There’s no such thing as soy milk. It’s soy juice. ~Lewis Black

Last night I tried a new recipe called “Meaty” Meatless Spaghetti.  All the ingredients sounded yummy… garlic, tomato basil pasta sauce, onions, spinach… and soy crumbles?  While I’ve made a dish or two with soy before I’m still generally leery of doing so.  Fortunately my very non-picky husband generally doesn’t notice when I sub soy for real meat.  The meal smelled good while cooking so I was optimistic.  It came time to eat and as I chewed I found I liked the flavor, but the texture of the soy meat was kinda weird.  It was like a combination of ground beef and rubberbands.  A little difficult to choke down for someone like myself who is very texture sensitive when it comes to food.  I noticed my husband was very quiet while eating which is usually not a good sign.  When he loves what I’ve made, he makes little moaning and groaning noises which are actually quite cute.  I asked him what he thought and he just shook his head side to side and said “it’s gross” while he continued to finish his bowl.  That’s one of the million reasons I love the man, the meal might suck but he’s still going to finish his plate.  Strangely enough when I asked why he didn’t like it he said it was the flavor… something about the herb.  I can only assume that it’s the flavor of the tomato and basil pasta sauce that he was referring to as it was the only thing with herbs in it.  So, last nights new recipe was a giant fail… I cant handle the texture and he doesn’t like the flavor.  Good thing there was a frozen pizza in the freezer. 

 

Update from walking the other day:  I owe an apology to my friend G who walked with me.  When we started out on the trail I thought to myself that she would want to quit long before I did and man was I sorely mistaken.  G kicked my ass!  The woman is a teenager shy of twice my age and I was dragging behind her.  Talk about a lesson in humility!  I’m so glad she walked with me though because I walked farther and faster because she was there and I didn’t want to look like a wimp.  We fast walked a total of three miles in the 100 degree Texas heat on an uneven trail.  It took us an hour.  My hope is that in a month or so we’ll be able to beat that time.  I am happy that I’m not really sore… a little soreness in my calves is all I’ve got.  I slept great Tuesday night (which is rare for me) so that’s an added bonus.  Here’s to walking!  Thanks G for doing this with me.  I may have to start calling you “Coach.”

People say that losing weight is no walk in the park. When I hear that I think, yeah, that’s the problem. ~Chris Adams

So it’s been a somewhat unproductive and improvement-less couple of days.  Last week as I mentioned I started a very tedious project that I’m still not finished with.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t just been sitting on my butt eating bon-bons or anything.  Last week was my birthday and between family, friends, and husband I got to celebrate for three days straight.  Lucky girl! 

Yesterday I sat with my mom through a meeting about Medicare.  Let me just say upfront that I’m seriously glad that I’m not at an age where Medicare really matters to me (other than the fact that it affects my parental units).  Talk about confusing!  I think we made some headway though and made some decisions that are, Lord willing, the right ones. 

Today I’m starting an ongoing improvement with my friend G from work.  We’re going to start walking after work once a week (at least to start off).  There’s a really nice park not far from our office with a paved 3 mile trail.  Today is the first day that we’re going to walk and I’m excited.  We were planning on walking yesterday except I had to go to the Medicare meeting so we had to postpone until today.  I had my workout bag packed and in my car Sunday morning so I am ready to go whenever we CAN go.  I’m looking forward to walking and getting in a habit of doing something physical.  I’ve been looking online at boot camp classes but I know me well enough to know that when it comes to working out I have a bad habit of diving in head first, getting injured or so sore I literally can’t get out of bed, and then I give up.  So, I’m not going to do that this time.  We’re going to start with walking, then maybe a class or two at the YMCA and work our way up from there.  I’m even debating going back on Weight Watchers.  It’s worked for me before but I get seriously tired of counting points and/or eating the same thing over and over because I don’t want to count points.  While I haven’t made any decision on the diet side at least today I’ll get up and moving and sweating.  Whoever said “girls don’t sweat, they glisten” never met me!  So, while I have no delusions that walking once a week even for several miles is going to make me thin, at least it will “train my brain” as they say.  I’ve heard it takes six weeks to form a habit, whether that’s true or not who knows but hopefully in six weeks I’ll be used to walking and maybe even ready to “up” it to twice a week or add in a group fitness class of some kind.  Slow and steady right?  So I’m off to strap on my walking shoes and get started.  Wish me luck!

