Sunday, April 17, 2016

Papa Nacho

Song lyrics can be so personal, often speaking to the unspoken parts of our heart and soul. They also can be the source of some really funny moments when they are misunderstood. In fact, some of our most favorite commercials have been made over this idea. 

The moment The Boy learned that the Queen's song "We Will Rock You" said...

You got blood on yo' face
You big disgrace
Wavin' you banner all over the place

and not ...

Wavin' your bladder all over the place

is one The Husband and I will never forget. 

The Boy describes this moment as his "all time low!"  At the time, all he could say was it made so much more sense. Seriously,  this moment  has provided The Husband and I with many moments of happiness over the year. 

This past weekend, The Short Chic spent the night with one of her friends. They played Just Dance to what The Short Chic called, "80's music." She started listing off some of the songs they danced along with, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" "Monster Mash" and "Papa Nacho." She identified "Papa Nacho" as her favorite.

You should be picturing The Husband and I scratching our heads at this point. Papa Nacho. Papa Nacho?

Calmly, The Husband and I both told her we were not familiar with the Papa Nacho song. She voluntarily started singing the song for us:

Where did you come from
Where did you go
Where did you come from
Papa Nacho

I am not sure she will describe it as her "all time lowest" moment but she is pretty embarrassed. However, some moments do deserve to live with us forever. This is one of them. Enjoy your chuckle!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter 2016

Happy Easter! This was a quiet one for us. The Boy had a community service project for a leadership class at college and could not come home. It was just the three of us.

Brisket was on sale at our local grocery store so our dear friend purchased a whole brisket. The Husband volunteered to smoke it for her (and one for us). He just got a new smoker and has been anxious to try it out.  I made some homemade mac and cheese, roasted asparagus, and maple garlic roasted carrots. It was the perfect Easter meal.

For the past several years we have been having Easter Scavenger Hunts. We started off drawing photos because The Short Chic could not read yet. Each year we have gotten a little more challenging.   We had so much fun with the scavenger hunt this year that we decided to keep playing with it and made this video. Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 Oscar Reflections

Another Oscar Season has finished. I feel a little sadness today knowing that it is over. I am also holding my eyelids open today because I am so tired!  I will never for the life of me understand why the Oscar's do not start until 6:30 Central Time. Hasn't anyone else figured out no matter how quickly you que the music to cut off the acceptance speeches the show is NEVER going to end on time.  I will say this, this was a great Oscar season. I absolutely loved 7 out of 8 nominations. I was inspired by some of the true stories behind the movies and found myself researching and learning more about the real life moments.

This was our 19th year celebrating Oscar. One one hand 19 years seems so long but on the other hand, it feels like it was just a few years ago. So many things have changed in the past 19 years. We started off with little hope of seeing Documentary Shorts, or Live Action Shorts, or even Foreign Films. Then we found ourselves running down to independent theaters. Now, we have apps on televisions and we almost do not even have to leave the comfort of our own homes to see nominated movies. 

This year we indulged some of our favorite traditions and we started new ones. We still had a watch party, we still went overboard on the food we served food and we still spent hours deciding our predictions for the winners. However, this year instead of seeing movies individually, we decided to attend the Best Picture Showcase at AMC Theaters.  In years past by the time AMC scheduled their Best Movie Showcase, we had seen the majority of the nominations so it never made financial sense to us. This year, juggling the demands of family and life, we determined we would give it a try because we had not seen many nominations.

I am so glad we tried the Best Picture Showcase! Yes, sitting in a theater for ten to twelve hours is a long time; four movies in one day. But we learned you get a stretch break between movies, there are no trailers, and it was just fun being with a room full of other people who share your passion for the movies and Oscar. We also found that by signing up for the Best Picture Showcase, we were freed up to focus our movie watching on the other nominated movies. At a $35 per day price point, it was a great value. 

Most of you know that we have a tradition of planning a menu for the Oscars that includes food or drinks based on each of the Best Picture Nominations. This year was no  different.  If we had a theme to our food it was miniatures. We focused on bite size portions and not a full meal. So, I give you, our menu and our thoughts on the movies. 

1. Bridge of Spies

When has Tom Hanks not been good in a movie? This is a quiet movie focusing on the cold war between the USA and Russia in the 50's.  We both really liked this movie, enjoyed the story, but honestly felt like it would not win Best Picture. 

When deciding food for this movie, we forgot about the scene where the Tom Hank's daughter is on the couch watching TV and eating chocolate bars and peanut butter. We chuckled that this was pre-Reese's Peanut Butter cups (which I believe we were accurate in our joke) and maybe we should serve something with chocolate and peanut butter. Unfortunately, we forgot about that scene until they used it as a clip at the Oscars last night. Instead we focused on the meatloaf that was being served the night Tom Hank's character's family learned of his new client.  

2. Room

This movie was hard to watch. Yet it was funny, endearing, and tender. I wanted so much for the mom and son to be okay. I was so anxious during a portion of the film I am sure I was holding my breath. This movie shows us that a single person can turn an ugly horrible experience into a completely different experience for someone else. 

