Monday, December 19, 2011

Quick Check In

I've totally slacked on blogging this month.  I've been so scattered in my mind since my last blog that I just haven't had opportunity to calm my thoughts and come up with a well thought out blog.  And speaking of last blog, when my mind is going in circles is when it's the hardest to not smoke.... back to square one.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been questioning a lot about what I REALLY want out of life at this point.  I have a dream job, I have the best dog ever, I feel mentally sound.  I've been loving being single but in my heart always lay love, companionship, and family.  Perhaps one day I'll give a go at it again because I really cannot see myself as one of those people who chose to forever be single, however finding someone compatible and trustworthy is the hard part.  Dating truly sucks and may be in the end what drives me to being the cat lady.  HA

I really want/need a new/used car as well as I'd rather be living in a house than an apartment.  So then comes my choice because I can only do one or the other this coming year... go for a more comfortable living situation or get a more reliable ride.  Though the decision should be cut and dry very easy, a rational mind would say reliable car is more important, but I still cannot help but wish for the comfort of not dealing with apartment living and having a yard for my awesome dog.  Getting a degree has been in the forefront as well.  I've done really well without one, however I could be doing a lot better with one I know. 

And then there are about 72 billion other things spinning around in that mind of mine.  I think that my mind has been going since it's a new year upon us.  So now I can't help but wonder what I'm going to do with myself next.  Really I need to find 7 billion dollars, buy and island, and retire there.  It could happen right?  As usual the universe will deliver me where I need to be.

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions.  I never have made one.  But I always ponder what the next year will bring.  Whatever happens I'll be moving forward and making my life better as I always strive to do!!!

Step it up this year and do something to make your life better this coming year!

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season and I hope that all is well in your world.

Much love!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blonde Girl Vs Quitting Smoking

Sign Pictures

Monday, December 5th, 2011 was my one year quitting smoking anniversary.

I started smoking I guess when I was young.  At school, in Jr High, in Texas in the mornings someone always had cigarrettes in the alley.  Both of my parents smoked, and back then it wasn't as big of a deal to smoke in the house or the car with kids sucking in the second hand smoke.  So really I guess I've smoked somehow or another all of my life. 

I went for about 2 years when I was 18-20 I had quit smoking, though it was not by choice, I just happened to live somewhere that I could not smoke.  When I left there I almost immediately picked it up again.  One time someone had told me how they did 90 days in jail and they were not allowed to smoke so when they got out the first thing they did was start smoking again and I asked them why because they had kicked it by that point and they said they spent the entire 90 days thinking about how they couldn't wait to get out and start smoking again.  It's pretty crazy how controlling such a nasty little thing can be.

I quit smoking a couple of other times after that.  Once for about a year or so and picked it back up because I worked with a ton of people who smoked and at one point I was like you know what I want a smoke.  So I went and bought a pack of cigarrettes and instead of smoking 1 I smoked the whole pack and figured I may as well keep going. 

At one point I had a heart issue and my dr told me to quit or die.  So I chose to quit.  That time I actually didn't smoke at all for 2 years.  However my exhusband refused to quit smoking on top of me, it was pretty ridiculous.  His younger brother lived with us and he smoked as well.  So despite living with two smokers who constantly shoved it in my face I was determined I was going to be healthy and not smoke and stuck it out for those 2 years.  Then dun dun dun I decided to leave my husband, when my decision was final I went out and bought a pack.  As you are reading you may start thinking my leaving husband timelines aren't matching up from previous blogs, however this was the first time I left him, then there was this reconcilation and seperation and then there was a second time leaving him which is the timeline I usually refer to in my blogs, however in this blog the smoking restarted the first time I walked and now throwing off everything you thought you knew about me and my timelines.  I was crazy and stressed and about to make a drive moving from CA to FL and had flown out a friend to make that drive with me and she smoked so I figured I'd smoke for the drive.  I told myself I'd quit when I got to Florida.  Ha fast forward to four years later....

I finally quit smoking again last year days after my breakup with my exboyfriend that I talked about in Blonde Girl Single Anniversary.  Over the 2 years that I lived with him smoking was a constant battle between us because we'd both say we wanted to quit and then we wouldn't, or we would try but hours into it we'd be at each other's throats.  I found myself constantly having to buy him packs of cigarrettes as well for some reason or another and it was annoying that I was not only buying them for myself but another person too, especially after that huge price increase.  After we had broken up we actually decided to live together for a couple more months because I needed to save up a deposit for an apartment and he needed to get a running vehicle.  I was running out to go grocery shopping and as many times before he asked me to pick him up a couple of packs of smokes and he'd "pay me back" which he never once did and I just thought to myself how freaking sick and tired I was of supporting my habit and his, kind of having this mental breakdown over finances and knowing I couldn't afford this crap anymore. So instead of buying us smokes I bought nicotine patches and told him I had decided to quit and he was welcome to use one too or he could go buy his own smokes.
Unfortunately there were no cute Hello Kitty patches like Lisa used.
It may sound like I was just being a bitch, maybe I was, it was a really really hard week, I had some job worries, I was living with my ex boyfriend, and being treated like an asshole by his family and the list goes on of stress I had right then.  I sat there and smoked 2 packs of ciggs in 1 day, my normal habit was 1 pack a day, and I felt like crap.  My chest was congested more than normal, my heart was hurting not only emotionally from the breakup but physically from the smoking, my sinuses and eyes were burning and gooking up, my head was hurting, and I was phening ciggs more than ever.  So after sitting there and smoking 2 days worth of ciggs in one day and driving on my way to buy more I stopped and thought to myself how almost exactly 4 years before I had started again and told myself it was only for a few days.  So I guess I decided I wanted to do the opposite, instead of diving into what I knew would be a smoking binge that would possibly be something I'd continue on with as I had a family member who actually smoked 5 packs a day, so what was to stop me from continuing with 2 packs a day or more, and smoking till my heart exploded or my lungs shut down... I decided I needed to just stop and deal with the stress a different way because stress plus feeling like shit from smoking that much just felt like hell. 