In progress

I just wanted to give a quick update so that no one thinks I’m slacking :)…

I love crafts and interior decorator type stuff.  I have a HUGE (6”!) binder filled with these types of ideas that I’ve pulled out of magazines or printed off the internet.  One of the main reasons that I started this blog is because I pull out all these great ideas, and file them away.  Nothing ever gets done with them!  I look at them and think, “one day…” and then six months later I go back and look and still nothing has been done.   So, now I have a blog that should force motivate me to get some of these ideas out of the binder and into reality.

One problem:  I can hardly lug around a 6” binder and the binder itself is full and there are lots of ideas waiting for a binder home of their own.  So, I purchased a bunch of new manageable-sized binders (2”) and have been slowly but surely moving things around into the new binders.  This is a long and tedious process but it’s coming along (2 binders down, 6 to go).  So, I really am working and being productive, there’s just not much to show for it at the moment.  I have to get this mess organized before I can actually start any of the projects or else I’ll lose my mind. 

It’s a slow, boring, tedious week in Marble Changing Land but we’re truckin’ along.

There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will. ~Robert Frost

While I have no doubt that I exasperate my husband on a fairly regular basis, I know it’s not due to cooking. 

I am a good cook.  I don’t say this to sound conceited but I do believe this to be true and I have been told this more times that I can count from lots and lots of people.  I attribute this to a few different things… for one, I’m not intimidated by much.  A 16 layer cake?  Bring it on.  Some kind of vegetable I can’t pronounce that looks like an alien and can only be found in the remote reaches of an ethnic food store?  Let’s do it.  A recipe that calls for some gadget I’ve never heard of let alone know how to use?  I’m down. 

Secondly, I love to try new recipes.  I have several binders in my office related to just this topic in fact.  They’re organized based upon the type of dish they are (breakfast, appetizer, main course, dessert, etc), then by subgroup (chicken, pork, seafood, etc for the main course), then by sub-sub group (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, etc).  I try to cook a few new recipes every week if I can.  The one thing I’ve learned through all my trial and error is this: when you first make a new recipe, make it exactly the way the recipe calls for it.  Then, when you’re finished eating, ask those around you what they honestly thought.  In truth, you can’t be upset if it was terrible, it’s not as though you wrote the recipe yourself.  Then ask if there was anything that could be done to make it better.  If so, write notes on your recipe and file it away for later.  Next time when you cook that recipe again, cook it including the notes you made the previous-go-round. 

Lastly, and probably most importantly, I have (mostly) willing guinea pigs.  When I was a child my mom used to tell me that I had to try a bite of everything.  If I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to eat any more of it.  Now, I employ the same tactics with her and with my husband.  For the most part, I don’t think they hate me too much.  We call my husband the “human garbage disposal” because he’s just not a picky eater.  Remember that whole “give it to Mikey, he’ll eat it!” thing?  Yeah, that’s my husband.  My mom is not particularly picky either which is great.  Actually, since I’m such a picky eater sometimes I’ll even make recipes that I won’t eat and then I have to rely solely on my mom and my husband’s tips on how to make it better.  I have a pretty discerning palate and a good imagination.  I can be given a list of ingredients and pretty much know if the recipe made with them is going to be good or not.  That being said, since I’m a picky eater and there’s a litany of things I don’t eat, even my imagination cannot help sometimes.  So, when I’m making a new roast, I rely on others to tell me if it’s good or not since I don’t eat red meat. 

This weekend since I was not feeling well I decided I wanted soup.  I love soup and in fact I eat it several times a week.  I cannot stand meat in my soup though.  Chicken noodle soup?  Ick!  I love vegetable soups and though most people think that there isn’t a lot of variety with vegetable soups they’d be quite wrong.  Yesterday I made Cheesy Vegetable Soup as well as Broccoli-Cheese Corn Bread.  Both turned out delicious.  Mom even said that they would be “great company fare” which in our house means that the meal is good enough to feed to guests (that’s a HUGE compliment).  We’re super picky about what we feed guests at our house.

Anyways, since everything turned out so wonderfully I thought I’d share the recipes with all you lovely people.  Neither recipe was hard and shouldn’t be hard even for a novice cook.  Basically if you can chop vegetables and measure spices or liquids you’ve pretty much got this made.  Enjoy!