Our menu option for this movie was Grilled Cheese Sandwiches as Brie Larson's character is shown burning a grilled cheese sandwiches for her son. Our grilled cheese sandwich was probably the best grilled cheese I have ever had. Caramalized Butternut Squash with Roasted Garlic Spread and Parmesan and Fontina Cheese. 

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

I think there are probably two types of people out there. Those that LOVE Mad Max and those who just don't get all those that love it. I am in that later category. This movie is full of technical things can make a movie great. It is no wonder it won so many technical awards last night. We thought the movie was one large car chase and I just could not figure out why it was nominated for Best Picture. 

As much as we did not get it, we found the most food/drinks for this movie and because it was fun we just could not limit ourselves. We easily focused on two aspects; the quest for water  and the use of "Mother's Milk" to sustain the human race.  We served an Ocean Water Cocktail, we did shots of Mother's Milk (Rum Chata), and we made and served a Mother's Milk Cake, aka as Tres Leches Cake.

4. The Big Short

I am a social worker, which means I stir away from anything to do with math and that includes finances. However, this movie was so cleverly created that it spoke to me in ways that I understood. I found myself angry at the corrupt system that allowed our financial system to crash. 

Our menu selection came straight from Anthony Bourdain's role in explaining SubPrime Lending in the way of turning a potential profit losing three day old fish into Fish Stew.  So, we made fish stew or as we called it SubPrime Fish Stew.

5. Brooklyn

So, I should start off by saying I loved this movie. Yes, there were tender and even down right sad moments. No one pre-warned me I would need tissues, so I will pre-warn all of you. Tissues; have them handy. This is a movie that I know in the future when I stumble on it I will stop and watch.

Our menu selection came from the part in the movie where Eilis learns to eat pasta for the first time. We made Spaghetti Nest with Meatballs. They were so yummy and fun and a big hit at the party! 

6. Spotlight

Another really good movie that is based on true events that lead to The Spotlight section of the Boston Globe investigation and exposure of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The scene played last night at the Oscars here Mark Ruffalo is frustrated and yelling at his boss for not running the story echoed my feelings while I watched it. Years of abuse of children by Catholic Priest and the systemic cover-up that occurred for decades. Maybe it is the social worker in me, but it is time we protect our most vulnerable people. As we left the theater from this movie, I know many of my friends steer away from Oscar winning films because they think they won't be their kind of movie. Don't let miss this movie!

Finding food for this movie was hard. We could have selected IPA beer that seemed to be shown frequently, or pizza or even a boiled hot dog. None of those things sounded like good fits for us. So instead we went more abstract. The Boston Globe is a newspaper; they are black and white. That lead us to a childhood joke, "what is black and white and read all over?" We created Cookie Wafer Stacks topped with strawberries. 

7. The Martian

Funnier than I was expecting full of so many funny and memorable lines in this movie. Tracy's favorite line from the whole movie was "I am going to have to science the shit out of this." 

There is no way our Oscar menu would not include potatoes and ketchup for this movie. Mark Whitney grew potatoes on Mars to supplement his food supply and when he runs out of ketchup I can totally relate! 

8. The Revenant

The Husband loved the movie, I neither loved or hated it, and Tracy was bothered by some of the technical issues. It was difficult to watch in places; bloody and painful. What was clear; this was Leo's year!

We served Bear-llini Cocktails in honor of this movie. We soaked gummy bears in Peachtree Schnapps and then poured sparkling wine over the top. Fun and delicious!

There you have it. Another year of Oscar! I hope you enjoyed our story! All that is left for us to do is debate the best and worst dressed. If you get the notion, you can always leave a message and let me know your pick.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Date Night: Breakout KC

Last weekend, The Husband and I spent some time out on the town having a couple's date night. I can't even tell you when the last time we did something without either one of our children and with other adults.  We are more likely to go do things solo so the other is with the kids but this time we called in the grandparents and asked for a sleep over.

You know what: we had the most fun imaginable and had a great time!

A few months ago, back when it was still fall, my cousin called up and wanted to know if we would go to a new business here in Kansas City called Breakout KC. I had never heard of them but felt we were game for anything. Little did we know just how much game we were going to get into.

Breakout KC opened here in Kansas City in the Spring of 2015 and is a live action escape room. Here is the five minute details:  there are four themed rooms to select from, you enter the room of your choice and are "locked" in. You must solve a series of clues, which are all hidden inside the room, to find your escape. All in 60 minutes.

The room holds eight people at once and you are encouraged to bring a total of eight people. If you come in with less, Breakout KC does reserve the right to add people to your party. The cousins did a great job of getting eight people to commit so thankfully, we went in as a full group. I should also note that we each paid $28 for our one hour of game time.

Discussing the details of Breakout KC is like sharing the ending of a movie to someone who has not seen it, so I will not disclose very many "details". I will say this, with 8 people working on clues at the same time, things got a little chaotic! Clues were found sometimes and I am sure I missed how or where they came from. There were a few surprises and a few surprises we anticipated.

