Lessons Learned, Uncategorized

New Year’s Resolutions You Shouldn’t Make

I’ve really been enjoying my Christmas holidays and break. Lounging around the house in my pajamas until 10:30 each day, has allowed me to ponder the resolutions I plan to make this year. I’ve not been able to narrow the list down to a good three or four, but I have weeded out several resolutions I will NOT make. I thought this list might be helpful for you as well.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES RESOLVE TO:

Let the neighbor kid convince your kid to shoot them as target practice with their new airsoft gun they just got for Christmas.  It doesn’t hurt, really!

Clean out the pet guinea pig cage…with the guinea pig still in it….with two hungry dogs looking on…without making plans to purchase a new pet guinea pig.

Stop sneaking in your sister’s medicine cabinet to “borrow” the drugs left over from her surgery.

Discover the only pair of slacks you can fit into are dirty and you’re out of laundry detergent so you wash them in the dishwasher.  Just wear a skirt with elastic.

Let your teenage nephew choose the movie for Family Movie Night.  Note: Unrated means really bad.

Allow your daughter to show every family member how to get on Facebook. (That’s not exactly what you meant by having more “family time”.)

Promise friends and relatives Next year I’ll send out Christmas cards. You didn’t keep that promise this year.

Allow your husband to save a few bucks on Universal tickets by buying “discount” tickets from a girl, named Svetlana, at the Orlando Walgreens.

Say you’re going to get in shape by having “Two a days” just like the high school football team.  And have your son ask each and every day, “How are those two a days going for ya?”

Agree to get the Words with Friends  app when asked by a very competitive friend. It’s possible your behavior could make Alec Baldwin blush.

Use chocolate cupcakes to bribe a group of your son’s friends to read and give positive feedback on an excerpt of the book you’re writing. Gushers work much better and take less time.

Get more Omega 3 in your diet by eating Swedish Fish.

Feel free to share the resolutions you plan to not make.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Lessons Learned, Recipes

Pet Peeves and Frito Pie

One of my pet peeves is when someone decides to be at the same exact store at the exact moment when I decide to go to the store looking like a mess (no makeup, crazy hair, stain on jacket, etc. ). And to make matters worse, on the way out I run into another person I know. It’s as if person #1 called to inform person #2 of my unfortunate condition and called her to come see for herself.

Another of my pet peeves is when someone sabotages my plan to get in shape.

I’ve finally committed to eating better (this has nothing to do with wanting to live longer, I just want to fit into my pants again) and I am actually sticking to a diet and doing really well, when my very evil son talks me into making Oreo and cream cheese balls covered in white chocolate. Being the weakling I am, I oblige.

I’ve got a whole list of pet peeves, but these are the ones that peeved me today.

But…

I guess it’s possble that I could be thankful that I have a job, which allows me to afford the trip to the store (where I encounter that friend) and…

I’m pretty sure my twelve-year-old son won’t always think it’s fun to spend time with me in the kitchen.

And I can always start that diet tomorrow. I really could, but…

in addition to the Oreo and cream cheese balls covered in white chocolate, he wants frito pie. I do make a good frito pie.

Oreo and Cream Cheese Balls

Use your food processor to finely chop an entire bag of Oreos. Mix the crumbs with a softened large block of cream cheese. Mix together with your hands. (Then lick hands.) Shape into 1/2 – 1 inch balls.  Place in the freezer to harden.

Melt one bag of white chocolate chips in a sauce pan while constantly stirring. Dip the Oreo balls in the chocolate and place on wax paper. Freeze for a least 3o minutes. (And in case you’re wondering…yes, there were several inappropriate comments made by my husband and kids as they enjoyed this treat.)

Note: white chocolate bark is easier to work with than chips, and the end result is prettier. (Jennifer, thanks for giving Jake the idea. If your recipe is different, please share it!)

Frito Pie

Make your best chili. Line the bottom of an oven-safe dish with fritos (I use about 1/2 of the bag and a large dutch oven). Pour the warm chili over the fritos. Top with 1 cup of shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the pie is bubbling. Serve with some fritos on top.

Note: if your chili is made with water, use beef stock instead. This will kick any recipe up a notch. (I’ll include a couple of chili recipes in a future post.)

Lessons Learned, Uncategorized

God is like your GPS. Um…I don’t think so.

God is like your GPS.

Sound familiar? I’ve heard that analogy a dozen times in sermons or devotionals. But God is NOTHING like my GPS. And for that, I am truly thankful. Let me explain.

But first, a little back story.