 

Broccoli-Cheese Corn Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 packages (8-1/2 ounces each) corn bread/muffin mix
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) 4% cottage cheese (note: I used small curd)
  • 1 package (9 ounces) frozen broccoli cuts, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons canned jalapeno slices, chopped (if you prefer a less spicy version, used canned green chiles instead)

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, sauté onion in butter until tender; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine corn bread mix and shredded cheese.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, cottage cheese and onion mixture.  Stir into corn bread mixture until just moistened.  Fold in the broccoli, corn, and jalapeno.
  2. Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and edges pull away from sides of pan.  Serve warm.  Refrigerate leftovers.  Yeild: 12-15 servings.

 

Cheesy Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, copped
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen lima beans, thawed
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup diced peeled potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bullion granuels
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika (I used about ½ this)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper (I recommend doubling this)
  • 2 cups milk (I used organic skim milk but you could use anything)
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream (use the full-fat version, not the light stuff)
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2 cups / 8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese)
  • Minced fresh parsley (I skipped this)
  • Note: the recipe does not call for salt but all of us thought it could use some.  You can choose to let each person add salt to their individual bowls or you can add a ¼ teaspoon of salt when you add the black pepper.

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, sauté onion in 2 tablespoons butter until tender.  Add water, vegetables and bouillon.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt remaining butter.  Stir in the flour, paprika and pepper until smooth.  Gradually add milk and cream.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Reduce heat; stir in cheese until melted.  Add to soup; heat through.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Yield: 8 servings.

Then again, maybe not.

Well my hope for a productive weekend is slowly but surely going out the window.  Yesterday even after my twelve hours of sleep I found myself tired and dragging.  I went to the grocery store and by the time I made it home I knew that I was getting sick and that was why my body has been so exhausted as of late.  I rested most of the day yesterday, slept a good eight hours last night and am still weary.  So, today I’m going to putz a little in my office, read some more (I’ve already read 2 books in the last 48 hours), maybe watch a movie and snooze.  Right now I just want to rejuvenate my body and keep from getting sick because when I get sick I really get sick and go down for the count for weeks on end.  No thank you.  So, I’m off to take a boat load of vitamin C and snuggle on the couch with the puppy.  Happy Sunday all.

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. ~Attributed to both Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris

Like most of the women I know I am usually going 90-to-nothing all the time.  I don’t rest well and even when I do, my mind is churning away like a crack-enhanced gerbil on a wheel.  I just don’t know how to turn it off.  This week, I have found myself stressed and frustrated and for no real reason.  Let’s face it, damaged craft items should not be able to reduce me to tears (see previous post).  When I came home from work last night the hubs and I were supposed to go out shopping for my improvement-of-the-day.  I was so exhausted I admitted to him I just couldn’t.  Could we please just do it tomorrow?  He looked at me strangely and said “of course love.”  We went out for a very quick dinner where I nearly fell asleep in my quesadillas and then came home.  I slept twelve hours last night.  My body and my mind were just exhausted.  I felt guilty because I didn’t get my improvement done, and it was a really important one that I really wanted to do.  This morning though I woke feeling refreshed and although I still feel like I could take a nap, I am capable of holding myself upright without fear of toppling over.

So today, Lord willing, I will complete the improvement I’d intending on doing yesterday.  I will try to do it with the realization that it’s ok to take a break from time to time.  Even NASCAR drivers have to make pit stops to get their tires changed so why should it be any different in real life?  From time to time, we all need to recharge our batteries.  Perhaps I’ll sleep another twelve hours tonight or take a long luxurious bubble bath… it really doesn’t matter.  The point is that it’s ok.  It’s ok if for once in a blue moon something doesn’t get done on time and instead of taking care of the plethora of things that plague my mind, I take care of myself instead.

“It pays to plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”

I am a person with a plan, a plan for everything that is.  Take my type A personality and combine it with some OCD tendencies and that’s just what you end up with… a planner.  Sometimes I think even my plans have plans and there are plans for how to make plans.  It’s sort of all a little ridiculous sometimes but it’s just how I function best.  I need order, or at least, at the bare minimum, organized chaos.  I think if I’m honest with myself this drives some of my friends and family members absolutely crazy.  Several of them are not planners.  They’re the fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, take-random-road-trips and generally-enjoy-life type people.  I on the other hand am the kind of person who needs to pencil you into my calendar a month in advance and then will harass you the week before until we nail down specifics.  I swear I can hear them on the other end of the phone sometimes just thinking “what is wrong with her?!?!”  Most of the time though we get it all worked out with minimal damage done to our psyches. 

