and Mads at La Petite Pancake - these ladies who have a similar desire to do good and so have come together for a second time in as many months for Be a Good Cookie Week, just so we can help lay the groundwork for you.  Kirsten, who stands at the front lines of this battle in memory of her sister, and Jeanne are both offering giveaways during this week to help spread the message that pediatric cancer isn't something to be feared; it's something to be quashed.  Make sure you, the missus, and all the elves take a few minutes out of your busy schedules to enter - and help fuel the fire against pediatric cancer.
So, Santa, I've left these cookies out for you, on my grandmother's china - my grandmother whom ovarian cancer took before I was born - along with this message, in the hope that you can help deliver this gift that is so needed this year - and each year until cancer, that elusive phantom who robs people of their joy and light, throws up his hands in ultimate surrender.  I know it's a tall order, but my dear friends and I are ready to help you meet it, head on.
In case you were curious, the recipe for these cranberry-walnut-white-&-dark-chocolate cookies is from the Best Bake Sale Cookbook, a cookbook that raises money for Gretchen's organization, Cookies for Kids' Cancer.  The book would make a great Christmas gift for the person who loves baking.  It's chock-full of fantastic recipes and wonderful stories of how people are making a difference in the fight against pediatric cancer.
I hope you like the cookies, Santa, and I hope you can at least put a few elves to work to help deliver this Christmas wish.
Sincerely,
Allison

Friday, December 16, 2011

My First Colonoscopy

You know you're a parent of a pre-school age child when you look at getting a colonoscopy as an appropriate excuse to take a nap.
That is exactly how I approached Thursday.
I've documented before that I have a family history of cancer.  My dad lost his battle with colon cancer in 1999, and his sister (his only sibling) fought breast cancer before passing earlier this year.  My paternal grandmother beat breast cancer only to be taken by ovarian cancer before I was born.  My dad's cousin continues to battle non-Hodgkin's lymphoma while her son fought AND BEAT colon cancer when he was in his 30s.  And that's the ones I specifically know; I remember one instance of my dad telling me that family members on his side had also had kidney, stomach, and liver cancers, just to name a few.  Apparently, if it's in the mid-section of the body, our family can -and does - get cancer there.
The fact that my dad had colon cancer and my grandmother ovarian cancer is not something to ignore.  Studies are showing, more and more, a relation between the two when there is a genetic disposition toward cancer (I am currently working to have the genetic test done, but this is something that insurance companies don't like to cover, so it's been a struggle, to say the least, and it is an extremely expensive test that I cannot afford out of pocket right now).  So when I went in for my consultation last month, the PA was highly interested in this fact, and even though I have other family history, it was the one that, to her, was the most important in determining that I was indeed a candidate for a colonoscopy at age 33.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Practical Use for Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka

I love Twitter.  Without it, I would not have known that today is National Hot Cocoa Day.  How that didn't  make it onto my social calendar I'll never know.
Since tomorrow I embark on a 24-hour all-clear-liquid diet (vodka's a clear liquid, right?) before my, er, procedure Thursday, I'm kind of celebrating in a "last meal" type of way.  Except I haven't had anything to eat since lunch.
But hey - who cares - onto some hot cocoa to warm my soul and help me sleep!

The family-friendly version:


The adults-only version:


The recipe, taken from the side of the Hershey's® cocoa container, was the same for both versions.  That way I could let HRH have some but not worry that one of you will call CPS.

Hot Cocoa with an Adult Version, if so Desired
adapted from the Hershey's® recipe vault

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder - I prefer to use the dark cocoa, if you can find it - it's tastier (in my opinion), and everyone knows that dark chocolate is better for you, so when you use the dark powder, it becomes a health drink, too.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • dash of salt - I use Real Salt for most everything that calls for a dash - it's got a great flavor on its own.
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 4 cups milk (confession - I used some half and half, too)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinnacle whipped vodka

Mix the cocoa, sugar, and salt in a medium pot.  Add the hot water and stir over medium heat until boiling.  Boil and stir constantly for two minutes.
Add the milk and heat through.
Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

HRH was excited to help me.  It's been cold and rainy all day, so it really is the perfect evening to curl up with a big mug of cocoa to watch Dora's Christmas Carol.  Or whatever your 3-year-old decides is way better than White Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street, like you suggested (I'm not sure why she thinks that Dora can out-sing Bing and Danny, but whatever).
Once HRH's portion was ladled into her cup, I added the whipped cream vodka.  One capful to my cup. It tasted lovely - rich and creamy.
Of course, for experiment's sake alone, I added another capful after the initial tasting.
Two capfuls is much tastier than one capful.
Three capfuls, though, might be a bit much - it depends on how much you like vodka, as that's when I started to taste the alcohol behind the creaminess of the cocoa.  It wasn't distracting, but you'll have to be your own judge from that point on.  I was content at about two and a half.  Because, you know, I totally measure things out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Make Friends and Eat Cookies (or, The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011)

I was thrilled this year to participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by Love and Olive Oil.  Madeline, one of my former students (well, I didn't actually have her in my class, but I did work with her as the NHS advisor, and at a school of 150, all of the students were my students) who goes to the University of Michigan and has her own food blog, Munching in the Mitten, brought my attention to it, and I'm so glad that she did, as it's been fun to bake cookies and send them off to fellow food lovers, not to mention the fun it was to receive cookies in the mail - an early Christmas gift!
I love Christmas.  Specifically, German Christmas.  I love the multiple trees; I love nutcrackers; I love finding the pickle ornament (even though there is debate as to whether or not this one's really truly a German tradition).  I love the food.  Mmmmm... food....
So when presented with what cookies to make, I immediately knew that I wanted to try my hand at Lebkuchen, a traditional German Christmas cookie that is akin to gingerbread.  Unlike gingerbread, however, I like to eat it.
Lebkuchen is spread out on a jelly roll pan, and then once it's out of the oven, cut into bars or other shapes.  My plan was to make one batch plain and another one covered with chopped almonds.  Then I'd cut them into diamonds.
I baked.  I cooled.  I cut.
And then I realized that the bottoms of the cookies were burned.  Every. Square. Inch.
(Dear Santa, I think I might need some new jelly roll pans and cookie sheets.  Love, Allison)
So those three food bloggers to whom I was assigned did not receive any Lebkuchen this year.
After I cleaned up the mess and dried my tears, I did a quick inventory of what I had, checked my favorited recipes, and BAM!  Maple-walnut cookies.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The "Doctor" is In