I am the poster child for the directionally challenged. I have absolutely no sense of direction and I get lost often. This is always an unpleasant experience.

Each fall, my sister’s family and my family want to visit a corn maze. And each year, I ask “Why?”  Why does one choose to wander around aimlessly for hours in a state of perpetual “lostness”. Where is the fun in that? But being the
good sport I am, I go along. (Seriously, I am a bad sport and I go along, griping
the entire time, making comments like “Yeah, this is great fun. Who’s idea was
this again?” as we round the same patch of corn for the 3rd time.

But back to the GPS.

My husband swears by the GPS. I, on the other hand, have been disappointed by it on numerous occasions. I am more of a landmark person.

Turn right on Forever Green Ave. This is just after the McDonalds which is on your right and the Eternal Acres Funeral Home which is on your left. That language, I understand.

Go 20 miles, turn in 265 feet? This means nothing to me. And I really don’t like someone talking to me when I am trying to concentrate. That goes for Tom Tom, or Kim Kim, or as my daughter likes to call her, Gigi.

I am getting to the God part. Really!

So a few weeks ago, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of school counselors. The location was new to me, although I was somewhat familiar with the general area. (This is always a bad thing – I sort of think I know where I’m going.)

Because it was just about 20 miles from my home and I had plenty of time to get there, I thought I’d give Gigi one more chance. Big mistake.

I’m driving and I’m making great time. I’m sipping my coffee. I’m listening to Gigi and wondering what she does for fun when she’s not working.

Then she says, “Your destination is in 265 feet.”  Okay. I slow down, but keep driving. And in 265 feet, I arrive at…

the Quick Trip.

While this would be a convenient place for the counselors’ meeting with all the coffee and hot dogs that could survive a nuclear explosion, I think something is not right.

I’ve had this feeling before. The panic starts to slowly creep in. It’s one thing to be late to a meeting and another thing to be late to a presentation that you are giving. What do I do? I immediately look for a friendly face.

And there he is. Mr. Handyman. I am relatively sure that is not his actual name but that’s what it says on the side of his truck that he was trying to quickly get in as I am calling his name.

After 5 minutes of him punching the address into his GPS (side note – years of handyman work make one a very slow typist) he says, “Well, it looks like you’re in the right place.” Then he chuckles. Yeah, it’s hilarious.

I thank him (and make a mental note of the make and model of his truck should I encounter him again and want to cut him off in traffic.)

Then I do what I hate doing, I make the call. In cases like this, I often call my husband and ask him to somehow google an aerial shot of my destination and talk me through it. I hate making this call. Not only does it highlight my weakness, but it also usually gets me a lecture about my lack of trust in the GPS and how I don’t listen to it, to stop being so literal, 265 feet is an approximation, surely the place is close by, just turn around, blah, blah, blah.

But, he doesn’t answer. So now my only choice is to call Dee, the person in charge of the meeting who asked me to make the presentation, and admit that I am not only lost, but odds are good I am also going to be late.

So God is NOT like a GPS at all. God is more like… Dee. Let me explain.

Not only does she answer my call (in the middle of leading the meeting) but she knows EXACTLY where I am and how to get me where I need to be.

AND she leaves the meeting, walks out into the parking lot and with one hand on the phone (still talking me in) she waves her arm as I pull in.

I made it. I can’t describe the relief I feel. When I get to her, still waiting for me in the event I can’t find the actual meeting room (good call, Dee, very perceptive!), she says, “I’m so glad you made it.”

Me too.

So the life lesson today…

God is right here, waiting on your call. He knows EXACTLY where you are, He’s waving you in, and He’s so happy that you finally made it.

And there is indescribable peace.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

Next post: God is nothing like my Roomba.

Lessons Learned, Recipes

An Affair (or two) to Remember

I read the other day that it is estimated between 30% and 60% of married individuals will have an extramarital affair. That’s a big range.

What I’d like to know is how many people suspect their spouse is having an affair. I’m thinking the stats are even higher for this category. I think wives may be a little more prone to being suspicious. Maybe it’s because we doubt ourselves more (will those extra pounds cause a problem?); we are prone to hormonal changes that make us at times a little, well… off balanced; and our lack of sleep can result in some minor paranoia.

There were two occasions when I thought my husband might be having an affair. The first time went a little like this…

I had just folded the laundry and I was putting things away. One of my drawers had become so stuffed that I couldn’t close it all the way (this happens more than I’d like to admit), so I opened the bottom drawer (the one reserved for the stretched out underwear, torn hose, and socks with holes in them –items that can be recycled and put to good use again) to see if I could cram one more item in there. That’s when I saw them. Underwear. Several pairs of them.