Sometimes, even with the best laid plans, things do not go as intended.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Each week I sit down with my calendar and figure out a few things… I decide on a menu for the week, what we’re going to watch on TV (we don’t have cable and therefore I have to look everything up on tvguide.com… making a “schedule” keeps us from flipping channels randomly until we happen to land on something we like… I know, I know, OCD), what “extra-curricular” activities we have planned, and now, what I’m going to do for this blog.  There’s honestly a lot of work that goes into this but I can’t imagine doing it any other way.  Sometimes I’ll get sick of planning and decide I’m just going to “roll with it.”  In the end I always find myself frazzled and stressed out and running back to my various planning tools.  Two weeks ago I purchased a few crafty items off of Oriental Trading.  I’ve been eyeballing that website forever but never actually placed an order.  With this blog going, I decided to go ahead and order a few things.  They arrived in the mail last week and I’ve been hanging on to them with the intention of doing some of them this week (yesterday) for the blog.  Last night I went into my office and planned on working on some of these craft-kits for about an hour.  Upon opening the first kit, I found that the threaded ends of the product I was working on were damaged and I would not be able to thread anything onto them… I’d have to send them back.  Ok, so, on to the next item… these were damaged too.  They were severely bent.  Getting a little frustrated I moved on to yet another kit in the box that I wasn’t planning on getting to for a few more days.  Turns out, I need some special tools for this project.  I need a beading needle-nose plier, which naturally, I don’t have.  In addition, the directions that come with this kit are seriously lacking.  What the heck is a charm loop?  Going to have to Google that one.  I have several kits that require the pliers so I moved on to my last but not least kit… and this one requires a special type of glue.  I just couldn’t win.  About this time the hubs came into my office and asked me how things were going.  I told him that I was literally choking back tears because I was so irritated that things were not going according to plan.  He told me next week I should have a backup plan.  No kidding.

The good news is that even though I’m a planner, I don’t completely suck at improvisation.  There was another item sitting on my desk that I’ve been working on off and on for the last few days and I decided to go ahead and finish that up and blog about it instead.  Things still didn’t quite go as planned, but it wasn’t a complete disaster.

Pick another checkout lane honey!  This is the motto of the Krazy coupon lady (see thekrazycouponlady.com).  If you’re a couponer, or aspiring couponer, you definitely should know about this website.  This lady tells you everything you need to know about deals and breaks them down by store (i.e. CVS, Walmart, Kroger, etc).  She even tells you where to find additional coupons to lower the price on deals individual stores are having.  It’s really cool and takes a lot of the work and the guess work out of couponing by yourself.  Now, I’m not a completely bananas-crazy couponer.  I’m not that person who goes to the store and buys 99 sticks of deodorant and pays $0.05.  I have no clue how those people do that, or get away with it.  I do on the other hand like a good deal and love it when I don’t pay full retail price for something.  So, on this lady’s website she has a section for beginners, or Coupon Virgins.  Included in this section is “how to start your coupon binder.”  Now, I’m by no means a Coupon Virgin, I popped that cherry a loooong time ago.  However, I have never had any real method for keeping my coupons organized.  The food-type ones are organized by expiration date and attached to my freezer with a heavy duty magnet whereas the retail and restaurant coupons are upstairs in a manila folder on my desk labeled “coupons” (original huh?).  This is all fine and dandy until I’m out of the house doing some shopping and get the nibbles and realize my coupons are at the house, not in my car.  So, I decided to create myself a coupon binder using the template she provided.  So far, so good.  I put it in my car this morning and am quite happy with it.  Naturally I ran out of baseball card holders (read the website people) and sheet protectors and will have to go to Office Depot to pick up more but guess what?  I know EXACTLY where my coupon for Office Depot is AND it’s in my car.

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. ~Author Unknown

I absolutely love to read.  My office is a testament to this fact.  I have four bookshelves that are covered in books and magazines, not to mention the one(s) I carry with me and the one(s) by my bed.  I truly believe I owe the passion and enjoyment I have for reading to my parents.  When I was growing up one of them would read to me every night.  Eventually I started reading to them and then reading on my own.  While I don’t generally read before bed anymore, I do read quite often.  Years ago when I entered the corporate world I had to stop reading before bed because I found that I would get sucked into a story and find it was suddenly somehow 3am and I had to be at work in a few hours.  When I’m reading a good book, I literally can’t put it down.  I’ll even read a sentence or two at a red light… I’m that addicted. 