This weekend brought in the flu.  While it was kind enough to allow me my long Saturday run before completely bringing me to a halt, in hindsight, the symptoms - being tired and a bit achy - were all too apparent even earlier in the week.
Sunday found me in bed for most of the day - Scott took HRH to a family birthday party, so the house was quiet for a few hours.  When they got home, Scott was kind enough to run out to get me some matzo ball soup.
That was when I knew that I was truly sick: 1) I wanted chicken soup; 2) I could barely muster the appetite to eat my share.  I almost never want chicken soup, not being a huge poultry fan to begin with, and I generally have to hold myself back from seconds, so having to man up to take down one matzo ball was quite uncharacteristic.
After that feat of energy, I was ready for bed.
I lay pretty low Monday as well.  I took a sick day (something that most teachers loathe doing, as it ends up creating more work) and hung out with HRH all day, watching Disney movies and plenty of Dora (note to Santa - more Disney movies would be really swell).  We even took a nice little nap on the couch after she claimed she wasn't tired but acquiesced to another viewing of Beauty and the Beast.
But other than rest, the question is always posed: What can I do to get over this bug sooner?
I know plenty of people who hit the NyQuil and TheraFlu right away, but I haven't known of anyone ever saying, "That stuff really works!"
The older I get, the less likely I am to reach for the Tylenol Cold.  I try to avoid taking medication whenever possible; even when I have a headache, I try rehydrating and taking in a bit of extra caffeine before I raid the medicine cabinet.  Instead, I try to use ice or heat for aches and honey under my Band-Aids for those cuts and scrapes.
But when I'm SICK, I would kill to have something go all nuclear annihilation on those germs and wipe them out almost instantaneously.  If you ever find that, let me know.  Don't tell me what's in it - just tell me I'll be better faster than you can say "Wingardium Leviosa" (#nerd).
Until that cootie virus bleach is invented, I'd like to offer those natural remedies that have worked to keep sickness at bay or at least help me feel better sooner than if I were to just "wait it out."

Organic ACV (with "the mother"), honey
(from Costo - The Husband got that), garlic,
my favorite black tea, hot sauce

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carb Loading. Seven Weeks Early.

I am exhausted this week.  It's more than likely from all the excitement and fun of the long holiday weekend, but it's still not super fun to hit one's wall at, oh, noon.
I'm starting to think that I need some help from the Dr. at ten, two, and four.  But we don't want to go down that road, do we?  I just managed to zip up my size 6 jeans today, and I'm not going back.
I've also been a bit sore and achy.  In fact, I am lounging with a heating pad against my neck and shoulders right now.  And it feels soooooooooooo gooooooooooood.  It's making me want an electric blanket.  Do they even sell those here in Arizona?
Thanks to a combination of a little one who thought that 5:30 was a good time to get up and a crazy work day unraveling my best laid plans, Tuesday ended up being a rest day instead of cross training, so I knew I had to get something done today, but even pilates seemed like it was too much, so I popped in the yoga DVD instead.  It actually felt really nice to stretch out this morning, so I know I needed it.
That HRH wanted "slurp-a-spaghetti" for dinner didn't help, either.  I horked down two bowlsful of angle hair with about two pounds of parm before HRH could take five bites (relax - I had red sauce, which I'm pretty sure Congress just decided was a day's worth of veggies).  Then I had half a loaf of French bread.  That whole appetite increasing thing that Runner's World magazine has obviously kicked in.
Time to boil some eggs.
Tomorrow is a run day - I can't put that off - but I think I'll take it a bit easier than my usual, pace-wise.  I mean, if Zooey lets me (she's serious about her training).  But I think I'll continue with the yoga for this week and then regroup on Sunday.
Running Pack in the Sky - how do you combat change of weather and/or mileage increase slumps?  What's your favorite energy boosting food?
What's your favorite revitalizing strategy?
Bonus Question - what literary allusion did this blog post include?
Now, if you'll excuse me, Zooey and I have a date with a pillow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What I Did on My Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend; or, Can You Keep a Secret?

I've been kind of lazy of late, not posting, wanting to sleep, all that jazz.  But I realized that if I procrastinate any longer on finally doing a Thanksgiving post, it'll be Christmas.
Crap - the Christmas decorations.  Those'll have to wait.
Thanksgiving in our house means pot luck at my mother-in-law's.  My husband has a great deal of family who still live here in Arizona, and her house is a good central(ish) meeting spot.  So all I really do to start preparing to think about Thanksgiving each year is to wait for her to send out an email asking what we all are bringing or would like to bring or want her to tell us to bring.
This year I volunteered for:
  • cornbread dressing (it's only stuffing if you cook it in the bird; there can't be anything more terrifying than attempting to cook a bread product inside the ass of a raw piece of poultry)
  • green bean casserole
  • an apple pie
Somehow we also ended up smoking one of two turkeys that were in attendance at the gathering (they didn't get the email invitation, though), so Scott actually took Bogey (the smoker) down to his mom's house the day before Thanksgiving to get it all set up and to give her dogs time to plan out what items they would chew up and destroy.
I have been using the same dressing recipe for years.  Thank you, Food Network, for giving me Overstuffed Pumpkin with Cornbread, Apples, and Turkey Sausage with Sauvignon Blanc.  It's delicious.  And the recipe I printed out doesn't tell me how many calories each serving is, so that's a bonus.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Saving the World - In my Undies

The adult in me wants to start this post with a memory of my dad and something about how exciting it was to participate in my second Colon Cancer Alliance's Undy 5000 5K Run.
The 12-year-old in me wants to start this post with a completely inappropriate joke.
Choices, choices...

The good news is that I can compromise.
My dad, who subscribed to "laughter is the best medicine" policy, named his colostomy so he could discuss it a little more easily.
He named it Sparky.
The mascot of my beloved Arizona State Sun Devils is named Sparky.
I'm convinced that my dad named his colostomy as such just to drive me insane.
Haha, Dad - I got you this time.
(this is where I could put in a close-up of my rear end in the ASU undies I bought for the event, but you did not come here to see a close up of my rear end)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Iz Gunna Get Mee Mai Morsel, O Yes I Iz!

I once saw a documentary about dogs and how they differ from wolves.  Part of the show argued that because dogs have become dependent on humans, they give up on fairly simple tasks, while wolves would rather chew off a leg than ask for help.
Clearly, no one has informed Zooey of this canid helplessness.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Do You Like... Mushroom Pie???

If Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson were to ask me that (hey, a girl can dream, right????????), I'd say, "Yes.  Yes, I do like pie.  I like apple pie, blueberry pie, peach pie, cherry pie, chicken pot pie, and then some."  I mean, c'mon - two layers of carb-tastic crust with a delicious filling - what's NOT to like?
So when I saw several of my blogging buddies start talking about #PieWeek, I totally invited myself like the ugly girl tagging along at the fraternity party.
Thank goodness they like me.
Because this is a group of bloggers who make some flat drool-worthy pies!
Case in point:
So I am honored to offer a savory addition to this selection of sweets.
OK, so it's confession time first.  The one rule I had to follow - to use Kirsten's No Excuses Pie Crust recipe - I sort of, kind of broke.  Not really, but I used whole wheat pasty flour instead of all purpose flour.  It really wasn't that different, so not really that much of a rule break, but I worked in Catholic schools long enough to feel that I needed to confess that minor transgression.
Just so you know, this pie crust recipe is superbly easy AND divine after coming out of the oven.   I have always used Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe, but I think I'm going to switch over to this one.  It's more fun and less pretentious than Martha.  Plus I love Kirsten but have no emotional attachment to Martha.
OK, so back to the pie.  I had thought about doing a trial run of the pie I'll be making for Thanksgiving, and I should probably do that anyway.  But I opted to look for a new savory pie that would fit into my "less meat" plans.  So when I thought creatively for a few minutes googled "savory pie," mushrooms were the immediate front runner.
I kind of wanted to just copy a recipe from another website, but none of the recipes really sang to me, so after narrowing down the field to four candidates, I opted to just combine them and make my own recipe (I even tried to measure stuff out and all that - so weird for me!).

Thus, I give you...


Monday, November 7, 2011

I, Runner

In all my life, I never thought I would start a morning like this one.
Since it's Monday, I set my alarm last night for 4:45.  The ungodly wakeup time is so that I can get in a run before the day really begins.  Scott usually walks Zooey around 5:15-ish, but I need to run and get back to shower before he drags himself out of bed to shower, since he has to be at work at 7:00.  I run three mornings a week as I train for my first half marathon (in January), two of which begin at oh-dark-thirty.
However, HRH threw a huge wrench into the whole scenario when she shuffled into our room sometime between midnight at that oh-dark-thirty time slot.  I have no idea how early late early it was, but instead of taking her back to her own bed, I hauled her up and snuggled in with her.
And then the alarm went off.
Now, you need to understand something about my dog.  When my alarm goes off, Zooey, whose own bed is on the opposite side of the room, is ready to roll in about a millisecond.  She knows that Scott's alarm equals walk, and my alarm equals run.  Based on three-plus years of research, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that runs are infinitely more exciting for my girl.  Most run days are met with an excited, low bawl, which I try (in vain) to shush so no one else is woken up (by "no one else" I mean HRH - Scott's on his own).
Today was no different, and Zooey patiently impatiently frantically waited outside the bathroom while I donned my running gear (clearly she disapproves that I take more time to get ready than she).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Man and His (Smoked) Nuts

WARNING - this post shows just how immature I am.  Continue at your own risk for extremely tacky jokes that are likely best appreciated by 12 year old boys.

Since getting his smoker (which I've named Bogey), Scott has been looking for new and interesting foodstuffs to to smoke.  We've had ribs, chicken, turkey legs, and more.  Basically, if it's dead and available at our local grocery store, Scott will try to smoke the bejeezuz out of it.  I think we are now officially in charge of making a pulled pork for Easter dinner with the family.
So it didn't surprise me in the slightest when he told me that he subscribed to some e-newsletter that was dedicated to all things related to smoking (at least it's more productive than Mafia Wars, right?).  I've already stated that I will not eat anything that originally came from the sea - smoked fish is a bit too much for me.  But I'm willing to entertain other ideas, especially meatless options, since I am trying to eat less of the stuff in the first place.
Well, apparently, you can smoke nuts.
(I totally tried to type that with a straight face, but I confess I didn't manage it)
This isn't earth shattering news to me, and I'm sure it's not to you, either.  During my tenure on the grand jury, I helped our group consume at least 3 Costco-sized containers of the Blue Diamond® Smokehouse almonds.  I had to request on many days for them to stay on the opposite side of the room for fear that I'd just start eating them straight from the jar.  So I was kind of excited when Scott decided to take on this challenge.
Of course, almonds would be my choice, but Scott also picked up some peanuts (both raw) to experiment with.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Knitting in Knovember - a Challenge to My Readers

November has begun, and even if I didn't have a calendar every which way I looked, my Facebook and Twitter feeds would have reminded me, as several of my friends and colleagues are beginning to list the things for which they are thankful.  Me?  I'm thankful that I have so many things for which I can (and should) give thanks; they are truly too many to list.
But too many people have scant little for which they can say "thank you," which leads me to today's post.  Here in Arizona it's just now starting to "cool down" to the mid-80's, and the meteorologists on the local media stations are nearly stroking out in their excitement to report that by the end of the week, we'll even get down to - dare I say it? - the 70's (insert swooning).  My vast collection of scarves, hats, blankets (including my beloved ASU snuggie), and sweatshirts totally gives away the fact that I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent a few years in the cold climes of Michigan, as none of them get the wear and tear they deserve.
This is something for which I put on that thankful list.  I can always find a blanket, a sweatshirt, or a thermostat to help me get warm (I am one of those perpetually cold people).  If I need socks, I have an entire drawer full of them.  I can always get myself warm.
But there are too many people who can't.  Even in Arizona, which does have cold weather and does have snow, there are too many people who must deal with the cold by trying to put a brave face and gutting it out instead of being able to snuggle up with something warm.
That's why I'm not knitting any presents for my loved ones this holiday season.  Instead, I'm knitting a blanket (ideally two, but I want to be realistic at the same time) to donate to someone who needs it more than my mom needs another scarf.  I have yarn, and I have needles.  In fact, I've been working on a blanket to donate for some time, but I always manage to find another project to put before it.  Now is the time for me to stop making myself leg warmers (which I can't really wear right now), HRH a hat (which she just won't wear period), or anyone to whom I'm related any more scarves (I'm pretty sure they all just breathed a collective sigh of relief).
My friend Alicia has decided to crochet and donate several hats, something she was inspired to do after Lily had her bone marrow biopsy a few weeks ago.  I love how she has taken on and embraced this project, combining her love of crocheting and her desire to do something good.
So here's my challenge to you: make something - anything - warm to donate to a good cause this winter.  A scarf, a hat, a blanket, a pair of mittens.  Anything that you can knit, crochet, sew, or tie that will help someone stay warm this winter will do.  Then, email me a picture of it by November 30.  I'll post the pictures during an early December post.
If you aren't so craftily inclined but still want to participate, consider making a donation to or holding a donation drive for One Warm Coat, an organization dedicated to making sure everyone has access to a coat to keep out the cold.  I'll be happy to post pictures of coats who are finding their way to a new forever home as well.
I can't wait to see what you all make!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Whiz Wit'

Work has been insane of late, so I have neglected my poor little blog too much.  It isn't that I didn't want to post, but I have been so busy that I've hardly been able to pull together a smoothie, much less anything post-worthy.
Hopefully, now that the state make-up testing is over, things will simmer down.  While state testing is always stressful, the site where I was proctor was only blocks away from Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant I have been wanting to try for a good while (and wanted to even more after this post at Peas and Thank You).
It was so good that I went twice and was bummed out that I wasn't able to go a third day in a row.  I kind of wish a location would open on my side of the Valley, but part of me doesn't, as I may frequent it a bit too much.  There are two local places on my side of town that I need to try.  I kind of just need to find a friend (or coughhusbandcough) who might be willing to try a vegan BLT with me.
Anyway, the one real meal I was able to make last week was a black bean and butternut squash burrito from Oh She Glows, which I modified a bit to work with what we had in the pantry.  I had been wanting to make it since I saw this post roll across my Twitter feed, but I always remembered too late to make the brown rice.
Fortunately, Pinch My Salt has a lovely post that gets your real brown rice in a jiffy, and I was good to go!
(Both blogs have much nicer pictures than I do; I apologize for the chop job here)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - At Least I Beat This Guy...