In the end, we did not breakout in our 60 minutes. We had to be rescued from our room by the staff. But, we were so close! I am confident that if we had another five minutes we would have broken out. Next time.

Just in case you are wondering a few extra details:

1. We were locked into Room 13.
2. You are not really locked in the room. The staff monitor the room through audio and video at all times and if you honestly need out of the room you can get out.
3. Look everywhere and pay attention!
4. The owners/designers are really good at creating puzzles.
5. Market 3 is a great place to catch a drink before hand.
6. The Farmhouse is an amazing place for dinner afterwards.
7. Numbers 5 and 6 can be reversed if need be.
8. The rules stated I could not take any photos during our time in the room. So I did not.
9. I really am a rule follower.
10. From the photos on Facebook, even kids have done Breakout KC, making this even a possible family outing.

Our Favorite 2015 Camping Destination

Winter continues here and so does my reflection of warmer times. We had an amazing 2015 camping season that took us to new places and some of our old favorites. Reflecting on past trips and planning new ones is honestly how I get through these winter months. 
Unanimously, The Taylor's and The Todd's agree that Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park was our favorite 2015 destination. Johnson's Shut-Ins is located near Lesterville, Missouri which is just over 100 miles south of St Louis, under 200 miles east of Springfield, and 295 miles southeast of Kansas City, MO, which is where we are based.
Park Details:
  • Johnson's Shut-Ins is a state park.
  • Senior Citizens receive a discount.
  • Special sites are designated ADA and can't be used by the general population.
  • There are 5 different loops with a total of 85 sites.
  • There is designated sites for camping, hike-in camping, camper cabins, electric only, electric/water, and electric/water/sewer sites.
  • Due to the 2005 Taum Sauk Reservoir breach, the campground was relocated to a new location in the state park and is brand new.
  • There are ample pull-through and back in sites.
  • Each site in loop 1, 2, 3 and 4 have concrete pads.
Camping Fee's
Basic camping (non-improved site) is $13.00 a night. Electric Premium sites (50 amp service) is $23.00 a night.. Electric/Water Premium site is $25.00 a night and full service (sewer/electric/water) is $28.00.
Missouri State Parks uses an online registration system. The site is relatively easy to research and select a site. We use the campground map as well as the online photos. There is also a toll free number if you prefer to speak to a person instead of the online registration. Missouri State Parks allows advance registration six months prior to your trip.
Size of the Campground:
The entire state park is over 6,000 acres. The campground is large. The sites are spacious. There are five camping loops at Johnson's Shut-Ins.  The first loop is designated for Equestrian  and has ten water and electricity sites. Loops 2 and 3 have a total of forty, 50 amp service some with electricity and others have full hook-ups. Loop 2 also has six camper cabins. Loops 4 is designated for walk-in camping and has 14 sites, and Loop 5 is designated basic for tent campers and also has 14 sites.
johnsonsshutins1Campground Details:
Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park became a state park in 1955 but people have been enjoying the Shut-Ins longer than this park has been in existence. What is a Shut-In? Well, simply put it is a constriction in a waterway. In this case, granite boulders from the St Francois Mountains have jutted up to the surface in the Black River. The Black River is constricted with these boulders and the erosion has made pools of water, water falls,  and chutes in this canyon-like gorge. People love to come and spend time cooling off and playing in the Shut-Ins.
In December 2005, the Taum Sauk Reservour that is housed high above the Shut-Ins breached and sent 1.3 billion gallons of water rushing down Proffit Mountain. The water brought down boulders, trees and other debris with it and literally almost destroyed Johnson Shut-Ins. The campground, then located near the Shut-Ins was destroyed. The campground host and his family barely survived. The ecosystem at Johnson Shut-Ins was severely damaged. Since 2005 this park has been under restoration. Cutting edge technology has been used to try and save the ecosystem and the campground area was relocated to higher ground as a safety precaution.
We expected to find very little shade at Johnson's Shut-Ins due to how new the campground is. Instead, we found the exact opposite. Sites 2, 3, and 4 had great tree coverage.
There are a total of three stores in Johnson's Shut-Ins. One inside the Visitor Center, one by the Shut-Ins and a large general store in the campground. The Campground General Store does have wi-fi available but you do have to go and visit the store in order to get the wi-fi. Our teenage boy spent a lot of time sitting outside the general store!
The general store also has a coin laundry room. There is a changing room outside the store at the Shut-Ins.
Each camping loop has one showerhouse with a separate restroom. We visited the showers during our stay and found them to be very clean and nice. Due to our too close encounter with some of the parks wildlife, we took early showers so that we were not walking around the park in the dark.
There is no pool. Visitors/guest of the state park have access to the Shut-Ins. Parking is limited at the Shut-Ins. I am told that day visitors line up for parking spots. The good news, registered campers are given passes to special parking that we found to be easily accessible.
The Visitor Center is a nice amenity that should not be overlooked.There is so much history and science alive in this area and the videos and displays do a great job of helping to educate the public, young and old. New history has been added as well. The entire 2005 reservoir breach and subsequent efforts to recover have been documented and are available for viewing. We found the visitor center to be informative, entertaining, and a cool place to hangout on a hot day!
