Next up…Chicken

Day 54

I’ve been quiet for a while. A week actually. There just hasn’t been much to report.  There still isn’t much to report, but I worry if I put off writing much longer I won’t come back to it at all or at least not for a long time.  So here we are.

There is one week left of the school year. We’ve wrapped up many of the assignments that needed to be completed before the end of the year.  Next week we need to go drop off the school’s books that we have in our possession, and pick up Arden’s belongings. We likely won’t have occasion to go back to that particular school building.  The elementary school Arden attends goes through 4th grade and then the students move to the middle school in another town for 5th grade. One of the little quirky things about living in such a rural school districts is that the school buildings are spread out into different towns. So now that 4th grade is over, we say good bye to New Boston Elementary and hello to Mercer County Intermediate School – I guess, maybe. If school happens in the fall.  Honestly, I have no idea what will happen.  So, so many changes!

This has been an unique year to say the least. We’ve all walked through big changes – new home, new school, new friends, new locations, new routines. And then COVID. It gets really overwhelming to think about all the changes and losses that have happened in just the last few months. It is a lot.  I will say that Arden has done so well academically this year.  She’s worked very hard and things that seemed to be so illusive last year have clicked into place this year. She still has many challenges academically, but I’m thrilled with the progress she has made to date. I am hopeful that the disruptions of this last part of the school year will not cause a backwards slide in this progression.  This is a worry I can’t allow myself to sit in for long, because there is just no way to know what the long-term impact of this time away from school will be. One day at a time. That’s all we can do.

Other than wrapping up home school for the summer, I’ve been thinking I should be recording somethings that are enjoyable or are bringing satisfaction during this time. It is hard to find a lot, but here are few things that have made me happy lately.

I made this recipe yesterday.  It was delicious and easy. Arden tried it and said it wasn’t the worst thing she ever ate. So, take that as endorsement if you are so inclined.

BUTTERMILK BRINED CHICKEN FROM SALT, FAT, ACID HEAT

yield: 6
prep time: 10 MINUTES
cook time: 1 HOUR
additional time: 30 MINUTES
total time: 1 HOUR 40 MINUTES

Samin Nasrat’s Buttermilk Brined Chicken from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

4.6 Stars (10 Reviews)

PRINT

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (3-4 pound) whole chicken *note below
  • 1 cup Kosher salt + 2 TB
  • 2 cups buttermilk

INSTRUCTIONS

BRINE CHICKEN.

  1. Remove giblets and wingtips from chicken. Season VERY liberally with kosher salt, rubbing on all sides and in crevices.
  2. Let chicken sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Stir 2 tablespoons of kosher salt into buttermilk.
  4. After 30 minutes, put chicken in gallon ziploc bag with buttermilk brine mixture. Move bag to distribute brine to cover the chicken.
  5. Place bag in a baking dish (in case of leaks or spills) and into the refrigerator.
  6. Allow to marinate at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours.

COOK CHICKEN.

  1. Remove the chicken in brine from refrigerator; let sit an hour at room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile position a rack in center oven; preheat to 425° F.
  3. After 30 minutes, remove chicken from the bag, discard brine and pat excess buttermilk off of chicken with a paper towel.
  4. Place chicken in 10″ cast iron skillet.
  5. Place chicken in the 425˚oven with the legs pointing to rear left. Roast 20 minutes
  6. Reduce heat to 400˚F; roast for 10 minutes.
  7. After 10 minutes, rotate the chicken so that legs face rear right of oven.
  8. Continue to roast for 30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 165˚ degrees in the thickest part between leg and breast. Chicken will be brown all over.
  9. Let chicken rest at least 30 minutes before serving.

NOTES

If using fine sea salt reduce to 4 teaspoons. Do NOT used iodized salt.

I couldn’t find a whole chicken at the grocery store – it’s a mad, mad world – so I just did bone-in, skin on Chicken breasts.  I checked the internal temp at the end of step 6 and it was cooked through.  The breasts were huge (ha, ha) so we all 3 ate our fill and there are still left overs.  I served with mashed potatoes, yeast rolls, and steamed broccoli.  It was delicious.
So, that was good stuff.  Also I cleaned out the hallway linen closet and plan to reorganize the storage room that is off of the laundry room.  That’s on the agenda for today.
I’ve read 2 1/2 books in the last week.  One was good and one was horrible.  I’m reserving judgement on the one I’m currently reading.
The good….
Behind Closed Doors By B.A. Paris
The bad…(the really awful!)
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
The current (this is the 8th book in a series – I love this series so I’m sure to love this book)
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
Well, that’s about it. Hope everyone is hanging in there.
News of the Day

More than 3.8 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and over 270,000 have died.

In the United States, there have been over 1.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. More than 75,000 Americans have died.

A record 20.5 million U.S. jobs were lost in April as the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent — the highest it’s been since the Great Depression.

An aide to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus, Bloomberg News reported Friday. President Trump’s personal valet tested positive on Wednesday.

Plan of the Day

Storage room clean out. Read.

See ya soon!

Cheers!