(If you are looking to participate in a running/walking/hiking/biking event for a good cause, please check out Active.com® - you'll find what you're looking for and more)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Build Your Own Pizza (so you can just turn your nose up at it later) Bar

Studies are showing more and more that diet has a huge influence on one's risk of colon cancer.  Focusing on a more plant-based diet and cutting down on or eliminating meat is one of many modifications, so I have worked to eat less meat and obtain my proteins from other sources.  We're also trying to model good eating habits for HRH.
When I was pregnant, I could not even look at a piece of lettuce (or any proper veggie) without turning green myself.  Three days after I found out that I done got myself knocked up was Easter Sunday, and I had brought a lovely salad, replete with blueberries, corn, carrots, strawberries, and more (oh, it was a vision of loveliness, I tell you) as my part of the family pot luck.  When dinner came around, I took one look at that bowl of greens and veggies and fruit, all packed with nutrients, and had to back very quickly away in order to avoid 1) ruining Easter dinner for everyone and 2) prematurely announcing that we were expecting.
I honestly did try to eat well.  I knew that what I ate during pregnancy would inform what my child ate post-womb emergence.
Well, you know what they say.... the best laid plans o' mice and men.... blah, blah, blah.
My diet consisted mostly of chilled grapes, whole milk by the gallon, Nestle Drumsticks, and lots of buttery, cheesy pasta.  There were also about two weeks that I had to eat a salami sandwich with iceberg lettuce, provolone cheese, mustard, and a ton of pepperoncinis on a toasted white bun.
Hence giving birth to Picky Picky.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dear Little Red-Haired Girl

I'm writing this post on what would have been my father's 64th birthday (October 16), but I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to make it through without sobbing uncontrollably, so it's likely that by the time I finally hit "Publish Post," the new work week will have dawned.
My dad is a complete stranger to all but a handful of those who follow or happen upon this blog, a picture of a past life who doesn't necessarily have any real significance.  And while I'm sure I could regale you with stories of his antics (like the time he put plastic dog poop on my pillow and then put the cat right next to it... and my subsequent reaction), he's still an anonymous someone who happened to have colon cancer.
A great many people have had colon cancer, many of them in relative anonymity to the greater public.
But many famous people, names you may know and even adore, have also battled colon cancer, although some fought their battle with less fanfare and publicity than even my dad.  Some of this was their desire for privacy, but some, sadly, because of the lack of awareness at the time of their diagnosis and the taboo nature of talking publicly about "that" part of one's body.
Perhaps you've heard of these individuals.  They each shaped the world in their own way, some larger than others.  But they each fought colon cancer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - ROAR!!!!!

(For more examples of how colon cancer has affected families, please check out the Colon Cancer Alliance's Personal Stories page)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Getting My Panties in a Bunch

It was just over a year ago that I began running, at the urging of my friend Veronica.  She has been running for some time, so when she learned that I had signed up for a 5K that I fully intended to walk, she made it some sort of personal mission to beat that idea out of me.
The 5K in question was the Colon Cancer Alliance's annual Undy 5000 5K Run, a fundraiser that helps raise money to find a cure for colorectal cancer, the cancer that took my dad from me in October 1999, when he was 15 days shy of his 52nd birthday (and I was a few months shy of graduating from ASU).
Twelve years later, I still have those "moments" when I get absolutely lost in the tears and grief.  Recently, my cousin sent me a gigantic box that she put together while cleaning out her mom's (my dad's sister) house after she passed as well.  There were photos from when my dad was a baby all the way up to his obituary.  There were even his military records of promotion and letters he had written to various relatives.  I spent a week crying over that box, thinking about all the baby pictures of my own daughter that my dad will never see.
But the important thing is that I do something to direct that grief or else I might still be curled in a ball, crying myself to sleep the same way that I did the day I got off the plane in Seattle to find out that I was too late to tell my dad goodbye.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bless You

I am always looking for new and exciting local events to attend with the family.  Mid-September, I saw this post come through my Facebook feed:

Tibetan monks visiting SuperFarm Oct 9th. Animal blessings/Tibetan Chants, and more going on

Ummmm, can you say excited?  Tibetan monks were coming to town and would be doing an animal blessing at one of my local favorites, Superstition Farm!  This was something that Zooey the Devil Dog and I had to experience.
Now, Zooey is a wonderful, loving dog and a great running buddy, but she is... um... well... a little excitable, so I was a touch worried about taking her out in public (running along the canal doesn't count).  But this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime type of experiences, and I had hoped that this could be a fantastic family outing.
However, our lawn sprinklers decided that today was a fantastic day to crap out, so Scott and HRH stayed home to fix them (well, Scott did that, not HRH; she has to wait until she's 4 for that) while I threw Zooey in the truck and headed out to Mesa (I know - I took my dog and not my daughter.  But it was an animal blessing, and since HRH is almost 3, I knew that I wouldn't be able to wrangle both of them at the same time) after going for an almost 7 kilometer run along to burn off as much of that crazy coonhound energy as possible.  I am bummed that this wasn't that family experience, but I am determined that we will make others.
When we got there, everyone was still setting up, as apparently there had been a bee incident earlier in the day that caused things to go a little off schedule, but you know what was great about it?  NO ONE CARED.  There was not a single person there (no one asked the dogs) who was upset that things didn't start "on time."  Everyone was just enjoying the fabulous fall-ish weather, the sunny day, and the positive atmosphere that overflowed.  I'm pretty sure the SuperFarmTruck that was serving its ever-tasty fare helped, too.  While the monks and volunteers worked to make everything ready, Zooey and I checked out the sights (and for her, the smells) at the farm.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thai One On