I had never tried patches or gum or anything, when I quit before it was cold turkey.  After the before mentioned blow outs with the boyfriend when we tried to quit together and all of the stress I was under and a certain major blow out I remember I had when I had quit smoking cold turkey 6 years before after the heart incident I decided I'd take the easier route and use the help that was available to me in the form of nicotine in bandage form.  If you've ever tried to quit cold turkey you probably know all about the sweating the shakes and the emotional freakouts. 

For your amusement... The major blow out I had 6 years before I was a few days in it.  I had all the classic symptoms, I was standing in line at a grocery store and just had 2 things, ginger ale and crackers because I felt like hell and was hoping they would help.  The cashier saw an elderly woman behind me, who had a cart full of stuff, I had been in a very long line waiting for quite awhile which felt like about 16 hours, and I guess the cashier decided that the elderly lady should come before the girl who was sweating and coughing and hacking and only had 2 things so she told the elderly lady to please step ahead of me and I flipped the fuck out.  Never in my life have I seen a cashier actually pull someone ahead in line like that and never have I since.  I've seen cashiers open new lines and pull people out, but not rearrange the line that was already in front of them.  If I had been in my right mind I would have not said a thing and would have probably thought awe that's nice yeah the old lady is probably tired of standing... that wasn't the case this time.  I'm pretty sure the entire store heard me cussing that cashier out and when I asked for a manager she turned out to be the manager.  I left called with my cell phone and cussed her out again, and I'm pretty sure I wrote a blog about how pissed off I was.  Quitting nicotine pretty much turns you into this insane person.  So living with my ex and trying to quit without help I decided wouldn't be a good idea because I knew my history... which kinda looks like this...



The patches really really helped me.  I couldn't believe it.  I thought about smoking but I physically wasn't craving them, it was all mental and always passed when I'd wait it out.  Since I've quit the patches I've been able to be around friends who smoke and not feel like I need to.  I think I'm in a different mental state than I was for the rest of my adult life.  For one the cost is out of control and I refuse to spend that much on it anymore and for two I am on a quest to not let such a stupid addiction control me. Over the year there have been times I was super stressed, like when something was happening with my old job and I was craving ciggs.  I am a big girl and can admit that yeah over this year there has been those times that I've said screw it and went and got a smoke, but the difference has been instead of keeping smoking I tasted it and was reminded it tasted like shit and then I smelled like a giant terd ball.  Actually when the job thing happened I did smoke a whole pack over a few days instead of in 1 day like before (things were really bad, no excuse, maybe I should have gotten some patches instead).  For the most part though when I'm stressed and driving past that store and know it holds my disgusting smokey release I keep going and usually by the time I get home I've forgotten I even wanted a smoke.  I'm not going to start my quit date over just because I "cheated" because I'm proud of myself that I didn't keep going like I did 4 years ago, I was able to use some self control and stop again.  And I guess when it comes down to it I'd still rather smoke a cigg than drink when I'm stressed.


Is this a forever quit?  I don't know, I really really hope so.  I know that I feel better when I'm not smoking.  My coworker who quit over 20 years ago still thinks about it.  So I know it'll always be a battle and every day I'll be quitting (and shuffling).  I heard a stop smoking commercial on the radio this morning and it was so perfect because they said "stop smoking one cigarrette at a time".  That's kinda what I've been doing and I hope I can keep doing it.  I hope not to beat myself up if I break down again and smoke 1 and say screw it I may as well keep smoking, I hope I can continue on this path I've been on this year and be thankful for the blessings I have despite the stresses I may be experiencing and hopefully this will be a forever thing.

I know many smokers are looking for motivation to quit, many of my smoker friends have asked how I finally got to the point of doing it... well in all honesty it took a freaking mental breakdown and deciding enough was enough.  Perhaps your motivation can be to be healthy, or to save some money or refusing to be controlled by anything anymore.  Whatever finally motivates you to start stopping smoking, just keep on pushing through, even if you break and smoke, move past it and keep stopping.  Good luck to us all!

Much Love!
Hilarious song if you've ever tried quitting smoking you can relate.




Friday, December 2, 2011

Giving Season

It is that time of year when people are out buying gifts for one another, their children, themselves.  Giving to the one's you love is usually pretty gratifying especially when you get the looks of excitement and the words of gratitude.

There are volunteers ringing bells for money donations and boxes at the front of every store collecting food donations.  Giving to the needy perhaps isn't as gratifying to some because you do not actually get that smile or hug and the thank you praises.  However is that really the spirit of giving?  Self gratification.

I think it is wonderful if you are able to donate money or food to a good cause that you can find on every random street corner this time of year.  However there is a good cause that doesn't always get as much attention and that is the cause of children without gifts.  Sometimes families are in a tough spot at Christmas and just do not have the means to buy their child a gift.  It's easy for someone who never had one of those Christmas' as a child to say "Christmas isn't about stuff, we were taught..." I've heard it time and time again.  It kind of reminds me of some lyrics in one of my favorite Everclear songs...

"I hate those people who love to tell you money is the root of all that kills, they have never been poor, they have never had the joy of a welfare Christmas"

True, Christmas is not about stuff, and hopefully families teach their kids that.  However children are innocent and know that their friends and classmates and other children they are related to are receiving gifts at Christmas, and they see other children opening gifts in abundance on tv and in movies.

How heartbreaking do you think it is for a kid to wake up on Christmas morning knowing that to them billions of presents are being opened that morning by other children around the world and to not find a single gift has been given to them...