I have a deeply rooted love of vampire books (although not Anne Rice, I have to say I’m not a fan) that I think started in middle school with a book called The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause.  If I remember correctly I found this book on one of my many trips to the school library and took it home and have been a vampire book reader ever since.  About a year ago I went back and read the book and I honestly can’t tell you what it was that turned me into such a fan, it must have been something special to my pre-teen mind.  On top of that, however, I love a good murder mystery.  I think this started with my dad reading James Patterson books and passing them on to me.  When I was a teenager and we couldn’t talk about much else, we could talk about the latest James Patterson novel. 

As I’ve grown older my tastes have strayed outside of vampire and murder genres.  Now, I’ll read anything I can get my hands on.  About two years ago I was garage sale-ing when I came across a large pile of books for sale.  The gentleman didn’t want to sell them individually and instead wanted to sell the entire collection.  There were probably forty to fifty books in the boxes and the asking price was $5.  I jumped at it.  Instead of going through and sorting through them at home and taking the ones I didn’t want to Half Price, I put them all up on my shelves.  In the weeks following I would go by, pick a book without even reading the title, and start reading.  I’ve found some great books, some strange books, and some darn-right weird books.  There have been a few crummy ones but fortunately enough, not many.  I am glad that once I start reading a book I find myself compelled to finish it because there are several books that I never would have read to the end otherwise and I would have definitely missed out.  So, that’s become my way to read books.  I buy them at garage sales usually without even reading the titles, or I buy them in bulk from places like Half Price.  I get a great assortment of books, read things I never would pick up myself if I were choosing them book by book, and get them all at a ridiculously low price. 

Today I finished a book called Passion by Marilyn Pappano.  Yes, it’s a chick-lit book (i.e. romance novel) but remember, I’m not picking these things up off the shelves people.  Actually it was pretty good.  It’s a romance meets mystery book and I love me a good mystery.  In fact, I actually got the ending wrong (which is odd for me).  Usually I know the end and see everything coming but this time I was surprised at least in part.  The “bad guy” wasn’t who I thought he was even though his accomplice was.  So, tonight I’ll go up to my office and grab another random book off the shelves.  It could be another romance novel, a biography of Babe Ruth (I know there’s one on my shelves somewhere), a self-help book or the latest best seller from James Patterson… there’s really no telling.  Like I said, I love me a good mystery.

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

Today is a wonderful day.

Today my husband and I mailed off a check completely paying off one of our debts.  I wish I could say that it was the last payment on all of our debts, but we’re not quite there yet.  What I can say is that we’ve been paying on this particular debt for about a year and a half and recently came into some extra funds which we responsibly decided to use to pay off this debt.  What a relief in these uncertain times it is to know that there’s one huge camel off our backs. 

We still have more debt to go but I’m so very proud of us for getting where we are.  We both learned our lessons years ago about credit cards, the IRS, and various other money pitfalls but we’re still paying for those mistakes.  Once we’re done paying for them, we’re really done.  No more credit.  If we can’t pay cash, we’re not getting it.  That’s our motto at least.  The only exception to that will be house when we do eventually get to that point in our lives. 

It hasn’t been an easy journey.  Upon combining finances including both the money made and the money owed my husband and I learned that we have incredibly different ideas about where money should be budgeted.  I can’t say I’m honestly surprised by this.  My husband and I grew up in very different ways, one of us with money and one of us without.  It didn’t make it easy to see things eye to eye when we didn’t start at the same place.  But, we’ve worked it out, or at least we’ve learned to compromise as much as is probably possible.  We have a budget and we have a schedule for paying off our debt.  As of today we’re about four months ahead of schedule thanks to that check that’s in the hands of the USPS right now.  So this is me patting myself, my husband, and my handy-dandy little Excel budget on the back.  Go us.

“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there.  In fact, I’m sure we’ve all been there multiple times.  Yesterday was the National Day of Encouragement.  While I have no idea who came up with this idea or if it’s a legitimate day to begin with, I think it’s a fantastic idea.  We all could use some encouragement from time to time.  So, with that in mind I set off for todays challenge. 

I found an encouragement quote that I really love and decided that I wanted to send some cards to some of my girlfriends.  I knew I wanted to make the cards but since my creativity has been on hiatus for so long I was at a loss as to how.  Enter Martha Stewart.  You may not like the lady but you’ve got to admit she’s a genius when it comes to craft stuff.  I found a card kit that perfectly matched the theme of the quote that I wanted to use and went to work.  Two days and a whole lot of glitter later, I have handmade cards with inspirational quotes and handwritten messages of encouragement in the mail to some of my girlfriends.  Make this your challenge for the day… lift someone up whether it’s by a kind word or an unexpected gesture.  Everyone could use a bit more sunshine in their lives.