This post has been waiting for me to write it for about two weeks, but when you have a full time job and just dream of blogging full time, well....
Anyway, a few Fridays ago, HRH went off to Nana's to spend the night, so Scott and I were left to our own devices for the evening.  We did what other couples whose two-year-old is packed away at the grandparents' - we went car shopping.
(For the record, I want the Subaru Forester)
Driving in circles for several hours is surprisingly hungry work, so Scott suggested we make an actual date of our free evening and go to dinner.
I know - weird, huh?
Since we are, like, five seconds from Historic Downtown Chandler, we headed to Latitude Eight, a Thai restaurant that until that evening I thought held the Chik-Fil-A® Curse.
What's that?  You don't know what the Chik-Fil-A® curse is?  Well, as you may know, Chick-Fil-A® is closed on Sundays, and it seems that whenever I have a hankering for a peach milkshake, it's ALWAYS on a Sunday.  Likewise, it seems that whenever one of us thinks of going out for Thai food and suggest Latitude Eight, it's a Sunday, and they are closed, too (This same seems to also hold true for my attempts to go to Hobby Lobby, although I think Scott is really happy I rarely get to cut loose in a ginormous craft store with no chaperone).
Fortunately, it was Friday, so it was open.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

And These Are the Daily Admonitions

My jury duty commitment ended this Wednesday.  It ran for 4 months, from Friday, the 27th of May until Wednesday, September 21.
Yesterday it was a little hard to believe that I would not be heading out to swear at the traffic on the freeway, be told to park "on levels three or higher" when I got to the parking garage, and sit in a basement grand jury room, listening to cases about stupid people doing (for the most part) stupid things.  Most of the cases we heard did fall into this category, although it pains me to admit that I will likely be haunted by some of the examples of the worst of humanity that we also had to sit through.  Fortunately, the stupid cases far outweighed the heartwrenchingly awful ones.
When I first received my summons (the one that cordially invited me and said that if I couldn't make it I'd only have to pay a $500 fine), I had many friends make suggestions on how to get out of jury duty.  As well-intentioned as my friends are, none of those suggestions are really germane to a grand jury selection process (although they might still be applicable for a trial jury).
I'll be honest - I truly enjoyed the experience.  Sure, once the school year started up again, I sometimes allowed the stress of trying to get 40 hours' worth of work done in 24 each week to get to me, but this process really opened my eyes to the judicial process and gave me a new appreciation of it that a college-level course on the three branches of government never could.  I know that many of my fellow jurors were similarly inconvenienced, and several of us spent some of our lunch hours making calls, checking emails, and otherwise completing work projects when we would have preferred to actually go to lunch and relax a little bit.
While I am forever sworn to secrecy about the cases that I heard and the decisions that we made, I thought it might be helpful to educate my fellow citizens on the ins and outs of the grand jury selection process as well as the daily procedures once empaneled on a grand jury so that those lucky few who receive the same engraved invitation I did know what to expect.  Should any of my fellow jurors stumble across this, please feel free to leave additional recommendations in order to make the whole experience easier on the newbies who will follow in our footsteps.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saving the World - NOCC's Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer

I'm writing this post fewer than 24 hours after receiving a text from my co-worker, Alicia.  Lily's cancer is in remission.  In remission.  IN REMISSION.  It was only 9 months ago that their family's world was turned upside down, and now, while there are still a few more tests that need to be run, I'm overjoyed that the family can now start returning to the "normal" that they once knew.
This morning marked the beginning of my fall race/run season.  While the summer months here in Arizona are far too hot to take even a leisurely two-mile jog, now that the temperatures are now moving back into the double digits (something that nearly requires a state holiday here), I was excited to start getting back into the swing of things.  What better way to do so than to honor my paternal grandmother, Lenora Elsie (Thayer) Jones, who passed away in 1977, before I was born, from ovarian cancer.

My grandmother, Lenora, with my dad
in August 1955.
I wear teal to honor her.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So Go Downtown - Things'll Be Great

I only have three more days of jury duty.  While it's been a truly fascinating experience - I really don't get why people try so desperately hard to get out of it - the toll of being gone from my job twice a week is truly taking a toll on me, and I'm looking forward to having those two days back so I don't feel compelled to stay up until all hours in order to get assignments graded and returned, etc.  I am thankful that I have an exceptionally supportive department chair and principal, and my other department members and colleagues have offered some fantastic encouragement as well.  Everyone should feel so fortunate in their workplace.
But I think one of the best aspects of being on jury duty is that it has forced me to be in downtown Phoenix all day for each of those two days.  Now, many large cities that I have visited have a bustling atmosphere, and Phoenix is not that different.  During the day.  But in past years, unless there was a sporting event or concert, the city practically rolled up the sidewalks come 5PM.  That's the thing about the Phoenix Metro Area (known to locals as The Valley) - since we have everything we might "need" in our own particular suburbs, there isn't that same need to head downtown.  While we do go to Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe with friends every New Year's Day (gotta get those beans and greens!), usually we stick close to home.  Why go to Majerle's near the ballpark when there is one in Chandler (same could be said for Coach and Willie's now, too)?  Who needs to go to the comedy club on Jefferson when the Improv is in Tempe?  And don't get me started on parking - it's a b****.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bag Lady

This blog post has been brought
to you by the Number 4.
I want to thank the lovely 8 people who commented to win my dorky, handmade bag.  I guess I was a little more excited about it than a girl really should be about a knitted bag made out of other bags, but I really think that this is a fantastic way to reuse those plastic bags, which we can't seem to get away from (I, too, often forget my bags when I go to the store, which usually means that there will be some under-the-breath swearing and a debate as to how many more fossil fuels will be burned if I turn around to get my bags).
I just finished another bag, although I'm less thrilled about this pattern; it kind of looks like a hat for Hagrid, but I think I can fix that so it actually looks like a bag is supposed to look.
Anyway, enough with the pleasantries, right?  You just want to know who won.
Congratulations to Megan from Wanna Be a Country Cleaver!  While I had some issues with the random number generator (operator error to an epic degree), I managed to get myself under control to take this screen shot.
Megan, email me your address, and I'll get the bag and the produce bags sent off.  Since you're a loyal WSU Coug, though, I don't think you want any Sun Devil gear.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Chocolate Sandwich I'll Feed My Daughter

I am extremely jealous of Sarah Matheny, author of the blog AND best-selling cookbook Peas and Thank You.  To be specific, I am jealous of her daughters.  It seems that her Little Peas enjoy just about anything healthy placed in front of them.
This is in direct contrast to my own Wee One.  While she does enjoy some healthy items, like grapes and... grapes, if she could eat chocolate ice cream and French fries for every meal, she would be much more willing to sit down to dinner with us.  Even sweet potato fries are something at which she turns up her little nose.  Seriously - who doesn't like sweet potato fries?
So while we in the Decadent Philistine household have been working on presenting HRH with various healthy foods (over and over and over, just like the experts tell us to do), since I am hell bent on making sure she doesn't starve to death, I've also been trying to get creative when making her lunches and snacks that soothe the savage sweet tooth as well as use the familiar to add variety.
One of her recent favorites: Nutella.  It's a lot of people's favorites; we especially enjoy it when Scott makes crepes.  But it's anything but healthy, despite what the advertising campaign might tell you.  Earlier this year, a woman sued Nutella (and its parent company, Ferrero) for false advertising, claiming that she gave it to her kids because the company claimed that it's a healthy part of breakfast.  If you watch this commercial, you'll see that it does claim health benefits, like being made with skim milk and having no artificial colors.  But what it DOES have is this:

