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April 30, 2009

Counting Sheep

I love sleep. Sleep is a good thing, and there is nothing like waking up in the morning after a great night's sleep -- refreshed and ready for new day.

Nights like tonight on the other hand -- not so great.

3:42 AM: My eyes don't want to open and my body is so tired it hurts, but my mind is like a puppy who has been crated for a couple hours -- wide awake and ready to play. A tired body just doesn't stand a chance against an energized mind.

3:45 AM: I ask myself, "What are you worried about?" This is usually a good question for me, because I usually realize that there's not much I can do in the middle of the night that I can't do better in the morning (with a couple more hours of sleep). No worries come to mind tonight, just a whirlwind of ideas.

4:00 AM: Search my nightstand for my rosary beads and pray. This is along the lines of counting sheep, but a whole lot more rewarding in my opinion. I keep rosary beads beside my bed and somehow just holding them in my hand usually puts me right back to sleep. While I pray I am unloading all that is on my mind and it quiets right down. When this works, I'm usually snoring 1/3 of the way through the first decade. Tonight -- the entire rosary.

4:30 AM: Break out the deep relaxation music on my iPod. I have several great podcasts that I play in sequence that always do the trick - no words, just relaxing sounds that typically whisk me off to some tropical island paradise in my mind. This morning the boat to paradise was anchored on the shores of some big party town.

5:00 AM: I surrender to my inner puppy and drag my tired butt out of bed and down to my office. Check my email. Read about a truck that is ablaze on a local highway. Make my to do list for the day.

5:20: Let my brain release some of its energy and write this post.

6:15 AM: My mind is finally quiet....just in time to start my day. Of course now all I want to do is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Sleepless nights happen to the best of us. What's your best trick for falling back to sleep?

April 28, 2009

5 Minute Chocolate Cake

A good friend of mine sent me this recipe last week, and it sounded so good, I knew I had to try it out as a possible "Tasty Tuesday" treat. I gave it a whirl yesterday, and I have to tell you, for a five minute treat -- it was pretty delicious. It was a very hearty, dense cake -- almost like a chocolate pound cake.

The good news (for me) is that it's too dense and rich to eat it every day. More good news -- because it's so "heavy," you won't think twice about cutting it in half and sharing it with a friend. The bad news (for me) is that when I'm having a chocolate craving (a very frequent occurrence for this chocoholic), this is such an easy fix that it will quickly jump to the forefront of my mind.

5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE

You'll Need
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (Micro Safe)

Step by Step
  • Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.
  • Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
  • Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
  • Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
  • The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
  • Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
  • EAT ! (Share with a friend for half the guilt!)




NOTE: Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. Yummy.

April 22, 2009

Unexpected Gifts

Did you ever notice that the gifts you receive when you least expect them are often the greatest gifts of all?

I turned the page on my daily planner this morning, and found a sticky note that my son had left for me. It said:
"Mom, I read some of your blogs and must say...'Holy S#@! Santa Claus -- they rock!"
I know maybe at 14-years old he's not necessarily a seasoned critic, and perhaps I should be concerned about his use of expletives to express himself -- but the truth is, his words meant the world to me.

My primary motivation for writing my blog is pretty self-serving. I enjoy writing and find that my spirits are lifted when I connect pen and paper (or in this case, fingers and keyboard) on a regular basis. There's also something comforting about knowing that I'm sharing a little piece of myself with anyone who stumbles upon my blog. Maybe that sounds strange, but to me it just feels right. Despite that selfish motivation, I can't help but wonder if anyone is reading it -- and if they are, do they like it? Do they get it? Do they want more?

Jake's note was an unexpected gift -- delivered at the moment I needed it the most. It made my heart soar, and my eyes well up with tears. Someone is reading this! Someone likes it! His words gave me the motivation I need to keep at it. His words were a gift I will treasure forever.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't ever under-estimate the impact of a simple compliment. When someone impresses or inspires you, tell them. Simple words, spoken from the heart can fuel the spirit.

NOTE TO JAKE: Thank you. You are one special boy, and I love you dearly.

Save the Date -- 31 Cent Scoop Night!!


I Scream! Scream You!
We all Scream for Ice Cream!

Mark your calendar now -- Baskin Robbins 31-cent Scoop Night is coming!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
5:00 - 10:00 p.m.
Check the website for a participating location near you!! And spread the word!

April 19, 2009

A Good Cry

I watched "Marley & Me" again last night. And I cried again.

For anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet, that film will make the tears flow for obvious reasons. But somehow, last night, my tears were different.

For the first time, I wasn't thinking about "Uncle Sam" (our "bad dog" who we lost several years ago) -- instead, while I watched, I let my heart feel the years of life that whizzed by in those two short hours. Somehow that whirlwind felt very real, and as the tears flowed freely down my cheeks, I tasted the bittersweet reality that as cliche as it sounds, life goes by way too fast.