If you can find it in your heart this Giving Season please donate a gift to a needy child.  There are usually angel trees at every mall.  Local children's services usually have lists of needy children as well.  Usually hospitals accept gifts for the children in their care because a lot of them are terminal and the families are completely broke due to their child's medical expenses.  Perhaps ask your church minister if they know of any needy children. And there many organizations that you can donate to online as well.

I know I may sound like I'm contradicting myself from the blog, Thankful Reflections.  I was talking about people were spending hundreds of dollars on each of their children buying them insanely extravagant gifts. Kids do not need tons of super expensive gifts, but nothing at all... I do not feel is right.  Unless the family does not celebrate Christmas and the child has been taught to not expect anything.  But the rest of the kids out there who do celebrate, they may not expect anything but they have hope in their heart.  Why not give them some joy and turn that hope into what can be a long lasting reassurance that there actually is some good in humanity.  You never know what kind of situation this kid is living in, perhaps they need that reassurance.

To be honest I feel so strongly about this because I was one of those kids.  I mentioned on my about me, Blonde Girl's Narnia Quest, that when I was a kid it was feast or famine in my childhood and that is just how it is for some families.  Not every Christmas was the greatest.  But one of the greatest Christmas' I can remember was a year when there were no gifts for me or my brother, on Christmas morning my mom's boss showed up with a sack full of presents just like a real life Santa.  It could have been like 2 gifts for each of us, I don't remember how many there were, but to me it was the equivalent to him dumping a semi-truck load of gifts in the front yard.  I do not remember how old I was, but I wasn't very old, and it's always stuck with me.  It was an early lesson on how good a benevolent heart can make another person feel.

If you decide to participate, a lot of times when you see a child's wish gift or list you'll see what you possibly feel like are extravagant things, sometimes these are things the parents wrote down because it's what they wish they could give the kid, and sometimes kids just want cool things.  I saw on an angel tree today a parent wrote down for their child they would like a wii racing game, my first thought was well if they can afford a wii then why can't they afford gifts and I immediately had to check myself.  We had video games as kids, but we didn't always have the means for gifts at Christmas.  I saw MP3 player, kids do not think about the cost of gifts, they just know they want what other kids have, my exboyfriends child asked for an iPod when she was 5, but meant MP3 player for music, it's just the typical thing they ask for, when I was a kid it was all about the Walkman.  A cheapy MP3 player is not so hard to get, 10-30 bucks is not a lot to spend on a child, especially if that is possibly the only thing they will be getting this Christmas.  Also, it's easy to think "can't the parents just go get them some cheap stuff at the dollar store"... or something similar may run through your mind, perhaps they can and unfortunately many really can not. It is no reason to validate yourself not helping out the kid because of resentment towards a hypothetical situation.

Even though you may not get that gratification of seeing a child's excitement when they open up their gift, and we as adults all know Christmas is not really about stuff, we need to remember it's also not about personal gratification. However it should feel good to know you are helping a child!

Perhaps find a place in your heart to help out a kid because no kid should have to wake up Christmas morning without at least one present to bring some beauty to their small world.

Below is the video to one of my favorite Macy Gray songs.  Enjoy.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!!

Much Love!



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blonde Girl Single Anniversary

This week commemorates one year that I have been single.  I don't know the exact day, just like I couldn't tell you the exact day that I met my exhusband or the exact day that I left him, or the exact day that I met my exboyfriend and not sure of the exact day that I left him.  However I do happen to know that broke up with him during the week after Thanksgiving so I'm just going to call the last day of November my single anniversary. =)

It kind of goes hand in hand with my blog from last night, Life Remote Control?.  I was miserable in my living situations, I tried and tried my hardest to make the situations work, and since I was not happy with my life situations, and nothing else I tried worked, I decided I would take life into my own hands, control what I could, which was me leaving the situations and starting over. Take charge and change my own life.

I see people sit in miserable relationships for years, complaining to everyone around them about how bad it is, but staying in it.  And then we see people divorce after 20-30 years and have no problem saying that they had never been happy or hadn't been happy in years.  I stuck the first one out for 10 years, I got married young and had that naive idea that marriage is supposed to last FOREVER no matter what!  HA!  And it ended horribly.  So when I was in the second relationship I just got to the point where I knew it wasn't working and it was never going to, I had to dig deep in myself and to be an adult and end it before it got to the point to where it turned to complete shit, it already was kinda, but it could have gotten much worse.  It took a lot for me to be able to end something while I still cared for the person, however I've resolved in my heart it's better to end it before it turns into a situation where I pretty much hated them.

So now that I've been single for a year I've come a long way.  This is the longest I've been single since I was 19, because I met my exboyfriend the same week I moved out of my exhusband's home.  Yeah I fell into the rebound thing, they never work I hear.  Luckily I'm a person who actually enjoys alone time, actually thrives from and needs alone time.  I've rarely felt lonely during this year, I've had my moments, but they never last long.


I left behind a lot of nice things that I either purchased or helped purchase.  Though I have a lot of stuff, I still need/want a lot of other stuff.  So over the past year I've been able to get some of those things, and I'll hopefully be able to continue to get them.  A couple of my major goals is I desperately need a new/used car, the one I have is living on borrowed time and I'm thankful every day it gets me where I need to go. Secondly I would love to get out of this tiny apartment and possibly move into a house or something.  I'd really love for my dog, Balue, to have a fenced yard again!  As mentioned in the blog last night I was able to upgrade my job and hopefully will continue to be able to upgrade my life.

What does my future hold for me?  I have no idea.  I have goals and aspirations.  But I'm not worried, I know I always end up where I need to be.  Even if my last two relationships weren't all great, they weren't all bad, but more importantly I learned a lot about life and myself during both of them.  So even if they didn't last forever, not everything is meant to, but I was where I needed to be at the time, because otherwise I wouldn't be where I am now.  And it's a really good place.  And I'm grateful for that.