Monday, August 22, 2011

To My Husband, With Love

I was so blown away by the outpouring of support for Jennifer Perillo after her husband, Mikey, died.  I was only one of literally thousands who made a peanut butter pie to honor their love and the love that so many others share.
The same day that people worldwide dug into a communal peanut butter pie, I decided to make a pie for Scott as well.  He isn't a huge sweets fan, so I wasn't sure that he'd enjoy the peanut butter pie.  But he does love fruit pies, so I picked up some strawberries and rhubarb to make one of his favorites.
The word favorite isn't exactly in Scott's vocabulary.  Any time I ask him what his favorite (fill in the blank) is, he just responds, "I don't like to have favorites."  HRH put him in a pickle the other day when she asked him, "What's your favorite color, Daddy?"  Thankfully, she decided it was blue for him, so the discomfort only lasted a moment (she also decided mine was red; it is, in fact, yellow).
A favorite color is one thing; a favorite meal is another.  I didn't even bother to ask him what his favorite pie was, but I did need some input on a meal.  Finally, after hemming and hawing and throwing around the "I don't have favorites," he did say that he'd always eat a good chicken fried steak.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Running to Save the World, Knitting to Save my Sanity (Plus a GIVEAWAY!)

When we were still living in Michigan, one of the magazines that I acquired had an ad for Nike® of a female runner, standing there, looking all bad-a$$.  The caption was something to the effect of "Yeah, I could be a knitter, but then I wouldn't be a good runner."  I'm totally paraphrasing.  I can hardly remember the Pledge of Allegiance, so I surely can't remember, verbatim, an ad from pre-2007.  Anyway, I was, at the time, not a runner, although I did go to the gym regularly and workout with weights, cardio, and pilates classes.  I was also already knitting, so I remember taking great umbrage at the ad.  Why can't I be in shape AND knit?  Heaven knows that, in Michigan, one can never have too many knit scarves during the winter months.
Fast forward to last fall, when I actually began running for the first time since high school.  I learned that I really do enjoy running (even when someone whose name rhymes with Schmooey trips me because she saw a cat on the other side of the street) and that my knees can handle it (amazing what happens when one stops wearing high heels every day of the week, right?) and even feel great afterwards.  I signed up for my first run - the Colon Cancer Alliance's Undy 5000 - and had a blast.  Then I signed up for London's Run, Dakota's Run, and more.  This year I've signed up for the Undy 5000 again, and I'll be signing up for several more in the next few weeks.
All of my runs have this in common: they help raise money for organizations dedicated to helping others.  Whether that is finding a cure for colon cancer, the cancer that took my dad from me, or helping out military families like the Tillmans, I run even more happily knowing that my entry fee went to more than the pockets of various racing companies.  I am able to run; I need to utilize that ability to help those who might be so weak from chemo a walk to the bathroom is a challenge or who are struggling to make ends meet because their loved ones perished fighting for the freedom I so enjoy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

To Husbands, With Love (A Pie for Mikey)

I don't know Jennie.
It's highly unlikely that I will ever meet Jennie face to face.
But today I am offering her a part of my heart so that it can break for her, so that perhaps hers can break a little less.
Jennie's blog, In Jennie's Kitchen, is one of many that I follow (no, it's not in the left-hand column; to be honest, I follow too many blogs to really have an adequate list over there, as I consider all of those blogs I follow to be fantastic in their own way).  I like that she focuses on seasonal and local, and her photos always make me hungry for whatever she's featuring.
Her most recent post, though, has nothing to do with food.  It's about her husband, Mikey.
She lost Mikey suddenly a week ago.  There wasn't even a moment in which she could say goodbye.  He was gone too quickly.

I don't know Jennie.
But my heart breaks with her and for her.  I ache for her girls who lost their father too soon.  I cry tears for a man, a husband and father, I never met.

That's why I made a peanut butter cream pie today.

Mikey loved peanut butter cream pie.  Like most of us, Jennie and Mikey's life had become busy, crazy, hectic - call it what you want, but basically, there wasn't always time to make a peanut butter cream pie.  There's alway tomorrow to make a pie, right?
Not anymore.
Jennie has asked her fellow bloggers to make a peanut butter cream pie and share it with family, friends, or loved ones.  She asked us to do this today and not tomorrow, because, she says, "today is the only guarantee we can count on."
I knew I needed to make a peanut butter cream pie.  I needed to make this pie more than I have ever needed to make a recipe.

The pictures are (top to bottom) my dad in his Army uniform, a family
picture when I was about two (?), and a snapshot taken in my dad's senior
year in high school (he was voted class cut-up).  I can't share this pie with my dad,
so I wanted to share these pictures with my readers.  Thanks to my cousin
Stacey for sending these to me.
I decided to share this pie with my fellow jurors.  These are certainly not people I count among my closest friends; four months ago, they were complete strangers.  Only the confines of the jury deliberation room two days a week has made us familiar.  But we now share a common thread, and I felt that is was only appropriate to ask them to share in the healing process that #apieformikey is designed to start.  They were only too happy to lift a fork and take a moment to honor Mikey, Jennie, and their girls. In those few minutes, we reflected that our gripes we often share between cases are so trivial and minor and that we all need to take some time to be grateful for those things and those people we all too often take for granted.
The leftovers were shared with my husband and daughter after a meal that I prepared for them (bacon for the Wee One, an attempt at chicken fried steak for my husband), and I reveled in the fact that we enjoyed a meal that, while disappointing, was prepared with love.  I am so thankful that I had this meal and that my husband can joke with me about that sorry excuse for fried steak.

Here's to you, Perillo family - here's to the love that you shared with one another and with those of us who read your blog.  If making a pie can help you learn this new version of "real life," I would gladly make a million of them.  Tonight, when I hug my family, I hope that you feel the warmth of my heart as I embrace you as well.