Overall Thoughts/Feelings about the Campground/Visit:
We loved this campground and this park. We went into our trip expecting to love the Shut-Ins but not loving the campground. As I indicated earlier in this post, knowing this was a "new" campground we expected to find a stark campground with no shade or trees. I can't even express how happy we were to find the exact opposite. The campground sites were concrete and spacious. We honestly felt like we were at a private campground with the extra space of a state park.  We had a fire ring and a picnic table. We had a pole with a hook that allowed us to hang both a lantern or our trash.
Going into the vacation, our research taught us that hundreds of people visit the Shut-Ins each weekend so we made plans to visit them during the week. Swimming in the Shut-Ins was fun. It was a new adventure. The water is cool and clear and the force of the water create the most spectacular water park you can imagine. The only thing to remember is; this water park is not made from tubes or pipes. This water park is made of rocks; and some are sharp and jagged. I am glad our children had life jackets and we all had water shoes on. In the end, we only played in the Shut-Ins once. Perhaps if we were staying a full week at this park we would have gone another day but due to our limited four days we had other exciting things to pack into our trip. johnsonsshutins5We like camping at state parks and enjoy our contact with nature. We have been fishing, caught crawdads, observed birds,  gotten close to deer, spied lizards , and maybe even inadvertently feed a raccoon or two. During this trip, we learned our limitations....snakes. On our first night, as the kids were busy riding their scooters around our loop and the adults were sitting by a campfire talking about our travels to the park, the Park Ranger stopped by. He pointed out to us that a copperhead snake was right in front of our campsite heading in our direction. Of course the majority of us had flip flops or sandals on our feet at the time. Thankfully the Park Ranger used a stick and safely scared the copperhead away from us but we decided to call it a night and go to bed early. Interestingly enough, the snake appeared again but never bothered us.
Daily, the camp rangers came by and invited all the kids and adults to the educational program of the night that was held at the parks amphitheater. Ironically, the first show was about snakes! The kids went and learned a lot of information. The second night the show was about comets. The show was high energy and involved glow sticks and again, the kids came back talking about the stars all night long.
Regional Activities:
We found so many activities in the surrounding Arcadia Valley that we honestly were busy every day during our stay. Other than stopping by a few convenience stores for drinks, we did not eat out on this trip so we did not visit any local restaurants.  Here are a few of the things we found and highly recommend:
  • Float Trip: Nothing says summer in Missouri like a float trip down a river. The Black River is perfect for floating; cool and clear water. The Shut-Ins prevent canoes from passing through the part of the river that runs through the state park, you actually need to go into Lesterville to find a canoe outfitter.
  • Taum Sauk Mountain: Taum Sauk Mountain was approximately forty-five minutes from Johnson's Shut-Ins. We packed a picnic lunch and spend the afternoon hiking one of the trails to the highest elevated waterfall in Missouri.  Taum Sauk Mountain also has the highest elevation point in Missouri and you can access it easily from a parking lot near the elevation point.
  • The Ozark Trail runs through Johnson's Shut-Ins in continues through the region. Wayne has actually added hiking from Taum Sauk Mountain  to Johnson's Shut-Ins to his bucket list.
  • Elephant Rock State Park: Another short drive from Johnson's Shut-Ins (25 minutes) is another state park that is for day use only. Elephant Rock State Park is scattered with giant red granite boulder. There is an ADA braille trail that winds throughout the park. Children and adults have enjoyed climbing all over rocks that look like elephants from a distance. All of us loved visiting this park. When we ran our of steam from climbing and exploring we found ample picnic tables for our midday meal.
What we did not like:
Our main complaint was with the dump stations. There was no spigot of water to flush the black tanks. Luckily for us, there were openings in the full hook up sites and we were able to pull into one of them and empty and clean our tanks. It does baffle me that this campground and park that is so newly rebuilt and amazing for a state park does not have water  at their dump station.
The playground is a secondary concern of ours. There is a playground and it was nice but it is near the campground store and not near any of the camping loops. The distance was far too far for us to feel comfortable sending the girls to play there.
We did have a near close encounter with a poisonous snake, a copperhead. We drove 300 miles (clear across the state) to visit this park. That is important because copperheads are just not that common in Kansas City and they were not even on our radar. Thankfully, nothing happened and a very nice Park Ranger educated us in the nick of time. I wish we had been warned about the copperheads at the time of our check in. I would really have like a brochure on the types of animals we might encounter and safety precautions to avoid contact or minimize contact. I know during my visit to Yellowstone National Park we were given ample brochures explaining how to interact with the animals in the park and how to keep ourselves and the animals safe.
In closing, this was our favorite trip of the year. It is high on our return list. If you are planning a trip to Missouri, or if you are a Missourian, we encourage you to get out and head to this state park.
If you are interested in following our camping adventures, please visit us over at Roam With Friends.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cabin Fever

An unseasonably warm weekend has kicked my cabin fever into overdrive. Normally, I spend the winter months hibernating from the cold and snow under blankets and dreaming of camping trips to come. It was so warm this weekend, that I actually begged my husband to take me camping. A man of logic, he said no, because it was winterized. 
To add to my desire to be out roaming, we went to visit our camper in storage this weekend. It was a routine check to make sure no unwanted critters had found their way inside. The Bullet and The Rockwood are stored next to each other and both were in great shape. Fourteen short weeks until their first scheduled trip of 2016.
Even though we have not been able to camp, not a day goes by when we are not thinking about camping or The Bullet. During our downtime we took the RV in for routine maintenance. We have purchased new step covers as well as LED flexible lighting. I am shopping around for a new outdoor patio rug as a critter chewed a hole in my current one.
Even routine trips to my favorite craft stores has turned into a shopping spree for the camper. I found these really cute wooden letters the other day and can't wait to put them up in the camper. I wonder how those 3M Strips will be in the camper? My husband is concerned the changing temperatures might effect their bonding.

The Bullet sleeps eleven and has three bunk beds, a queen bed, and a futon couch that makes into a king bed. During this winter hiatus, I scored an unbelievable deal of 1800 thread count sheets for every bed in the camper. I literally chuckle out loud thinking about it. Why? Because everyone needs to camp on 1800 thread count sheets, right?
The obvious winter activity is booking summer trips, and we have been doing our fair share of this activity. After purchasing a new 2016 camping journal the planning began. Many parks will let you book six months in advance. We have all spent hours analyzing satellite photos, studying campground maps, and reading consumer reviews in our selection of the best sites available. We are booked for all holiday weekends and our large summer road trip taking us through July 2016.
I know I am speaking for all seven of us, we look forward to sharing our travels with you. First, we just have to get through this winter.

You can find this post and soon others at our new blog, Roam With Friends. If you are interested in following our camping adventures, head over to Roam With Friends

Monday, February 1, 2016

Addressing My Addiction: Diet Coke

I am an addict. My addiction is not illegal, which on some level means it is not a big deal. But it is. Or I should say it was. My addiction is to a certain diet soda, Diet Coke. I have been addicted to Diet Coke for the past thirty years.

My love affair with Diet Coke, started way back in high school or maybe even late junior high school. My next door neighbor, best friend, running buddy, Page, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 12 years old. After she spent what seemed like an eternity in a children's hospital getting stabilized and learning how to manage her new life style, she returned home and introduced me to Diet Coke. Before she went into the hospital, we both drank Pepsi Cola. All we knew of diet soda was Tab and we both agreed it was awful. Just plain awful. What we did not know what that NutraSweet had replaced Saccharine as the artificial sweetener and when Page assured me it tasted really good, I jumped on her band wagon.

Through out the years, I have had at least one Diet Coke every single day. Some days I have had two. Or three. Yes, and maybe even four. It was the first thing I consumed in the morning and maybe even the last thing in the evening. In the past thirty years I have give up Diet Coke on three separate occasions. The first time was for three months in 1996 when I was pregnant with The Boy. The second time was in 2007 when I was pregnant with The Short Chic. Back then I decided that my body was host to aliens and was rejecting everything I liked. The third time was in 2010 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I stopped drinking Diet Coke for six or more months as everything I consumed tasted metallic and horrible. I should also say, even during these times, I still opened a can on a regular basis and tried to consume it.

Within the past year, I have been listening to the amount of research on how unhealthy diet soda is.  I found myself contemplating giving it up. Let's be honest...I considered it with a Diet Coke in my hand!  Then something happened on a non-important, unidentifiable day in July, 2015. I realized I had been so busy I had not had a Diet Coke in a day.  I started making small goals for myself. "Can you make it to lunch without one?" "How about all through the work day?" Then the goals got bigger. "You went two days, can you go another?" "Can you make it through a weekend?" "How about a whole week?"

It was not easy.  Every minute of the day was a conscious decision to not have a Diet Coke. I was obsessed. I would randomly tell people, "I am not drinking Diet Coke any more." Then I would turn around and order one on auto pilot at a restaurant. Thankfully, I would catch myself and change my order. Slowly, the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months.

The day after we dropped The Boy off at college was probably the lowest point in my recovery or in my whole entire year!  I had spent the majority of the day and night crying. When I woke the morning after I just felt the need for comfort. As I sat in my chair the morning after, I just wanted something to feel normal. I remember making a decision to have a Diet Coke. I had been on this journey about a month and a half and I honestly thought, I would start again the day after. As I walked to the refrigerator I remember I had made the decision that I wanted three Diet Cokes. THREE, I knew, is what it would take for me to feel okay in that moment. When I got to the refrigerator, I found there was no Diet Coke. The Husband had cleared all the Diet Coke out of the house. I had not even noticed. There was no emergency back up. It was all gone. At the time I was so heartbroken but in the end, not caving that day was monumental.

So many people told me that I would find my taste buds would change and I would no longer like the taste of Diet Coke. When they told me that I scoffed at them. Never ever would I find the taste unappealing. Then about three months into this journey, I had an opportunity to sneak a sip from The Husband's soda. It did taste horrible! It tasted very similar to chemo-Diet Coke; metallic and chemically.

I always felt I understood addictions. The need to escape pain in our lives. I get that. I get how something can start small and roll into something much bigger than you ever imagined. Since giving up Diet Coke, I have developed a new bigger respect for anyone who has ever beaten an addiction. It is seriously the hardest work.

It has been shy of seven months since that unidentifiable day in July 2015. I no longer get all weak in the knee's when I see my husband's glass of fizzing Diet Coke. I will be honest, the Diet Coke commercials still get to me. I stop like a little a conditioned puppy dog and stare at the television every single time they show that lady on the plane drinking a Diet Coke. I even find myself dancing along. Boy, are they good at advertising!

A lot of people ask me if I feel better. Honestly, I don't notice any physical changes. I did not loose weight, there are no calories in Diet Soda. The biggest side effect I have noticed is I find myself repulsed by most artificial sweeteners and other preservatives now. I tried Sparkling ICE flavored water. I even tried bottled tea. I manage well with a cup of coffee in the morning, numerous glasses of water a day, and maybe a cup of fresh brewed tea along the way.

I do feel accomplished. I never view this as a journey that is finished. As most addictions go, I am managing this one. Right now I am winning. Seven months is a long time, but it is also a drop in the bucket. Every time anyone from my family makes a trip to the convenience store they ask if I want anything. I still answer "Yes, a Diet Coke." Thankfully, they think I am joking. Sometimes I am. But only sometimes.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Best (and Easiest) Steel Cut Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of my favorite things. I love it in the winter on a cold day. I love it cold from the fridge on a hot day. Thankfully 3/4 family members agree with me. Although The Husband is a fair weathered supporter, he would select eggs, hash brown potatoes, sausage, and toast every day if he could.

I am trying to eat more steel cut oats instead of the old fashioned variety. Why? Steel cut oats have been processed way less than old fashioned  oatmeal (even more true for instant oatmeal). Less processing means more nutritional value. More nutritional value means better for you. Additional bonus, discount grocery store, Aldi, now carries steel cut oatmeal.

The only down side, steel cut oatmeal takes longer to cook. Which means I can't just make a bowl and run off to work, unless I do some advance preparation. One of the little known facts about myself, the person everyone thinks about being a great planner, is that I actually do very little advanced planning when it comes to meals. I rush around every morning trying to throw The Short Chic's lunch together, my breakfast together, as well as my lunch.

One of the things I love the most about this recipe is with very little advance prep, I have a week's worth of steel cut oatmeal prepared and just waiting for me in the fridge. My mornings may still be hectic (why can I never make our lunches ahead of time) but the breakfast portion just got a whole lot simpler thanks to Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal.

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal

2 cups Steel Cut Oatmeal
6 cups Water
1/2 cup Cranberries
1/3 cup Walnuts, Chopped
1/4 cup Ground Flax Seed
2 teaspoons Cinnamon

In a lined slow cooker add all dry ingredients (oatmeal, cranberries, walnuts, ground flax seed, and cinnamon. Make sure you give the dry ingredients a good stir to mix it all together before adding the water.

Here is the scoop, if you don't like cranberries, don't add them. If you don't like walnuts, don't add them. Get creative and add your favorite add-ins.

 Then add the water.   Then after you add the water, give it another good stir before you you walk away, just to make sure it is all mixed around.

Cook on low for 5 or 6 hours.

The top layers gets all brown and crusty. The inside is soft. Trust me this is good stuff right here!

After your oatmeal is cooked you will want to sweeten it. We all like something different so I do not sweeten the entire batch. I use Agave. The Short Chic likes a little brown sugar. The Husband likes Truvia. We also prefer to add a splash of Almond Milk to our oatmeal. YUMMY!

Here is the coolest tip I can share with you. I learned this little handy tip from my friend Tracy. She is maybe the smartest person I know. I want this recipe hot when I wake up in the morning which would require me to get up in the middle of the  night to turn it on. Instead, I plug my slow cooker into one of those light timers. Then I set it to turn on in the middle of the night and it is ready when I wake up!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Emotional Eating

This is a very personal post for me. I have been trying to put words to feelings for a few weeks now. Every day I log into this blog I see this post, unfinished just sitting in collection. Some of these things are hard to state much less open myself up to judgement of others. Growth does not always come easy or without bumps and bruises, right. So, here I go. Being as authentic as I can be.

I have found that my personal life often effects my professional life and vise versa. This is one of those times. Understanding trauma and it's effect on people has become a major trend in my line of work. {Probably a long overdue need but that is a whole other rant.} The Adverse Childhood Experience study was a large piece of research that was conducted some years ago. It linked childhood trauma to adverse medical conditions in adults; from obesity to diabetes; from substance abuse to heart disease. I recently took the ACE Study Questionnaire, ten questions each worth one point. My ACE score was a significant 5/10.

The study would suggest that I am high risk for physical health related side effects. Other than being overweight, I would argue that I am pretty healthy.  I have low blood pressure, get normal sleep each night, I drink only occasionally, I do not smoke, I do not use drugs, I even gave up drinking diet soda this past year. So when examining the Adverse Effects of my ACE Score of 5, I have to critically analyze the weight.  If I am honest I have to admit that my weight, if not address, will cause me health issues the older I become. My weight is directly tied to the fact that I am an emotional eater.


Emotional Eating may mean different things for different people but for me eating has been my way of coping with any feeling I have ever experienced.

  • As a young person when I was home alone and felt lonely; I ate. 
  • When I was bored, I ate. 
  • In college when I was stressed out; I ate. 
  • When I did not feel like I fit in; I ate. 
  • Any time I felt scared; I ate.  
  • When I got divorced; I ate.
  • Even in celebrations and times of happiness; I ate. 
Over the past thirty five years I would say that I have dealt with any feeling in the exact same way; I ate. This is emotional eating for me. 

Since I took the ACES study I have forced myself to stare at this with new open eyes. Every time I feel the need to grab a snack, I am asking myself, what are you feeling. Occasionally I am feeling hungry. But more often than not, I am feeling some other emotion. The week The Boy participated in Hell Week was the hardest week ever. Every single night I found myself mentally raiding the refrigerator, the pantry, the freezer an hour or so after dinner.  Every night I would literally ask myself, "what is going on with you?"  The answer was always; you miss your son, you are worried about your son, you feel alone, you are sad, you are mad. It was never, you are hungry.

My long term plan is to substitute emotional eating with some other healthier behavior. Many nights I have physically gotten up and found something to do. It did not have to be a big thing. Several nights it was sweeping the floor. Or doing dishes. Or even moving from one room of the house to another. If the urge to consume something did not leave, I allowed myself a cup of tea. It is amazing how much one cup of tea can help. I should also say the treadmill in our house has been dusted off and plugged back in. It is ready for me when I am ready to substitute eating with exercise. 

Such simple solutions really but you know what, they have worked. Knowing the difference between I am bored and I am sad has helped me develop new responses to my emotions. Eating when I am only hungry has already helped me lose six pounds. 

I am a work in progress. But I do pledge to keep working. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

We Survived Hell Week

Some time ago, I told you all that at the beginning of the school year, The Boy decided to pledge a fraternity.   The pledging process has been both a struggle and a blessing this semester. As a mom I have worried for hours concerned about his living situation, grades, partying, hazing, money and a rather large host of other things. From his perspective he has made some good friends and had a lot of support during this transition to college.

After a month home for Christmas break, The Boy returned back to college a week or so early so he could participate in Hell Week with his faternity. Never having been involved in Greek Life when I went to school, I am not sure exactly what Hell Week entails.  As a Mom, it does not sound like a thing you want your children participating in. Before he left I gave him my best Mom speech: 
"Son, you know I was a GDI (Gosh Darn Independent) in college and it worked well for me." 
"Son, you know you do not have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable." 
"Son, if they ask you to do something that you feel is not a good idea, it is okay to walk away."
"Son, I would rather you walk away and come home than not be able to walk away."

It is probably obvious to all of you that I have watched too many TV movies on Lifetime and that I need a psychiatrist. But in my defense, I am just a Mom who worries about her kids. 

He left a week ago. He promptly sent a text to his father and I and told us he would be completely unavailable by phone for a week and provided an emergency contact number. My heart sank to the bottom of my belly. Every night for this past week I have worried about him. I have missed hearing his voice. Every worst case scenario has run through my head: alcohol poisoning, broken bones, exposure, even branding crossed my mind!  Every single day all week long.

Then six days later, I woke to text message letting me know that he had made it. He called right after that and assured me he was very safe and extremely happy. He also told me never once was he physically hurt. He was initiated this past weekend into Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. 

I am  not sure as a Mom I can stop worrying. That just maybe in my genetic make up. I can be happy for him. He has already shown so much maturity that it melts my heart and gives me some strength to keep letting him go. He has shown commitment to something he wanted. He has advocated for himself, for others, and he even did some negotiating,  So yes, we both survived hell week. Now, he wears Greek letters across his chest and I am six pounds lighter from the stress diet I have been under!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Grandma's Fried Bread

I grew up in  a family with really good cooks; my momma, both of my grandmothers, my aunts, even my daddy. Their food may not have been the healthiest but it was always yummy!   Growing up my Momma made homemade bread every single week. I can still recall her large ceramic crock barely containing the white sticky dough expanding as it rose. I half expected it to explode all over the house like a balloon would do if pushed passed its capacity.  Momma would always cover the dough with a dishtowel and often the bread rose so far that there was a gap between the towel and the top of the crock.

Occasionally as Momma prepared the dough for the oven, she would pinch off small pieces and fry it for us. It was my favorite!  When she called us into the house to present the fried bread, my brother and I knew we were in for a treat! She fried those small pieces of dough in butter and served it with jam or honey. Every single bite  was a mouthful of buttery soft bread that melted in your mouth.

Momma always made bread-making look easy but I recall making homemade bread in high school foods class. My group was less than successful. Bread making became something I felt too intimidated to make until a few years ago I decided I wanted to perfect homemade cinnamon rolls.
I won't call myself an expert but I am no longer intimidated.

 Many things have changed since we were little. Momma no longer makes homemade bread every week. In fact, she recently told me she is not even sure when the last time she made it at all. She visited my home one day when I was making a batch of cinnamon rolls. Momma remarked that she might have forgotten how to make bread! We laughed and agreed it was probably like riding a bicycle. You might get rusty but you do not forget!

We visited Momma's home recently and I was excited to see she was making homemade bread. Giant bowls of dough covered with a tea towel were found by the furnace (the warmest place in her home) completing their second rise.  But instead of preparing the dough for the oven, Momma made enough fried break to feed a small army!

Momma found an eager helper to prepare the Fried Bread. The Short Chic could not wait to assist. As she showed The Short Chic how to prepare the dough for frying Momma told her how her how her own Momma made fried bread for her when she was a little girl. She told me her favorite bread recipe was actually my daddy's grandma. She calls it water bread because it uses water and not milk. I am planning to try it the next time I make cinnamon rolls.

Are you a bread maker? If you are, the next time you make bread, consider pinching off a small ball of dough and stretch it out well, then fry it up and enjoy a treat I grew up with.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas 2015: Just Not Our Year

Christmas has come and gone. It is now one for the memory books. The question remains, was it a good Christmas or something else?  It strikes me as how some Christmases have just the right chemistry and naturally come together and linger in our memories as great Christmases. Other Christmases fall short of that threshold. They were not necessarily bad but they were not great either. This later category is the Christmas we had this year. It is hard to put your finger on exactly why we categorize it in this matter. I can say  this Christmas had two themes: first, the moment your children grow up and lose their innocence can almost be marked on a calendar; and second: no matter how old your children get, sharing custody is one of the hardest things a parent can do. The holidays only intensifies this.

The Boy arrived home from college on a Friday, one week before Christmas. He left five days later to spend Christmas with his dad. Historically, when he has spent Christmas with his dad, we have planned and held a pre-Christmas celebration. This is exactly what we did this year: we had a family celebration the weekend before Christmas so he could celebrate the holiday with us.  The entire family was there along with some very close friends. We had a good time. The Boy requested smoked brisket for our family celebration so we had a good ole southern spread. The Husband smoked brisket, pork ribs, and beef ribs as well. I made baked cheesy grits, jalapeno bacon deviled eggs, collard greens, Texas Sheet cake, and banana pudding. All favorite things of The Boys (well, except the collard greens. I can't get him to touch them with a ten-foot poll!)

We had a nice early Christmas celebration, complete with my sons most favorite foods, all his favorite people, and family moments. I said good bye to him on the eve of Christmas Eve with plans to see him the Sunday after Christmas. The Husband and I moved forward celebrating Christmas with The Short Chic. 

Celebrating Christmas with The Short Chic was different this year.At home, she was excited to count down the days till Christmas. She hunted the house daily looking for her Scout Elf. Outside the house was different.  She refused to go see Santa. After much discussion she let us know the boys at school told her how stupid visiting Santa was. The week of Christmas, she conceded and went to visit Santa.  I think it was based more on the look of pure desperation in her mother's face than anything.  The Husband and I felt the change in the air and really wanted to hold tight to all we have known for at least another year.

As parents we get a lot of excitement over finding the most perfect gift for our children. As we watch the little ones open their gifts their joy is contagious. It makes us happy. This was the first year The Short Chic desired larger gifts and with larger gifts comes the side effect of less gifts. I think she enjoyed every moment and every gift the reality was there. Her slight disappointment also had center stage because she was the only one home on Christmas morning.

I took a few photos of the before and after of Christmas. Cookies for Santa. Cookies devoured by Santa. Presents under the tree. The carnage a little girl can make opening presents. On the surface all was good. But somehow I found myself on the sofa Christmas night watching Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors on network television.  Maybe it was the movie, or maybe the loss of innocence with The Short Chic, or maybe it was because The Boy was not with us on Christmas but I can tell you once the tears started they did not stop. 

 The day after Christmas, The Husband asked me if I had a nice Christmas. I answered him honestly. It was a perfectly nice Christmas, I told him as the tears stung my eyes once again. We both agreed, it just wasn't our year.

Even though we have come to accept sharing our time with The Boy, it is something you honestly never become fully accustom to. He is an adult now and I have been very supportive of him negotiating his own path. Part of that is learning to divide time during the holidays.

 As far as The Short Chic, she is growing up faster than her Daddy or I like. Who knows what the next year holds for us. We will keep crossing that path as it presents itself to us.