The only problem was, they weren’t mine. I knew this instantly when I held them up to take a closer look. They were huge briefs and they were made of nylon. I’m a cotton girl. They were clean, however.

The rest of the day I thought about how I was going to confront my husband with this little discovery. I thought I would be subtle – causally bring it up. Drop a hint here and another hint there. Make him squirm. Let him know I was on to him.

But that plan went straight out the door when he walked in.  I threw the underwear at him and shouted, “If you are going to have an affair with someone at least have the common decency to have an affair with someone who doesn’t wear GRANNY PANTIES!”

This definitely got his attention. He picked a pair off his shoulder and gave some lame answer saying he had never seen the underwear before and asked if perhaps they were mine and I had forgotten about them in my lost drawer.

Um, I don’t think so.

Now I was really mad. Clearly, they were not mine. They were  2-3 sizes too big.

Then he offered up this explanation. My mom had been to visit a several months prior to my discovery.  He said that maybe they were her underwear and she somehow “misplaced” them in my drawer when she was helping with the laundry.

He was unbelievable – bringing my mother into all of this.

I called her a day or two later and asked if perhaps she was missing any underwear. She said she wasn’t and that all of hers were accounted for.

Then I sort of remembered needing some rather large underwear about a year before when I was pregnant. (I had gained 60 lbs.) It’s possible that when I no longer needed them, I may have stuffed them in the drawer for safe keeping until the next pregnancy.

No point in telling my husband – I like to keep him on his toes.

The second time went a little like this… again, I was doing laundry. (Note to self – nothing good can come from doing laundry.)

I was pulling clothes out of the dryer when I pulled a pair of black pants and a shirt out. I didn’t recognize the pants and shirt at first – they were of the petite size.

Then I saw that the shirt had my husband’s company logo on it so I naturally concluded that he was having an affair with someone at work – someone much younger and much smaller. This was definitely a step in the right direction. This was an affair I could live with.

When he got home later, my tirade sounded something like this, “If you are going to have an affair with someone, at least have the common decency to ask her to do her own laundry!”

Again, he offered a lame explanation saying someone at his work location was quitting and she was giving her work clothes to someone at another location. He was simply the courier. He had stuffed the clothes inside his gym bag and they got mixed up in the wash when he emptied the bag into the dirty clothes basket. Likely story.

Both of these incidences occurred when my kids were in the baby stage, just six years apart. I am willing to consider the possibility that sleep deprivation and hormonal surges may have contributed to my suspicions.

Life lesson.  Bad things happen when you do the laundry. I don’t know why I don’t stop altogether.

This reflection has helped me decide what we’re having for dinner.  One of my son’s (and my) favorites is Chicken Pot Pie. My husband doesn’t care for it much.  Serves him right.

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients: 2 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken, 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 can of Cream of Chicken soup, one large bag of frozen vegetables (I like vegetable medley and half a bag of okra), 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 cup of heavy cream (or whole milk), salt and pepper, and one prepared crust.

Melt butter in a sauce pan and saute the chopped onion. Add all of the other ingredients and stir until warm and vegetables are no longer frozen. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour warm mixture into a large, rounded oven-proof dish and roll the crust on top. Cut a few small slits in the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and crust is golden.

Note. I like to use a rotisserie chicken because I can usually get two meals out of it and it is always full of flavor. You can also saute mushrooms and add brocoli to this dish.

Lessons Learned, Quotable Quotes

A Year of Change: Taking Risks and Eating Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Welcome to Mom’s Life Ponderings!

This year will forever go down in my personal history as The Year of Change – a year of firsts and a year of experiencing new adventures. This year, I changed jobs, my youngest child will be starting middle school soon, my oldest will be starting (drum roll please) college, and I finished writing a novel based on the stories my father told me about his growing up years (no literary agent yet, but I figure there’s no cause for discouragement until rejection # 65 – I’m only on #12).

And then there’s this other new adventure – writing this blog. I am hoping that other moms out there are also experiencing new challenges and might like to share in these adventures and the learning that comes from them.

Of course, all of these “firsts” involve some amount of risk – something I am not naturally drawn to; but they do provide some amount of excitement. Which reminds me of the time….

I had been watching several seasons of the Food Network channel’s The Next Food Network Star. The show involves 12 contestants from around the US facing all kinds of difficult cooking challenges with one final contestant getting his or her own show on the network. I loved the show and I thought it would be really cool to audition for it. The only problem is that I have very little courage. Enter my friend, Gail. She’ll try anything.