Truly loving, trusting, and respecting yourself will get you through anything.

Whether you are single or living life with another person or people... always strive to better yourself.   

A virtual toast to the people who are able to move on and move up in life no matter their circumstances!

Life Quotes, Life Quote Graphics, Life Sayings

Much love!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life Remote Control?

Today someone posted this little image on Facebook stating "Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself!!"  It reminded me of a blog that I wrote on another website a few months ago, and since I've pretty much integrated myself to only blogging here I thought I would transfer it over to share with you.  Life may not always be easy, but that is the beauty of it, to go through the good the bad and the ugly and to grow and make a life for yourself.


****************


Luck, Fate, Dedication and a lot of Gumption. ~Written by Me on 9/1/11 

Today was my last day at the job I was at for little over a year.  When I took the position the pay was fine, however I was in a relationship and there were two incomes.  Supporting yourself is not so easy on a low wage.  Over the past several months I realized that though I loved my job and my coworkers it was time to move on for bigger and better things.  I tried working my way up in the department I was in, unfortunately I was unable to.  There was a lot of frustration and heartbreak involved in the process.  I then began applying for promotions within the university in other departments.

After weeks of applying for positions I was called in for an interview!  It happened to be with the first department that I had applied for and the night that I applied it was the last night that the posting was available to apply for.  I then did more in depth research as to what the department actually did.  I sat down carefully thought out questions that I wanted to ask the people who would be interviewing me and wrote them down.  I also went through the job posting and reviewed the listed job duties and preferred qualifications and wrote down everything that I felt would show myself as an asset as pointers to glance at when in the interview in case I had a loss for words.

Sell yourself as someone that they feel like they need to have working for them and then you will be a front runner candidate.

Before even applying for positions I put together a carefully thought out and professional resume.  I also like to ask supervisors when I am leaving a job, or when they are perhaps leaving, for a letter of recommendation.  A great resume, cover letter, and letters of recommendation are what sell you to even land you the interview.  Out of 105 candidates I was chosen for the 10 that they brought in for interviews.  After giving the interviewers a good idea of who I was and selling myself as the valuable employee that I truly am, I was then chosen for the top 2 to come back and interview again with the head honcho.  It felt like I was on Survivor!

Would I be voted off the island or would I win the grand prize?

Out of 105 candidates I ended up being NUMBER 1!!!  I cannot wait to start tomorrow.   The promotion in position of course comes with a pay raise, that was the whole purpose of this process to begin with so that as a single person I could live a better quality of life, and stop depending upon Top Ramen to sustain me, the department I am transferring to also has a few added perks that I did not have in the old one.

This long story to get to about 8:05 this morning.  I was walking through the office and a coworker at the job I was leaving was standing there talking to someone else, looks at me and says “Barbara today is your last day.” and I say “Yep it sure is!” as I’m walking away I hear her saying to the other person “I really hate lucky people.”  This truly struck a nerve within me. 

“I really hate lucky people.”
  • Luck: Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.
  • Fate: The development of events outside a person’s control.
  • Dedication: The quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purpose.
  • Gumption: Shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness.
Perhaps some of the process that happened was a little luck, perhaps some was fate, but if it were not for my dedication and determination to find a better job to improve my life it would not have happened.  It was not like I sat there for years moaning about my situation never doing anything to fix it and was just walking down the street one day and BLAM new job offered to me just out of the blue.  That would be truly lucky.  No I truly struggled, and had some “bad luck” in the process as well. I persevered and saw what I was trying to accomplish through until I achieved success.

If you are a person who finds yourself quoting that same line of hating the lucky look at the circumstances that got the person there.  What effort did they actually put in to get to where they are, or have, or whatever it is you may be coveting that they have going in their life that you do not?  Make a goal, come up with a plan, deal with the obstacles, be flexible, vent when things aren’t going your way but keep going, and in the end make a better life for yourself.  Being “lucky” isn’t always just happenstance by itself and it’s not always easy.

When you achieve success do not forget to thank those who helped get you there even if all they did was lend you an ear (or read your rantings on Facebook). 


“Admiration for a quality or an art can be so strong that it deters us from striving to possess it.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche

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And just an update, if you are wondering, I LOVE my new job and department even after 3 months of being there.  Taking the reigns of you own life is a good thing.

Much Love!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thankful Reflections

Over the past 4 days of Thanksgiving weekend I thought a lot about all of the things in my life that I have to be thankful for.  So many big things and so many many more tiny things. I slacked off was lazy and didn't blog and just enjoyed the time off from work and pretty much all reality.  Which is one thing that I am so grateful that I have opportunity to do from time to time.

I'm currently enjoying a wonderful cup of hot coco, it may sound silly to be thankful for a cup of hot coco but there are so many people on this planet who live in such dire circumstances that they probably have never even imagined that such a simple thing as a cup of hot coco exists.  To them just a drink of the fresh tap water that I conveniently have coming out of not 1 but 3 faucets in my home would be nothing less than a miracle.

Today I participated in more than one disturbing conversation where parents were talking about how much money and the extravagant gifts they were giving to their young children this Christmas.  I posted my opinion on this matter on Facebook...

"People wonder why kids & young adults these days act so spoiled and entitled... I can tell you why kids act like that, it's kind of obvious. I was lucky if I got $10 spent on me at Christmas some years. What is funny/sad is these parents spend that much on their kids and they are gonna be disappointed because they forgot something, or didn't read their minds about wanting something. Tis the season for greed, disappointment and teaching kids that everything they want in life will just be handed to them with a bow on it."

That is a condensed version of the post however the point is still made.  Some of the responses my friends came back with gave me hope that perhaps I'm not the only one left in this world who does not feel like children need to have everything adults have and everything that they want.....

"I agree, and when these kids have to be out in reality, it hits them and they can't handle it. Our kids only get 3 presents - want, need, surprise. Christmas isn't about stuff."

"Maybe they should have taken there kids to the stores and had them pick out some gifts with some of that money for needy kids that aren't going to get presents this year. And then had them donate the gifts to toy for tots! Show them that giving is better than receiving."

"We always had a good Christmas when I was a kid, but I never felt entitled to anything but air. And even on some days that was questionable."

"I'm really proud of my kid; he only really asked for one thing, a bigger gun."

"Some of my best memories involve tall grass, streams and jumping off of the couch"


When your children open their presents do they spend time whining about what they didn't get?  Do they really need everything they ask for?  Is it possible to work out a rewards system and let them actually earn some of the more extravagant things that they want?

This holiday season when you are shopping for your children stop and think what kind of message you are sending to them.  I know too many young adults, and even ones my age, who are mooches, lazy sit at home and expect to have everything given to them and act like it's the end of the world because the life of their dreams is not being handed to them.  I personally cannot respect a mooch.  

I feel like a lot of times, based on certain people I know backgrounds, that this attitude can stem from being raised in circumstances where they had little to no responsibility as a child or teenager, everything was done for them and almost everything they wanted they received.  Perhaps the start to building a better future for our future generations is to stop spoiling them and to start teaching them in the way of love and respect and responsibility.  As one of my friends stated "Christmas isn't about stuff."  Christmas is supposed to be about family and love.  Are your kids more worried about their stuff or are they looking forward to spending a special day set aside for some real loving family bonding time?

As you are looking at your child's Christmas wish list perhaps you will see a thing or two there that you can use as a learning opportunity to teach your child how to earn the things that they want, even if it is just by being more helpful around the home.  And perhaps that will also teach them to be more thankful for what they receive.


As whoever "they" are say... just some food for thought.


Much Love!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

A few days ago I ran across a recipe for homemade cranberry sauce.  I had never even thought to try to make it and when I saw how easy it is I was like what!!!!!!  Cranberry sauce is one of my favorite additions to any holiday feast and I had to try it.  Even though I had already purchased some of the canned stuff I ran out and got fresh cranberries.



This is the same basic recipe that I saw on a million and one websites.  I made some earlier and it's so wonderful!  I'm pretty sure I'll never buy that canned stuff again.

Ingredients:
12 Ounces Fresh Cranberries
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Orange Juice

(Some people added cinnamon, I did not)

Directions:
Bring orange juice and sugar to a boil, stir frequently.
Add cranberries, reduce heat to medium, stir frequently.
Cook for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Let cool then put in a bowl to gel in the refrigerator, for several hours or over night. It will thicken as it cools.

Yes it's that easy!!!

You'll hear these wonderful little popping sounds as the cranberries start to burst open.
I saw many people say they used a splash guard, so I put mine on at first but found I didn't need it since I used a pan deep enough that the concoction didn't pop out.
I also went ahead and added about 3 dashes of salt while it was cooking.

I also saw commentary on recipes where people had noted that they ran theirs through a food processor or used a hand mixer on it after it cooked to give it a smoother consistency. However I love the whole berries myself.

This made a little less than 2 cups of cranberry sauce, and it'll surely be a hit amongst your cranberry sauce lovers, so you may want to double or triple the recipe for a large group.

DO IT!!  It's so easy and yummy!!  Not to mention a beautiful addition to your holiday spread.  Your friends and family will be impressed that you were domestic enough to make it from scratch.  It can be our little secret how easy it really is. ;)

ENJOY!!

Much Love!  & Happy Thanksgiving!











Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet potato casserole is a fantastic edition to any holiday menu!!  It's definitely one of my favorite dishes to make now.  So many years I went to Thanksgiving and other holiday feasts where the person who contributed the sweet potato dish came up with this bland from the can puree with nuts mixed in and topped with marshmallows.  Not that I did not enjoy it, however when you decide to try a homemade sweet potato casserole that actually consists of flavorful ingredients that make your sweet potatoes go boom pow in your mouth, you'll never want to go back to eating that can of sweet potato puree covered in marshmallows.  I just pulled mine out of the oven and it's so tempting to dive in now!
 
I'm not sure how large the ones you have there are, but the ones here are to me about a medium size and so it's about 8 sweet potatoes to come up with about 8 cups give or take a little.  I've never weighed them out or I'd tell you that, I just eyeball it. =)  Also do not forget to take your butter out of the refrigerator about half an hour to an hour before you want to use it so it will be soft and workable!
 

Ingredients:

Casserole:
8 Cups Quartered Fresh Sweet Potatoes
1 Stick (8 Tbls) Softened Butter (I prefer unstalted.)
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup White Sugar
1/4 Cup Orange Juice (I use 1 Fresh Orange for juice.)
1/4 Cup Milk or Cream
1 Tsp Vanilla
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
1 Cup Pecans (Optional)
 
Topping:

1 Cup Brown Sugar
2/3 Cup Flour
Couple of dashes of cinnamon.
6 Tbls Softened Butter (Again I prefer unsalted.)

Directions:

First up you want to wash the sweet potatoes.  Then cut the ends off of your sweet potatoes and cut the the potatoes into quarters. Put them in a big pot, peels still on, cover with cold water and then bring them to a boil.  Boil until they are tender, mashing consistency, and the peels are starting to pull away.  (Some people prefer the flavor of baked over boiled, if that is you go for it!)

Drain the water and let them cool until you are able to handle them, about 15-20 minutes.  Pull the peels away and cut out any eyes (hard black spots). 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mash the sweet potatoes.











 

Add butter, mash or stir it in until it's pretty much completely incorporated into your potatoes.

Add the rest of your ingredients except for the pecans and stir well.











Spread the sweet potato mixture into a 9x13 baking dish.  (I like to do a light spray of canola oil into the baking dish before adding the mixture for easier clean up later, but it is not necessary.

Top with pecans.











Now mix your brown sugar, cinnamon and flour for the topping.  Then use a fork to turn in the butter into the dry ingredients until they are completely mixed and a nice moosh.

Sprinkle the topping over the top of the pecans. If you like less crunch and sugar on top only make a half recipe of the topping.












Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the topping is crispy and starting to brown.


Some people just prefer marshmallows, if that is you, skip the topping, throw on your marshmallows and cook until they are melting and starting to brown.

A couple of years ago I was actually requested to make a sweet potato casserole with  marshmallows covered in a crispy topping... hmmm!  I did my best, I covered it with mini marshmallows. Mixed roughly guessing now (I did not write it down) 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and about 2 tbls of butter, creating a more granulated mixture. Sprinkled over the top and this is what came out.  It was actually devoured by all and insanely praised.  One of those things I'm not sure if I'd ever be able to recreate! =)



I hope you and your guests enjoy!
 
Much Love!   And Happy Thanksgiving Eve!!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Brine That Turkey

Several years ago I was watching one of my domestic goddess heroes, Martha Stewart, while she was putting on a Thanksgiving special.  Luckily it was several days before Thanksgiving because she did something I had never seen before... brined the turkey!

I was immediately fascinated and had to try it that year.  It was the best most magically wonderful turkey I'd ever made.  Juicy, flavorful, practically falling off the bone and melting right into your mouth.  Every year since I have made sure my turkey is in the brine before it's roasted.  This has become a tradition now and my brine has evolved over the years because I've done lots of reading of different recipes and techniques.  I'm not actually going to share all of my brine ingredients with you because then my turkey isn't as special if you use them too. ;)  However below I'll post some brine recipes for you to check out and try or build your own recipe off of.

You may be thinking... "what does brine the turkey even mean??  This is madness, a turkey that melts in my mouth and has flavor, I do not understand."

Trust me... It's easy!!!  And more importantly, worth it!  Basically you are soaking your uncooked turkey for 12 hours in a solution of salt, sugar, spices, herbs and other aromatics.  Be warned too much salt or letting your turkey sit in the brine too long can cause a tough not so great turkey. So when you are looking at recipes do not think, well the more salt I add the better or the longer its in the better it will be.  This is the kind of thinking that will result in people wanting to slap you as they try chewing on their Thanksgiving turkey jerky you've fed them.

Tonight kicks off the beginning of my brine process.  First I've brought to a boil fresh cold tap water with my special blend of spices... oh yeah... that's my brew.  I will be letting this cool completely and then putting it in the refrigerator so that it can become very cold over night.





 This 4 gallon bucket is my brine bucket.  It's never used for household cleaning chores.  I like the square shape of it because the awkward shape of the turkey slides right into it for full submersion.  Your turkey being fully submersed is a must for even brining.  If you cannot find a bucket big enough use an ice chest but make sure to bleach and wash it well before and after the brine process, and you will be adding a bag of ice to your brine.  However as long as you are not buying giant turkeys a bucket should suffice. 

Tomorrow what is going to happen is the 13 pound turkey pictured above will be coming out of that wrapper, giblets removed, and turkey thoroughly washed.  Then it will be placed in the brine solution that I boiled and let cool tonight and my herbs and other aromatics will be added.  Finally I will be putting a heavy plate on top to keep the turkey weighed down and fully submersed and refrigerating it.


When you take the turkey out of the brine make sure to properly discard of the liquid as well as all spices, herbs, etc that were used.  Do not use any of it to cook with!  Use fresh herbs, spices, etc when cooking.

I will be putting the turkey in the brine about 13 hours before I plan to have it in the oven to start cooking.  It will only be in the brine for about 12 hours, and the other hour is to let it come to about room temperature for extra juicy goodness, and that is a great time rub some oil of your choice into the skin.  As well to chop any onions, herbs, apples, citrus, etc that you plan to season the turkey with while cooking.


This is a wonderful fresh herb roasted turkey from a couple of years back.  Even with a horrible oven that was on it's last leg and did not heat properly I was still able to produce a nicely browned turkey with a crispy flavorful skin and juicy wonderfully flavored meat.



Warning!!  If you cook a fantastic brined turkey for your friends and family you may forever be dubbed the official Thanksgiving turkey baker and be requested upon to bring it year after year.


Seriously watch this video it's pretty great and gives you some really good tips on not only turkey brine, but turkey in general!




Some Turkey Brine Recipes

Martha Stewart's How To Brine A Turkey
Martha actually has several brine recipes on her site.
Alton Brown's Good Eats Turkey Brine
Food Network's Collection Of Brine Recipes (26)
Sheri's AllRecipes.com Turkey Brine
There are countless recipes out there!  Just do a basic internet search keyword "Turkey brine recipe"
Have fun with it and use ingredients you love and you will have an awesomely seasoned turkey!

Now that you know what's what, get your brine going!

Much love!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

MawMaw Eade's Banana Nut Bread

The week of Thanksgiving is officially here!!  I absolutely love Thanksgiving, it is my favorite holiday no matter what.

Everyone seems to have their own traditions for Thanksgiving.  Mine has always been to cook a ton of food!  It does not matter if Thanksgiving dinner is being held at someone else's house, I will bring my contribution to that dinner, and then we always have all of the fixings of Thanksgiving leftovers at my house since I had cooked everything for home as well.  A lot of years during my stay in California we would have the family gathering the day before Thanksgiving, which many families seemed to do there, so the day of Thanksgiving we would just have friends over eat and it would be a great time.  There's probably only been 2 years in my adult life that I just did not cook anything. 

This year for me is very low key.  My first Thanksgiving as a single woman and not living near family and all of my nearby friends have their own things to do so it's just me and I'm ok with that.  I'll be cooking a downsized version of my favorite Thanksgiving foods and having any of my neighbors I see hanging about with no Thanksgiving food come and help themselves to a plate.

After waking up super early and putting the turkey in the oven... My first tradition of the day is enjoying some Banana Nut Bread with some hot coffee.  This was something we always had when I was a child at Thanksgiving and I've carried it into adulthood using the same recipe that my mom used when I was a kid.  My great grandmother, MawMaw Eade's recipe.  MawMaw was very special and passed away about 18 years ago, I'm happy each year to celebrate her memory baking this bread.  I'm so not filling up on a bunch of everyday breakfast foods and making it to where I don't have room to over-stuff myself with the good stuff later.  So for me it's all about in the morning just having a couple of slices of the banana nut bread warmed up and slathered with some real butter.  YUM!!

This bread freezes well if you want to make several in advance and freeze them until it's time to eat them.  I always bake 2-3 loaves several days in advance and actually munch on them all Thanksgiving week. It's the first thing I bake for the Thanksgiving season every year and when that delicious aroma starts wafting from the oven you know Thanksgiving is officially here.

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MawMaw Eade's Banana Nut Bread

1 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
1/8 Tsp Salt
1 Egg
1 Cup Mashed Bananas
    (about 2 large bananas)
1/4 Cup Oil (Vegetable or Canola)
1 Tsp Lemon Zest (optional)
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Pecans or Walnuts (I'm using walnuts this year)

**My MawMaw's recipe did not call for vanilla, however I have incorporated 1/2 Tsp of Vanilla Extract over the years as well.  I also forgot to grab a lemon for zest at the store so I used 1/4 tsp lemon juice.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and lightly flour loaf pan. (Or use a baking spray that contains flour.)

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. (Excluding sugar and nuts.)
Lightly beat the egg in a separate bowl.
Stir the rest of the wet ingredients, including banana, together in the bowl with the egg.
Add sugar into the wet ingredients until mixed well.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients making sure dry ingredients have all been incorporated.
Your batter will be lumpy and thick.
Mix in the nuts.
Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes. (Toothpick test.)
Serve warm with real butter!
Wrap in foil to keep moist.

Reheat slices in microwave for about 15-20 seconds to experience warm banana nut bread goodness time and time again.


If you do not have a freezer stockpile of ripe bananas and find that your grocery store does not have ripe bananas just put them in a brown bag with an apple as I've done here, these were still slightly green yesterday.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!  I know there are many ways to make it, but this recipe has never failed me.  I love how it has just enough banana and it's not too sweet.

Much Love!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Disrespect, Lets Work On This

I have absolutely no tolerance for people who are blatantly disrespectful of others.  The worst to me is when they do it under the guise of they are joking or having fun.  It may be fun and games to them, however usually the person who is the object of their fun making isn't all too pleased, but a lot of times is just too nice or non-confrontational to say anything about it to the person being disrespectful, and the bulk of other people who are watching the situation are thinking that the person is a complete jackass for acting that way.  In the mean time the person is so amused by themselves they have no care for who's feelings they hurt in the process because they think they have some kind of God given right to say what they want to who they want when they want.  I think there is a thin line between fun joking and being disrespectful. Freedom of speech is not a golden ticket to be a douche.

The worst forum that I see this most often in is on Facebook.  You can act how you want in your own personal Facebook page, but some people will comment on posts and pictures and be completely inappropriate and say things that particular person's friends and family probably shouldn't see.  I'm sure I've  been guilty of this myself in my own ignorant bliss.  However I'm going to be more aware of this myself in my comments on friends pages.  Sometimes comments that you may find funny to make just shouldn't be made in a forum for the masses to see, perhaps the person you are going to make the comment to will find it humorous as well, but stop and think if this is a comment that should be made privately between just the two of you.  That's when something that is funny can quickly become disrespectful is when you blast it for all of their people to see and something they would have been amused by is now a nuisance.  In a place like Facebook where a lot of people have their mom, dad, husband, wife, children, pastors, etc though they may have a colorful sense of humor they may not be comfortable with everyone seeing your super colorful sense of humor and personality spewing out all over their page. 

One thing I hate to see is when someone starts saying a person is crazy and they need to take their meds or they are bipolar or schizo or whatever.  I've done it from time to time and felt like such an ass afterwards because I know better.  It's a pretty disrespectful and hurtful statement to be said especially when it's being broadcasted for their friends and family to see.  As well as a very ignorant statement to make because there are so many people who truly do silently suffer from mental illness and you never know when you may say it to a person who does.  I worked at the National Alliance for Mental Illness for 5 years, and sometimes I just hate to see someone treat mental illness like it's a joke, it's truly not.  Another one I've become more aware of recently is making fun of retardation.  So many people suffer from this and I'd hate to think that me being ignorant and making jokes about it hurts someone who either suffers from it or has a loved one who does. It's so disrespectful to go there, and I hope that more education is put there there to the public to make them aware as well.

Other forms of disrespect that I find intolerable is sexism and racism.  And I don't mean just sexism towards women I mean towards men too.  I love men, and yeah the occasional man joke may be funny, but if you've never sat in a circle of true man hating women that are bashing men then you have not missed anything.  Though they are typically married to men, still the hate exists.  I sometimes start defending men and then I am shunned.  I need to have a little sign to pull out of my purse and put on my shirt when I get in those situations that says "Beware I Am a Friend to the Penis Wielding Ones".  Needless to say men who are sexist against women piss me off to no end.

As for racism I find it gross when I meet someone and just because we have the same color skin they assume I share their beliefs and start talking about their disdain for other races within the first few minutes of meeting.  It's so weird to me!  And I can see why the cycle or racism stays in it's loop, generation teaching it to generation.  I love everyone.  The most uncomfortable situations to me is when a close friend who we've never even discussed our feelings on the races starts telling me a racist joke.  It's like dammit why did you have to go there.  I think we all need to have respect for each other as humans no matter what kind of genitalia we may have or what color our skin may be.

A really bad form of disrespect that is very evident in our society right now is bullying by kids at school.  It breaks my heart every time I see a story about a young person who committed suicide because they were bullied.  I feel like parents need to teach their kids to love people for who they are, and that it's never acceptable to make fun of other people just because they are different or it's fun or the rest of the kids are doing it.  Hell step it up and teach them to defend the kids who are being picked on!  Even if it means their friends will not like them they should know it would feel better to protect someone than to be mean to them.  And in the same hand I think that there needs to be a more proactive stance taken in teaching kids that none of the stupid bullshit that happens when you are young is gonna matter when you are grown.  I pretty much love Pink's song "Fuckin Perfect".  What a wonderful message!




There's a whole realm of hatred and disrespect that causes people to not love themselves.  Self esteem is hard to find when you are constantly being pushed around for being different.  Whether it's because of your skin tone, the color of your hair, the size of your breasts, your weight, being a loner, having a quirky personality, cross dressing, being in an interracial relationship, being gay, lesbian, or bi, or having a different accent or a lisp... there's so many things that people find to make fun of about people and being completely disrespectful of their feelings.  How does someone being overweight or being flat chested or having lover of the same sex or marrying someone outside of their own race affect you personally as a person?  It doesn't.  So why make that person feel bad about themselves for being them.  You don't have to like everyone or be friends with everyone, but you shouldn't be mean to them. Challenge yourself to find the positive qualities in the people who make you uncomfortable for superficial reason's such as these.  Learn how to build them up as a person instead of tear them down.  You will feel better about yourself and so will they.

I think perhaps respect is something we can all work on!  It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.  And then no, it's not funny.  I think we should all just try to be respectful, even if we don't think the person deserves it.  I know it's hard but the least we can do is try!  Have some integrity and be respectful to others.

So my challenge and homework for all of us... be more aware of yourself, of your words and your actions.  Ignorance is not an excuse, train yourself to pay attention to what you are doing.  And make apologies when appropriate.  Lets try to make this world a happier place to live in.


Much Love and Respect for you all!




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inner Strength

I had a few days off of work, and I took the days to kind of decompress, recoup, be lazy and avoid thinking as much as possible.  Sometimes we all need a little mental break.  During the down time I read through some of my old blogs and I thought I would share one tonight because I found it as a good reminder to myself, and hopefully it will be a good reminder to you as well.
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Inner Strength - Written by me on 11/1/2006

Sometimes in life we are faced with decisions, circumstances, and situations that feel overwhelming.  Fear and confusion can consume us if we are not diligent and see ourselves as strong and able to accomplish anything we want or live through anything life throws at us.

They say the power of positive thinking is strong, and I agree.  The mind is a powerful thing, I agree with that too.

If we can bring ourselves to a point where we believe that no matter what obstacles life throws at us,  that we can push through and persevere, and make it to our ultimate goals... then the people on this earth would be a lot happier.

Not many things in life can be accomplished easily.  Especially for those who do not have someone else paying their way or a huge mental support team backing them up and cheering them on.  If you can believe in yourself, and pull from your own strength inside of yourself, then you will reach heights that you never imagined you are possible of achieving.

How do you find that inner strength?  I don't know some magical formula that will wahlah make you tap into it.  You just have to want something and not be scared to go for it no matter what circumstances surround you.  Some use the power of faith in a higher being to help them find their inner strength. 

Whether it be an awesome job, a better healthier body, a new frame of mind, or even a whole new life... if you can focus on that thing you want more than anything and take the first step to getting there, making the decision that this is really what you want, then you just may find that hidden source of strength that you've repressed all too long.

First you have to figure out what it is you really want though.  You can't be full of indecision and doubt and flip flopping on "Do I want this or do I want this".  Confusion and question about your goals and decisions will try to sneak in tear you down.  Those thoughts and feelings are natural.  You just have to work through them.

Tell yourself that you want this and you are going to follow through with what you have started.  Do not give up on yourself no matter what.  Do not let the chastising of others bring you down.  Take from that and know that one day you will be where you want and happy and accomplished and they will still be where they were at when they tried to ridicule you and bring you down.

It's unfortunate but most people in this life do not want to see someone be more successful than them, some people just do not want others to succeed period and will do everything in their power to make you feel ridiculous for what you are trying to do with yourself.  If everyone you knew dropped out of your life you would still be able to carry on with living.

Do not worry about what others think; keep pushing keep diligent and persistent.  You'll make it to where it is you want to be. Your own strength, your own support system within you, is the strongest thing you have.  Inner strength and believing in you can overcome anything.  If you know what you are doing is right for you then follow through and accomplish that or those things that you desire in your heart.  You may start a wildfire within yourself.  Accomplish one goal, then you'll be set to give it a go at the next.  

Your inner strength is waiting to be tapped, so start looking for it and you just may find it. 

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That blog is as true to me today as it was 5 years ago.  Having the support of others is a gratifying and comfortable thing.  But as I've learned sometimes you do not have the support of anyone, but you know what is right for you.  Have respect for yourself, trust yourself, and always have faith in yourself.  You are awesome!

Much love! 

 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You - Veterans Day 2011

I am thankful to have men and women who fight for the country that I live in. My deepest respect and gratitude for all who have served no matter how long. I really believe that photos can say a million words so instead of writing a long blog I did an image search and made a collage with some of the pictures I found. What our military does speaks for itself.  It was hard not to cry scrolling through thousands of pictures of our military who have served over the years.  Thank you for all that you do!  Much love!!