I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for what's going to happen in my life in the next few months because I know there are some significant milestones just around the corner. Yet every day that I tear off a page on my "Life is Crap" calendar (yes, despite the title of this blog, I still get a good laugh out of those things that make you say "Aw crap!" -- like being out of coffee or dropping your cell phone in the toilet), I find myself wishing someone would wave a magic wand to make time stand still.

Within the next five months I will watch my oldest child graduate from high school, celebrate my husband's 50th birthday, celebrate 20 years of marriage, watch my daughter start college, help my middle son get started on his college search process, watch my youngest son start high school, and attend our first "Family Weekend" as the parents of a college student. Five months ago I was baking Christmas cookies.

When did my life start flying by at the speed of film?

Life happens and there is no slowing it down. All we can do is jump in, enjoy the ride, and try to create a story that you can look back upon with joy. When you look back, if the tears come, as they did for me last night, hopefully they are bittersweet -- not because there is regret, but because you would gladly jump back into any moment in time.

"Live a good life. And in the end it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years." Abraham Lincoln



April 12, 2009

Peter Rabbit Cookies

It's not Easter until Peter Rabbit makes his appearance!
 
 

Another wonderful recipe from my Gram -- cute as could be with their little ears and bunny tails! They look sweet in a basket, or arranged in a grouping on a plate lined with Easter grass!

You'll Need
1/2 cup soft butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 1/4 cup flour
powdered sugar for dusting
Step by Step
  1. Cream butter, sugar and flavoring together.
  2. Stir in flour and mix well.
  3. If dough is too dry to handle, add 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  4. Chill 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  6. Roll 1 level teaspoon dough into ball for head, and 1 heaping teaspoon dough into ball for body.
  7. Use tiny bits of dough for ears and a tiny ball for the tail.
  8. Bake about 20 minutes, do not brown.
  9. While warm, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Happy Easter everyone!
Thanks again to my Gram for another wonderful recipe!

April 10, 2009

Boiling Eggs

So I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this -- but I needed to do a Google search to find out how to hard boil the eggs in preparation for dying our Easter eggs tonight. I know, I know...that's really lame. Here I am writing about all the tasty things I've been cooking up...and I don't even know how to boil eggs. Very sad.

Fortunately I have:

...a wonderful resource for cooking basics (like How to Make Perfect Hardboiled Eggs) at SimplyRecipes.com



...fail proof recipes from my Marie's Recipe Box --a special cookbook that my sister-in-law assembled after my Gramma passed away -- (you can see by the stains and tattered pages that it is extremely loved)


...and now I have Wildtree -- which makes cooking delicious, nutritious food embarrassingly easy.


So that's it, the secret is out. Hopefully this "true confession" gives hope to anyone out there who feels culinarily challenged (is culinarily a word?).


Stick with me -- you can do it, I promise!

April 7, 2009

Susan Branch -- You're My Inspiration


I need to introduce you to someone who has been inspiring me for almost twenty years now (yikes!!).

It was at my bridal shower in 1989 that my aunt first introduced me to Susan Branch by giving me her first two cookbooks, "Heart of the Home" and "Vineyard Seasons" Each book is spilling over with inspiration about creating a joy-filled, welcoming home, making delicious meals, and creating a life that is simple, yet abundant. Susan Branch's books are works of art -- each page handwritten and filled with precious watercolors. She is a gifted artist and storyteller -- and even though I have never met her, I feel like she is a friend. I know that sounds a little loopy, but if you get to know her through her books, you'll quickly come to understand what I mean.

From our Thanksgiving stuffing recipe to Mary's Mother's Snowballs cookies that I make each Christmas -- Susan's inspiration has become a part of my life. And it's not just recipes either -- she inspires ideas about decorating, entertaining, gardening and DREAMING.

Needless to say, when her email newsletter, "Willard" arrived today, I was as excited as the first time I paged through her cookbooks. So excited, in fact, that I felt like I had to introduce you to my "friend" -- who speaks to the "Heart of the Home."

Visit her at http://www.susanbranch.com.

:)


April 3, 2009

Buffalo Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Well, this may sound totally crazy, but I have a new favorite sandwich -- and I think I may have created it!

I got the idea after having Buffalo Cheese Sticks with my daughter at a local restaurant. For lack of a better name I am calling it a Buffalo Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
It's a little messy -- but it is D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!

You'll Need

  • 2 slices of bread (I prefer "Texas Toast")
  • butter or margarine
  • Buffalo hot sauce
  • 2 slices of cheddar-jack cheese
  • bleu cheese dressing


Step By Step

1. Butter one side of each piece of bread
2. On unbuttered side of each piece of bread, spoon Buffalo hot sauce to coat the bread
3. Put butter-side down on a griddle
4. Add one slice of cheddar-jack cheese
5. Spread one spoonful of bleu cheese dressing
6. Add other slice of cheese
7. Top with other piece of bread
8. Grill on each side until golden brown

Optional: Add sliced chicken or bacon.

Alternative: Reduce the fat by eliminating the butter on the bread, and coating the outside of each piece of bread with Butter Flavored Grapeseed Oil, or spraying the pan with a non-stick spray.

Enjoy!! And let me know what you think!!

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