I thought we could audition as a team. This had been done the first season and the pair, Dan & Steve, actually won. Honestly, I didn’t really care about winning and getting our own show – I just thought the whole competition looked like fun, the free room and board in NYC would be neat, and we’d have a great story to tell our friends.

There was a casting call in Atlanta and we were convinced that once they saw the chemistry between the two of us we’d be a shoe in. We tried to think of a way to have an edge over the competition so the night before the audition, we made my yummy Triple Chocolate Cupcakes (see Recipes) and pita chips and Gail’s tasty salsa and put them in 3 gift bags. We also put together a little cookbook that contained 15 of your own recipes.

The audition started at 9 am. When we got there at 1:30, it was clear that we’d be there awhile. The room was packed! The girl giving out the numbers looked at us kind of weird when we said we wanted the same number as we were going in as a team. (Had she not seen Season 1?) We were number 783. We figured there were over 1,000 contestants.

We didn’t mind the wait. We rarely get the opportunity to just sit and people watch. There were all kinds of folks there. Several wore their chef coats. Someone was in military fatigues. And there were some women highlighting some of their more physical assets (if you know what I mean).

A real chef was sitting a row behind us and, I guess out of pure boredom, he decided to engage the “home cooks” in conversation. (That’s what he actually called us and by the way he said it we couldn’t decide if that was a good thing.) It was obvious that he was a real  chef because “Chef” was embroidered on his gray chef’s coat and because he listed off all the restaurants he had worked in from California to Atlanta. He also causally mentioned that he had trained at Le Cordon Bleu – the real one in France. He told us about the dishes he had created and the famous people for whom he had cooked.

Talking with Pierre was okay for a while but he was starting to get on my nerves. We wondered if he was trying to distract us – get us riled and off our game. He started asking us questions like, “What kind of white sauce do you make with pork?” I looked at Gail. She looked at me. And then I said I had to use the restroom.

Finally, at 7:30 pm, our number was called. When a new girl told Gail to move to a seat in front of the audition room, I pointed at my number and said, “we’re together.” She had a puzzled look on her face. (Seriously! Who were these people and were Dan & Steve really that forgettable?) When we went in, there was only one chair. Not a problem. We shared it – one cheek each. This would demonstrate our teamwork from the get go. The casting agent asked us what kind of experience we had. I answered that we both had been married over 20 years, so that was at least 40 years of cooking experience. She looked about  20 and I don’t think that was the answer she was looking for. Gail told her that we had been tennis partners for over 15 years and in Atlanta the food eaten at these matches was just as important as the tennis. (Gail was right about this. The problem was we never really contributed to the great eats at our matches. Sure, we had great plans, high ambition, but when it came down to it we’d just show up with brownies from a box and chips and salsa.) Then she asked us about our culinary point of view. We had practiced this. Together, in perfect rhythm, we explained that we knew busy moms needed recipes and cooking strategies to feed their hungry families quickly and economically.  She smiled at this. We gave her our goodies in the gift bags and our recipes. She said she was starving. We were soooooo in. The whole audition lasted about 3 minutes. We left on a high knowing for sure we’d get a callback.

However, no call came. We couldn’t believe it. Had they not seen our obvious charisma and talent? (Okay, we did wonder if the cupcakes had held up for 24 hours in the gift bags and if the salsa really should have been kept refrigerated.) Oh well, we knew we were good and we didn’t need some stinking show for validation.

A few months later, we watched the opening episode of  The Next Food Network Star. Some guy named Herb was there from Atlanta. (Perhaps we should have auditioned under the names Salt and Pepper.) Gail finally came clean and admitted that she had never watched the show. After the first competition where the contestants had to make a meal out of a few odd ingredients, Gail said, “Thank goodness we didn’t get on that show!” What? Who was this person? The Gail I knew would never back down from a challenge. I told her we would have figured it out and come out smelling like a rose – make that rosemary. She finally agreed and said we should try it again next year. Sure. But first we might need to start actually making homemade dishes for our tennis matches. Maybe something that requires a white sauce.

Lesson Learned: Refusing to take risks is possibly the biggest risk you’ll ever take. By not taking a chance on that different, scary adventure you run the risk of not becoming the person you are fully meant to be. And…disappointment is ALWAYS more palatable when it’s served with a side of chocolate cupcakes.

Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the  fear of failure. ~ Jack Lemmon (in Katie Couric’s The Best Advice I Ever Got)

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes