A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

HellO Alaska!
I want to give a special shout out to readers up in Alaska. Hi guys! Glad to have you. Drop me a line and introduce yourself.

WTH? Sticker Shock
I had to stop at the grocery store last night for some of my foo-foo coffee creamer and some lettuce. Either this just happened or I may have not noticed the last time I went grocery shopping, but, a 32 oz of creamer set me back over $4.50! It takes me a month to go through one of these and I’m pretty sure the last one I bought was at least $1 cheaper. I can only assume that the price of gas is a major factor. What price hikes have taken a bite out of your wallet?

Spring has Sprung --- Yay!
Last night we had thunderstorms, 60mph winds, tornadoes in Kansas and Missouri, and it’s only February 28! I’m digging the 60+ degree temps myself. You won’t hear me complain. Nope.
Daffodils and tulips are budding and have been inching their way up out of the dirt for weeks. The trees are budding and the birds are especially LOUD these days. I’m so excited! I can start playing in the dirt soon. Bring on the Warm, the tulips, the rain, the Easter Eggs…We Are Ready!!

They Call it Voice Mail!
It really ticks me off when a business leader leaves his phone’s ringer on during a (his business-wide) monthly meeting and actually walks out to take a call and then proceeds to tell the person calling, “I’ll call you right back.” Excuse me, your +$400 smart phone comes with a handy feature called Voice Mail! Send me your management faux pas.

Don’t you hate it when…?
You’re on the way to work, passed the halfway point, you cannot turn around and you have the mini panic attack because you fear you forgot to put on deodorant? I did that this morning and because I was flying at 70 mph and wearing a coat, I couldn’t do the hand under the shirt thing to check. Fortunately, I have forgotten the anti-perspirant a few times in my life so I keep some in a drawer at work and a spare in the car for occasions such as this. Weird part was when I finally did check, I didn’t forget—but, I only applied it to one arm! Surely I'm not the only one that's done this?!?

Davy Jones
1945-2012 RIP
Don’t think I can sleep tonight without mentioning that Davy Jones was my official first crush. At the tender age of 8, I fell head over heels in True Love. Back in the day, with only 3 channels of television and still in B&W (at my house), we garnered much of our knowledge from fan magazines. Issues of Tiger Beat and 16 were filled with pictures and interviews of Davy Jones. Every picture I could get my hands on would be carefully cut out and taped or tacked to my then growing shrine dedicated to the cute and perfect Davy Jones. I even wrote him a fan letter. That literary masterpiece oozed of love and adoration from a goofy looking, freckle faced 10-year-old girl from Texas. I just knew that once he received my letter, he would be convinced that he should wait for me until I was 18 and we could begin our Happily Ever After. Ah, memories…

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Adult Security Blanket?

This is my favorite coffee mug. It's a heavy stoneware mug, holds 16 ounces of that hot and delicious caffeine elixir I require mass quantities of to become human each day...and it's Red!

I remember when I was a teenager, and had only been drinking coffee for a few years; my grandfather (we called him Papa) had his special favorite coffee cup. We didn't have mugs in the old days and I doubt Papa would have drank from a mug anyway. He liked his coffee with a cup and a saucer. He drank it with cream (real cream) and 3 spoons of sugar (yep, real sugar too)--then he stirred it. Clink, clink clinkety clink, over and over. After stirring for what seemed like forever, he would pour a little out to cool in the saucer and sip it straight from the saucer. Then after a bit, after it was cooler, he'd drink from the cup. This whole ritual with the coffee drove me nuts! He lived with us, so I witnessed this routine a lot. When he was finished drinking coffee in the morning, he would go to the sink, rinse and wash his special cup and saucer then place them right next to the coffee pot. Like somebody else would actually want to use his cup!

I did not get it. I did not understand what the big deal about the stupid coffee cup was until...until my love affair with the brown brew had taken hold of me and I was no longer able to sleep 12 hours at a time, in one night. I won’t go so far as to say, I can’t drink my coffee with any other cup/mug. But, maybe a favorite coffee mug is like the adult version of a security blanket. Any thoughts? Do you have a special mug?

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Vegetarian Easy & Yummy Oh My!

Last night after getting in late from the gym-again, I had one of my favorite and famous Avocado Sandwiches.

Famous you ask? Yeah, yeah, we’re all legends in our own minds. But seriously, it is a favorite at our house. I’ve learned there are a couple of drawbacks to being a decent cook: 1) You don’t get as many breaks from the duty of cooking if yours is actually better than the other fine folks that share your abode and 2) A lot of the things I cook are so much healthier for us, because I cut way back on the salt and the fat so we eat at home more often than we used to.

Where was I? Oh yes - Dinner. Along with the sandwich I made an Edamame Salad, both healthy and yummy. I got this recipe from the the Yeggie Yogi and tweaked it a bit, as it had a little too much oil and even though it is Grape Seed oil which is one of the healthier oil choices, it’s still fat and had the highest individual amount of calories of all the ingredients in the salad. Another bonus of this salad is that is it absolutely Gorgeous!  This salad could also be served as an entrée. Make sure and look at the calorie count below, you won’t believe that something this pretty could be so good for you too. One more thing, the sandwich and salad are easy to make, super easy and fast!

Avocado Sandwich
What you need:
 2 slices of bread, toasted (I only used white bread because I didn't want the big slices of whole grain bread)
1 T Neufchatel cream cheese (1/2 less fat)
½ c radish sprouts
½ avocado

What you do:
Toast the bread. This is so it doesn’t fall apart with the heavy ingredients. Spread the cream cheese on one slice.

Top with sprouts. 

Thinly slice ½ avocado on the other slice of toast.

Slightly mash the avocado so it doesn’t slide off the bread.

Slap your bread together and cut in half.

Edamame Salad 
What you need:

1 C edamame beans
1 C corn
1 C cherry tomatoes sliced in halves
1 C black beans
1/4 C red onion
Handful of cilantro, finely chopped

What you do:
Combine the ingredients in a bowl.

Helpful hints:

• I used frozen edamame. I soaked the beans in a bowl of water and by the time the rest of the ingredients and dressing were assembled, they were thawed but cool and perfect for the salad. If you are using frozen black beans and corn, you can soak all at the same time. Just be sure and rinse after the soak!

• Canned beans and corn may also be used, but rinse through a colander. This does 2 things: removes extra sodium and keeps the mix clean (and pretty!)

What you need:

1/8 C red wine vinegar 0 c
1/8 C lime juice 0 c
1/4 C grapeseed oil 245 c
1 T honey 64 c
Cayenne or cracked pepper to taste

What you do:

Whisk thoroughly.

Pour over, mix into salad and serve.

Helpful Hints:
• The honey is the heaviest liquid and will sink to the bottom. Make sure your bowl or container is deep enough to capture it during the whisking.

• As I mentioned earlier, I cut back on the oil used in the original recipe and based on what settled at the bottom of the mixing bowl, you could probably cut the amount of oil in half again if you really need to cut calories. Another option and one that will not alter the taste is to use a slotted spoon to serve with, making sure to let the excess dressing stay in the serving bowl versus your plate.

• The pepper is optional. I have been trying to incorporate cayenne more into my diet as it is a natural aid for weight loss and a metabolism booster and has many other beneficial properties, so I use it whenever I can.

Calorie count:
Salad (with dressing)
½ C serving (as a side) = 113 calories
1 C serving (as an entrée) = 226 calories

Sandwich = 320 calories

Meal total only 433 Calories! Yummy, pretty and good for you! Oh My!

So, what do you think? Maybe something Vegetarian on your menu this weekend?

Not intended to be a single guide for nutrition, but if you would like further information on some of the ingredients used, you may want to check here:
Grape Seed Oil
The Veggie Yogi can be found here.
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How Keith led me back to John

Sometimes I get more done when I don’t follow a completely organized and prioritized To Do list. On Sunday I finally got around to packing up the Christmas ornaments. Don’t judge. It’s not like my tree was up in the living room or I to take down a bunch of lights off the roof. No, this year or last year I should say, since we weren’t going to be home on Christmas, I downsized the decorating at our house. I had a small 4’ prelit tree and a basket and a few large glass jars filled with ornaments. I had already taken them down to the basement, but had yet to pack them away. Since I’ve been hitting the gym most nights after work, I don’t get home till 7:30 or later and then all I want to do is sit, surf and watch a little TV.

My basement is actually a very large bedroom and bathroom that used to belong to my daughter. Since she moved out it is used for company and a place to store things. I had been storing things out in the open down there for quite some time and Sunday I finally felt like packing up the little tree and 8 boxes of ornaments along with a few assorted trinkets. Once I had the Christmas put away, I began (again) going through some drawers and two large boxes that came “home from college” and were still sitting there collecting spiders.

I’ve planned to clean and straighten the basement every weekend since Christmas, but just hadn’t gotten to it. I think I have flashes, no—floods of Adult ADD. You know where you go to the kitchen to get a drink of water and end up cleaning out the vegetable drawers in the fridge? OR, go to empty the wastebasket in a bedroom and see a magazine and start reading. I also call it: Look-Squirrel! or Chicken! This happens to me a lot, and that my friends is the reason my Christmas decorations were still out at the end of February.

Anywho, back to the cleaning…I managed to fill up 4 large lawn bags of old clothes for donation and clear out those 2 boxes too. In the process I found:

• one missing 3 lb and two 2 lb weights (lost for at least 2 years)

• my yoga book (lost for at least a year)

• AND a copy of Grimm’s fairy tales didn’t even know I had

I wasn’t looking for these items, but it was definitely a bonus! The Grimm’s book was an especially sweet find. Since we’ve been watching the new show Grimm, we’ve noticed the creators have taken poetic license with some of the stories and it seems I’ve forgotten a lot of them anyway. I was planning to re-read the stories and refresh my memory. So, now I have the book! Yeah!

After the cleanup, I had a robust workout with my stability ball, foam roller, hand weights along with some yoga. Somewhere between the workout and the cleaning I remembered I wanted to change out a few CDs in my car’s player and thought some Keith Urban would be a nice change of pace. When I went to our CD shelves, I ended up filing about 20 or so CDs that weren’t back where they ought to be (ADD). While I was putting CDs away I also found a brand new, unopened The John Lennon Collection CD!

Until Sunday, I forgot I had this. Bonus! Bonus! I never was a diehard Beatles fan, (please, no hate mail, I promise you, I am American AND normal-most of the time) but I liked them much better individually after they broke up. And you know what’s even better?? I picked up this CD at a garage sale for $2! 2 BUCKS. Score! I love, I mean LOVE Starting Over, Woman, Beautiful Boy and John’s Stand By Me. If you need a walk down memory lane, give it a listen:

I immediately popped it in the player, usurping my husband’s Allison Kraus (for a change) and have been listening to it at work today and yesterday. When I hear an old song or songs that I have loved and not heard for awhile, I listen to them over and over for a month or so. Does anybody else do that, or is that another Joanne thing?

So now you know how Keith led me back to John. I told you I had Adult ADD.

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Valentines For You! AND Chocolate Dipped Strawberries!

Saturday night I made Chocolate Covered Strawberries for the first time.  They were super easy too.  No, I didn’t eat them, but I ‘tested’ two, because they’re not exactly on my diet right now, strawberries-yes, chocolate-not so much. But they were awesome!  I was at the store and they had some gorgeous quarts of berries for $1.99.  Is that a great price or what?  I really hadn’t planned on dipping them, but when I got home I remembered that I saw a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the pantry, I also remembered the Sunday School kids at church were having a program following regular services, and thought (if they turn out) I’ll take these to church as a little Valentine’s treat. As I said they were very easy.  Look how pretty they turned out:
What you need:
  • A carton of fresh strawberries. Wash, drain and allow to thoroughly dry before dipping. You might need to blot them on paper towels to make sure they are completely dry
  • A bag of chocolate chips (dark chocolate is best and better for you).
  • 1 T of paraffin. Paraffin kind of seals them and helps to prevent melting, or so I’ve read. Personally, I think this is optional. BTW: I used a soy wax and they turned out fine.
What you do:
  • Melt a bag of chocolate chips (with the paraffin) in a deep microwave dish on high for 1 minute.
  • Stir the chips and paraffin. It will not be completely melted, but the melted chocolate will speed the melting of the remaining chocolate.
  • Microwave on high for another minute. Stir the chocolate till smooth without lumps.
  • Start dipping. Hold the strawberries by the green tops. You don’t have to completely cover them either. That also helps keep the chocolate off your hands.
  • Place the dipped strawberries on parchment or wax paper to set.

  • When all the chocolate is hardened, arrange on a plate or platter. I swirled a little chocolate syrup on the bottom of the plate before arranging the strawberries.

    I also love to take pictures and took a few Valentiney photos this week. You may use the Chocolate Covered Strawberries or this:
    or this:
    or maybe this:There are more on my Flickr page here. Please feel free to download what you like to use as computer wallpaper, to print and use for your own Valentine’s Day cards or maybe to send a with a text message for an E-Valentine.  Don't forget to leave me a note -- I would love to know that you used them.

    Happy Valentine’s Day! ~~Joanne

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    Pre-Valentine's Dinner

    Last night we had a special Pre-Valentine’s Dinner. My friend Linda gave me this recipe a few years ago and it’s become a family favorite. The best thing about it (besides being easy and fast) is that it’s pretty low on the calorie and sodium scale, two things we look for at our house. Another cool thing about the Chicken Walnut Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette is you can switch it up by adding or leaving out ingredients as you prefer.

    My mom recently sent us some walnuts from Oregon. I know, sounds a little weird, my mom sends nuts. But she’s retired, and cracking nuts keeps her off the streets at night.
    Fresh walnuts from Mom - with love
    Anywho, she called because I forgot to tell her we got them and to thank her for them – my bad. So I remembered this recipe and I love “Salad Suppers” because they don’t take much time to fix.
    Right click to save copy of recipe
    This recipe makes enough for 3 large servings. I boiled 3 chicken tenders, but you can use grilled, leftover fried or roasted chicken. Of course if you want to go vegetarian, skip the chicken.
      Chop chicken into bite size chunks
    • Use cooled or cold chicken chopped into bite size chunks.
    • Coarsely chop the nuts.
    • In a bowl add the lettuce, chicken, walnuts and apples (1/2 cup chopped, not necessary to peel).
    • Make the Vinaigrette and shake well in a covered container.
    • Pour the Vinaigrette over the salad and toss.
    That’s it. Normally we don’t add the dressing to the salads, but this is really a light dressing, not heavy at all.
    Chicken Walnut Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette
    One aside: the original recipe calls for apples and I think it’s better with them, but oddly enough, I bought 2 apples night before last, took one for lunch and tonight when I went to make the salad, the remaining apple was gone. Two people in the house, I ate one and the other one mysteriously disappeared. My husband has “no recollection” of the other apple. No worries, I’m good at improvising. I also bought some gorgeous strawberries yesterday and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought what the heck, so I used strawberries instead and they worked. And isn’t it pretty too, the little touch of red?
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    Self Designated Informants

    Unless you are an orphan who was raised by wolves or a nomad, your family most likely has at least one Self Designated Informant (SDI), also known as the Tattle Tale or the Town Crier. You probably already know which of your siblings or offspring this is. Not sure? The SDI can fall anywhere in the sibling or offspring hierarchy, but is (most times) not the oldest. The oldest usually has the responsibilities as well as the freedom to do a lot of things the younger kids are not allowed to do and does not concern themselves with what the others are up to.

    The SDI’s job is to make certain the Parents know that the ‘others’ are doing something they shouldn’t be, something they are going to do – but shouldn’t, or something they have already done but shouldn’t have. The most important thing to remember is that the SDI is not being and intentional butt head. Remember when I said, that the SDI is usually not the first born? The SDI does what they do primarily as a means of getting attention. When they are very young, it’s obvious when they bust on another, and goes something like: “Mommie So-and-So did this.” When they are older, the prelude to the dish might be a phone call or a text that starts: “Have you talked to So-and-So lately?” or “You didn’t hear this from me, but…”

    Having a reliable SDI is a good thing and often one of the best tools in a Parent’s bag of tricks. But, it’s important not to necessarily act on the information, at least every time. Remember the dishing is primarily a means of getting attention or maybe (as in older kids) just needing someone to talk to. I have a niece (let’s call her Niece #2) who busts on her cousin to me fairly regularly. Niece #2 is also not the oldest in her family, but I believe the main reason she keeps me in the loop is long ago when she was around 13, I caught her smoking and believed her when she made me think it was one of the other kids. Which was the reason I stayed so mad, not about the deed itself, but about blaming the wrong kid, and as a result, everybody got punished. Which is funny in hindsight when I think about it, if they were all so willing to take the fall, they were all probably doing something else that I didn’t catch them at. I think Niece #2 has been trying to make it up to me ever since.
    • There are also Self Designated Informants in the work place as well. We usually call these  guys Brown Nosers, in school they were Teacher’s Pets. These people are also looking for attention, but are much more dangerous. If you’ve worked anywhere for any length of time you know to be wary of these folk and whatever you do, Don’t piss them off! 
    What brings this to my mind today is Daughter #5 sent me the classic text message above about a sister. While the information was valuable, it was not vital, more importantly because I know her so well; I knew something else was going on. Daughter #5 had broken up with her boyfriend and it had gotten really scary. Translation: She needed someone to talk to. I love all my kids and I hope that I can continue to read the signs correctly when they need me. It’s easy when your kids are young to get in the habit of saying “Stop being a Tattle Tale”, but try to remember all they probably need is some one-on-one, a willing listener and a hug.

    Note: I’ve got something a little different and special planned for you this weekend. Check back for a Valentine surprise!

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    Heading West, Destination Unknown

    Wow! The strangest thing happened to me this morning on the way into work. About 4 miles from my turn off the interstate I had the wild and crazy idea to keep driving, all-the-way-to-Colorado-keep driving! This urge to keep going was so “lightning bolt”, so “wild hair”, so “un-Me”. Not that I’m not spontaneous, but spontaneous enough to drive 400 or 500 miles for no reason whatsoever? Seriously, if I had freedom in my job, like say I didn’t have an office or had a few days extra of vacation to burn – I truly think I would have done it!

    It’s not really about running away either, though I have run away many times (according to my mom). When I was 2-ish, my mom said I would “run away” to the neighbor lady’s every day. I don’t think I hated home so much as I loved our neighbor. In fact, my mom has a number of pictures of Little Joanne walking down the sidewalk away from the camera heading to Auntie Ree’s house and she loves to tell those stories. But that’s probably only because I always came back home.

    Now I keep thinking of what was running through my mind at the time when that thought hit me and the only thing I can remember is Billy Joel’s Big Shot on the radio. I’m not making a connection with that though, except that I’m an adult and an adult is kind of a big shot, maybe, maybe not so much.

    Then I have run all the scenarios where I actually had to call someone (like work or my husband) saying “I’ll be back tomorrow…maybe.” I kind of think it would have been easier to pull it off with work, my husband would have required much more explaining. And exactly how do you explain, “I think I’ll drive for awhile and see where I end up.” I mean, Shit! This ain’t the 60s or 70s! I’m not a hippie (anymore). I have responsibilities. I’m the one that would be the most pissed off if a spouse or kid would have called me saying: Hey, guess what I’m doing…?

    But I’ve got to tell you, the more I think about the possibilities of making a Wild Hair trip like that, the more it sounds like fun. To be truthful, I kind of think that if only I had my camera with me, I might have actually done it. What about you? Have you had any ‘totally out of character’ ideas? Have you acted on them? Leave me a comment, I want to hear about it.

    Now, I said “Colorado”, but it could just as easily been the ends of the earth Kansas, or Nebraska. The urge wasn’t so much about the destination as it was the idea of just to keep going.
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    Winning the Lottery!

    I’m pretty pumped! Just checked my lottery tickets and I won a whopping $27 from the last drawings for the Powerball and Mega Millions! No, I cannot quit my day job, but it will be spending it all in the same place. It’s more than enough to fund the purchase of more tickets for tonight’s drawing.

    This is the year I’m going to win and if a considerable amount of time goes by and I haven’t posted, you may safely guess that I’ve either died or won the lottery. And why won’t I be posting? A wise friend told me years ago that if/when you win and immediately go public, you and your family could become targets. Targets for thieves, kidnappers, con-artists and greedy, lazy relatives (which sometimes are one and the same). Pretty much anybody you can imagine that thinks they might be able to benefit from your fortune. With that said, if I win the lottery here’s what will happen:

    • I’ll go to work the next day (Yeah, I know it kind of sucks. But it’s important to maintain a look of “normal”)
    • Take 2-3 days of vacation to TCB
    • Change our land line phone number and get an unlisted number
    • Consult and put on retainer a tax attorney
    • Consult with a couple of banks and financial advisors.
    • Once I have determined how to insure my financial security (an oxymoron if I ever heard one - (snicker here if you like) till my death, then I will begin to take care of my family.
    • Set up college funds for our kids that want to start or have started school
    • Set up college funds for grandchildren and future grandchildren
    THEN- Quit day job
    • Buy a house for one of our daughters
    • Buy a car for each of our kids
    • Buy a church. Our small congregation has been meeting in a rented shared building for years and needs a permanent home.

    Of course we’ll take trips, go shopping and maybe even buy a new house, but taking care of our family and church family will and should be the first thing we do.
    One more thing I want to do: TIP BIG. I don’t mean Johnny Depp tips of $1000 for a dinner, but tips that at least equal the amount of the service or meal. All of our kids work or have in the service industry and I am very aware of how much people depend on their tips to earn a living.
    So, I'm off to buy tickets for tonight, wish me luck!
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    Willpower Schmillpower!

    So I’m just minding my own business, scrolling through the dashboard on Tumblr when I see Deep. Dish. Pizza. About 2” thick and now all I can think about is food, I mean all I can think about is that damn pizza! (Thank you so much Mr. Keown for that mouth watering visual, such a beautiful vision that not only can I see how delicious it is, but I can SMELL IT too!) I guess I really wasn’t minding my own business, because if I had been, I wouldn’t have been surfing the internet, I would have been working, but the cow’s already out of the barn, that ship has sailed, Joanne saw the pizza, blah, blah, blah. This watching your “food choices”, notice I did not say the “D” word, is hell my friends, especially when today’s Lunchtime Goodies from home were a small can of Albacore Tuna (no mayo), an apple, some non-fat, non-sweetened & non-flavored yogurt (ugh), OH, and lest I forget my 150 calorie “snack pack” that I tore through before 11 am!

    Yep, you could say the battle of the bulge is not going well today. No will power, not much at all. Nada. I am pretty sure, I’m calling in a pizza of significant substance when I leave the gym tonight to be waiting on me when I get home. As Scarlett would say, “I’m hungry. I’ll eat rabbit food tomorrow, Tomorrow is another day.”
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