This is for you, Mikey.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Four Pounds Round-Up

The week that has required me to record all of my food waste for everyone who may read this post has passed, so now it's time to 'fess up and show off how much I actually threw away.
But first, a few words.  I'd like to thank the Academy... wait - wrong speech.
Multiply by 5
This wasn't a completely unbiased experiment  In true Hawthorne Effect fashion, I made conscious efforts to NOT throw things out.  Sometimes it was because I was truly mortified and even ashamed that I would normally do so; a couple of times it was because I wasn't sure where the camera was and didn't want to hunt around, leaving said food scraps unattended, which would actually result in no food scraps, if Zooey was at this same time left to her own devices.  But I knew that I was documenting what was getting tossed, and I didn't want to look bad.  So please note that what I am posting here is most certainly not the norm in our house, although after this week it is my objective that it should be.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

To Veg or Not to Veg

I've been thinking about colon cancer a lot lately, specifically, the preventative measures that I can take to decrease my risk of being diagnosed with the same disease that took my dad away from me.
It's not a secret that decreasing one's red meat intake has a significant impact on a person's colon health, and while I admit that sometimes (like the entire time I was pregnant), a medium rare steak is the only thing that will hit the spot, I'm making an effort to cut my consumption of it and instead up the greens, legumes, and fruit.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that I am curious about Mark Bittman's "vegan until dinner" practice, one which means that he is, well, a vegan until dinnertime (or suppertime, really).  No animal products of any kind.  This improved Mr. Bittman's overall health, and studies are showing that in order to truly cut down on the environmental impact that our Western, meat-centric diet has had, eliminating dairy as well as the meat is going to have to happen in a major way.
Of course, the argument Mr. Bittman makes is that ONE meal a day can have animal product in it - so that Sunday morning bacon and eggs can still happen, if you want.  That just means at suppertime, the Sunday roast beast is replaced by roast beets (see what I did there?).
By following this method, I can improve my personal health and the health of the planet.  I'm quite certain that I am not ready at this point in my life to completely eliminate animal products from my life, but this is a comfortable step that I can realistically make.
However, it does create some questions for me that I need to answer before I embark on this journey whole-heartedly.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Who Moved My (Four Pounds of) Cheese?

This week (August 1-7), I'm participating in the Four Pounds of Cheese experiment.  In this week, participants are asked to keep a photo log of the food waste that is produced in their kitchens.  This doesn't include bones and other "inedibles" but instead focuses on the food that could have been used somehow.  The objective is, of course, to note how we all are (each differently) wasteful, which will hopefully help those of us joining in to modify our kitchen practices to reduce that food waste.
Now, here's the rub - compost.  No, I'm not asking you to rub it into your skin (see my earlier posts about honey if you want to rub something into your skin).  Technically, it's waste.  Not everyone does - or even has the ability to - compost.  I guess we don't truly compost, either - like I mentioned before, we just save ours to give to my mother-in-law, who actually takes the items we have saved and composts them for her garden.  We're more like vegetable scrap hoarders (are you reading this, TLC?  New series idea?).
But I digress.
While our compost is certainly utilized for another reason, it's the same stuff that's thrown out with the trash in other households.  So is it something I need to take a picture of, or since I find another use for it, does it count like the bones, peels, and eggshells (I throw the peels and eggshells into the compost bin, actually)?  I kind of want to not take pictures of it, but I also don't want to feel like I'm "cheating" (there's the Hermione Granger in me, coming out).
The good news is that while driving home yesterday from my field trip to the bookstore, I had an epiphany - I save my shrimp shells and other bits in the freezer to make a stock.  Why the heck haven't I done that with my veggies?  I've been tossing onion bits and carrot ends in the compost bin when I could be saving them to make a nice stock.  SHEESH!  So I'm going to start doing that - starting yesterday with my zucchini ends and a little bit of onion that didn't make it into the pot.
I'm also hoping that this will help bring us to the tipping point at which we run out of room in our two freezers (we have a fridge in the garage, which is called "the beer fridge") and HAVE to get a new upright freezer.  But that's another blog post.
Check back in a week (I mean, just about this post - I'll be posting between now and then... I hope!) to see what I've learned about food waste in my own kitchen!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

2 Meals, 1 Post

This is the beginning of the school year for me (already? yikes!), so it's crazy at our place.  The other night I finally went to bed when I realized I had fallen asleep at my work computer (fortunately I didn't do a face plant into the keyboard; imagine explaining THAT computer malady to tech support).
So, this last week, I didn't do much in the kitchen other than make a mess.  I made up for it this weekend, making some tasty suppers for the hubs and myself (HRH is choosing to stick to a diet of peanut butter & Nutella® sandwiches, Pepperidge Farm® Goldfish, and Craisins®).
Shameless plug:
couples - get this book!
Friday, I picked up some lamb shanks.  I just love lamb, but we never make it at home, as usually it's a little too pricey for this cheapskate.  However, I was, a few months ago, the fortunate winner of Table for Two, a cookbook by Warren Caterson.  It's a cookbook designed to make 2 servings of the dishes presented, which is nice for our family, as someone (I'm not gonna name names, but his title rhymes with shmusband) doesn't care for leftovers, leaving someone else (this person would be me) to try to fight her way through eating the same meal for about a week.  Anyway, he has some lovely braised lamb shanks recipes, and, well, those shanks at the store just kind of sang to me - like the sirens did to Odysseus.
I elected to make the red wine version, as we had almost all the ingredients (I substituted dehydrated orange slices for the lemon wedges, but that was my only sub).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One More Lemon Recipe - and a Link

I'm guest-posting over at Blog is the New Black today; head on over there and check out my take on lemon biscotti.  But don't stop there - head back even just a few entries, and prepare to drool all over your keyboard.  I am warning you now - the prosciutto-wrapped scallops had me slobbering like a St. Bernard!

Coffee with a good cause (my dad's foundation)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Challenge Accepted, Enjoyed, and Embraced

I have a gross little secret.

(sotto voce) I love squeezing the gunk out of the pores in my nose.

I TOLD you it was gross.  But don't lie... you've done it before, too, right?

Here's the thing - I think I do it in hopes that there will be that one time when I squeeze... and nothing happens.  That moment when there ISN'T yucky stuff clogging my pores - the moment that I've won the battle with the forces allied together to make me hate my skin.

And then, it happened.  THAT MOMENT - it happened.  Just this week, I saw what I thought was the beginnings of a pimple (yes, I know they tell you not to squeeze them; who actually listens to that?).  It actually turned out to be some dry skin (which is an anomaly in and of itself, considering my life of oily-prone skin), but in that moment I squeezed, I saw that bit of dry skin... and nothing else.  No ickiness oozing out!

What the French toast??????

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Egg on My Face... Because I Was So Hungry!

I needed something hearty this morning.  Zooey and I got up for a 2-mile run (in this heat and humidity, I don't want to risk taking her any farther), which was followed by more physical activity for me in the form of taking down the crib and putting together a new bookshelf for HRH's room (sniff sniff - she's not a baby anymore!).
So I knew as much as I like them, pancakes would not do.  I needed Something Filling.
But what?

Baked Eggs in Ramekins

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c half & half
  • 1/2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 romano cheese, shredded
  • a few handsful spinach, torn
  • 3/4 - 1 c squash, chopped (I used patty pan)
  • 1 rasher streaky bacon (only because it was in the fridge, and I didn't want it to become that science experiment)
  • 1 green red onion, chopped 
  • 1 shallot, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.  Beat together the eggs, cheese, and half & half; set aside.  Swirl some olive oil into a pan and soften the onions and shallot; move to a bowl and keep warm.  Add a little more oil (if needed) and throw in the squash; saute until it begins to caramelize, and add the spinach until it begins to wilt.  Add squash, spinach, and onion/shallot mixture to egg mixture; stir to combine.  Pour into buttered ramekins and back 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.


This was just a fantastic recovery meal; it had plenty of protein as well as fiber.  It could have been slightly healthier - I did have buttered white toast alongside it (my ultimate vice - white bread with butter).  But since it took a while to bake, it was more a brunch than just breakfast, so I think I'll be happy for a while.
As long as I get a snack here in a bit.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meatless Monday Takes on Spaghetti

On Sunday, we received a lovely bottle of avocado oil, and I've been thinking about what to do with it since.
So, today being Meatless Monday, I took advantage of the spaghetti squash sitting on our counter and threw a little something together.  Lately I have been terribly disappointed in my "let's throw all this together and see what happens" attempts, but tonight I was exceedingly happy with the results.
Avocado oil is quite buttery, so a little goes a long way.  I added just the slightest amount to the pan in order to toss the finished product with a little drizzle of more.
But be careful - this oil can go rancid much more quickly than other food oils, so you can be sure that I'll be looking for ways to use this bottle of deliciousness in order to make sure none goes to waste.


A Sweet Challenge

A few weeks ago, I admitted that I have stopped washing my hair with shampoo and my face with soap, replacing those routines with, respectively, baking soda/vinegar and oil.
When doing the research that led me to make those decisions, one of the websites that really spurred my interest in hearing down the more natural path was Crunchy Betty.
Well, she's at it again!
This time, it's the Crunchy Betty Honey Challenge!
OK, it's not really a challenge.  I think.  The objective: wash my face with honey (and water) for the next two weeks.  That can't be that hard, right?
I mean, unless I bought the wrong honey, which is entirely possible, as I just saw a sneak peek of Crunchy Betty's video (watch it - it's super cute and funny), and the honey that I bought it waaaaaay thicker than that.  If it's too thick, maybe it will be a disaster!  But it's all gonna be OK, right?  Right.  Phew.  Thanks!
Well, if it's anywhere near as fantastic as the oil cleansing method, I'm totally game for doing this.  Bonus - the honey smells amazing!
So who's up for taking part in the challenge, too?  The list of goods is short:
  1. raw, unpasteurized honey
  2. water
  3. a clean towel
That's it.  The honey can be found at local health food stores (I got mine at Sprouts - they had lots of brands).
For instructions, check out the challenge page - it's looks pretty darn easy.  I can't wait to see what happens!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Strength in Numbers

Since I work from home, email is the main means of communication for my co-workers and me.  That being said, I am absolutely TERRIBLE at checking my person email (I have like three people for whose names I scan, and then I go to my next task).
Shame on me!!!!
Using this habit, I overlooked an email from Foodbuzz, a food blog community (of which I am a featured publisher), that, when finally read, made my heart go pitter-pat with joy.
Yahoo® has agreed to donate $20,000 to Share Our Strength® on behalf of Foodbuzz!  If you don't know about Share Our Strength®, it is an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in the United States, a goal the group believes that it can attain in this decade.  This donation from Yahoo can and WILL make a huge impact on the lives of children in our cities and towns across the nation.
So how can you help?  Support Yahoo® by making it your homepage.  It's quick and easy (just like your favorite recipes), and it's even completely painless (unless you have sharp thingies coming out of your keyboard; in that case, go to the store, get a new keyboard, and THEN make Yahoo® your homepage).
But don't stop there - tell your friends, neighbors, likers (on Facebook) and followers (on Twitter) about this great way to help ensure that every child has access to the food he or she needs to thrive.  And don't forget to head over to the Share Our Strength® website to see how else you can make an impact in your community.
I am only too happy to say "thank you" to Yahoo® for making this donation in order to help end childhood hunger.  I once told my daughter, when she was too young to respond with more than a gurgle or coo, that I would never let her go hungry.  I wish I could make that same promise to every child.  This is one way I can work toward that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I'm 'Posted Up in Here

 This is a picture of my leftover food - tops/bottoms of onions, apple cores, eggshells, onion "skins," banana peels, stem ends, etc.  Yes, this is my compost bin.
I did take this picture right after I threw some leek remains in there, so I spared you the funk that was underneath (what I think is) the pretty green and white "leftovers."  And believe me, it can get pretty funky in the bin.  And not funky in a fun, 1970's-esque way.  Funky in an "EWWWWWWWW!" sort of way.
You see, our compost bin is a large plastic container that lives on our kitchen counter:


Now, the objective of most compost pails is to put them in a "real" compost bin.  But I'll be honest - I am terrified enough of scorpions (and we do that have them - in spades - here in AZ) to err on the side of caution and NOT have one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pizza! Pizza! (and a tribute to Frau Ramm)

I just returned from my trip to the Pacific Northwest.  While I didn't get to as many places as I had hoped, I still managed to chow down at a few venues that you NEED to know about.
Most people have heard about the Pike Place Market in Seattle.  It's a fantastic market.  But one wonderful aspect of the PNW is that there are farmers' markets everywhere.  The rain that many people bemoan allow veggies and fruits of all kinds to grow easily all over the western half of the state.  Olympia, my home town, has a rockin' farmers' market that has been a staple for years, so it was fantastic to be able to hit it.  I was jealous of all of the stands that offered plants that could be taken home and popped in the ground.
Well, of course, HRH was bored, even after she got a balloon butterfly, and she promptly asked for ice cream.
Have you ever seen three-color cotton candy flavored ice cream?  Neither have I, and while just the name makes me cringe, she yummed it up as fast as she could.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Decadent Phourth

Happy Independence Day!  I am sitting here on the couch, drinking an Arnold Palmer, flat exhausted from the long weekend.
It was worth it.
Saturday I made this cake:


Isn't it pretty?  I don't often make cakes anymore, and I most certainly don't have the time to decorate like I used to, but we had friends stop by on their way home from Tombstone, and since we rarely see them (they live in Lake Havasu City), I wanted to make sure that we had a nice afternoon.
Thus, after lunching at San Tan Brewing Company, I proudly served my little white cake.
Or...