Keep On Keeping On

Day 43

Another Monday.  I took a long weekend from writing the blog. I wrote other places, but didn’t really have anything fit for public consumption to say here. 

The weekend was OK. I made my weekly trip to the grocery store to pick up my order.  I even braved another store, while wearing a face mask, to purchase fresh flowers. I needed something fresh and alive and happy in this house.  While at the store with the flowers, I found a large package of the “good” toilet paper – it was the last one. I felt like the Lord was showing me great favor in that moment, so I grabbed that package and pretty much ran for the check out. There was no need to try to shop for more – TP and Flowers – you gotta know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away and when to RUN!

So, in addition to groceries and fresh flowers, our posteriors can get a break from the sand paper that was passing for toilet paper in our bathroom!  Let the people rejoice!

I then went to Walmart to pick up the grocery order.  As I checked in, the associates who were supposed to be loading my car had a difficult time finding my order. Turns out the car next to me was occupied by a woman named April as well. They had put all my groceries in her car!  Thankfully, she hadn’t pulled out and left before the error was discovered! 

Although, I’m wondering what was in her order? Did I miss out on a fun week of mystery groceries?  Maybe she bought a bunch of really great food and I totally missed it!!??  Anyway, they switched out the bags and we each got our own order. Everything was correct when I got home.  So, crisis averted!

Is anyone watching The Last Dance on ESPN about the ‘98 Bulls? I am. I am LOVING it! I’m so happy they chose to release it early instead of waiting until the initial drop date in June. The 90s were when I was really into NBA basketball and I am totally loving this walk down memory lane. Plus, I’m a sucker for sports documentaries – really any documentaries, but sports are way up there in favorites.  No one does sports docs like 30 for 30.  It is just terrific stuff. 30 for 30 is doing a follow up podcast after each episode, so I’m listen to those on Mondays.  In this time of no live sports, this series is totally filling a void! 

I also thoroughly enjoyed the NFL Draft last week and weekend. I loved going inside all the homes of the coaches and GMs and the players.  It was delightful. I guess what I’m saying is my sports tank is full and it makes me so, so happy!!

You know what didn’t make me happy?  Starting the week with the Monday of all Monday moments. This morning one of the cats decided, out of the blue, to launch herself on top of the china cabinet I have in the dining room.  I use it as a kind of mantle for seasonal decorations.  I change it out a lot.  Yesterday, I put some of the flowers I bought over the weekend in a small vase up there. The cat has a thing for fresh flowers, but she has never jumped up there before, so I didn’t think anything of it.

I was in the laundry room when I heard a crash this morning and ran in to see the vase knocked over, water running down the cabinet and all over the floor.  Because it is spring and I love little fat birds, I had 4 little bird figurines scattered through the decor – 3 of them were laying, smashed to bits on the tile floor. Their little fat bird faces looking up at me with disappointment that I hadn’t anticipated this turn of events.

The cat had also sent a small glass bottle to it’s untimely death on the kitchen floor, and knocked over about 3 more.  It was a mess. The poor thing was standing up there on top of the wreckage, looking scared to death, so I reached up to help her down.  Big mistake. HUGE.

She did not appreciate my attempt at assistance, and showed her disapproval by scratching the foo out of my hand.  It was a moment to say the least.  I tried to get it all cleaned up without stepping on glass or dripping blood all over the place, and then checked the clock – it was only 8 a.m. I nearly went back to bed and called it a day.

I didn’t.

We did school. I’ve done laundry. And I’ve now written this.  No more tragedies have occurred since this morning – but the day isn’t over yet.    I’d cross my fingers in the hope that nothing else will happen – but I can’t – the cat scratch goes all the way down my left pointer finger.  Dang cat!

News of the Day:

More than 208,000 people have died from the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Over 3 million people worldwide have tested positive.

In the United States, more than 55,000 people have died, while there have been over 970,000 confirmed cases.

President Trump’s economic adviser said the jobless rates from the coronavirus will be comparable to the Great Depression.

The World Health Organization director said the pandemic was far from over and expressed concern about children.

Plan of the Day:

Try not to destroy any more decorations or draw any more blood.

See you tomorrow – or whenever.

Cheers!

What Now

Day 14

I don’t have much to say today, other than that the level of frustration I feel over the inability to have any clear path towards when this will all be over is at max capacity.  I understand that control is an illusion, but I like my illusions.

I took a few hours today to make our plans for e-learning this week. That was also an exercise in frustration, because we had a certain pattern to our days that is going to change this week. When schools initially shut down, we were given 2 weeks worth of work to keep us on track for the year and also insure we didn’t have to extend the school year into the summer when we went back.  Now that those two weeks are over and this looks like it will extend at least another 2 weeks (and let’s face it – probably longer) the school district is working on a more robust and connected curriculum for the students. I think that is great. I just hate change. This entire process is just one mess of changes – for the kids, for the parents, for the teachers, for the school district. It is just a lot. Added to all that, I have had problems getting logged into most of the applications that are going to be needed; so I spent a lot of time emailing back and forth with Arden’s teacher to get that all set up.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m feeling overwhelmed.  And I feel guilty about feeling overwhelmed because there are people sick and dying; and healthcare professionals and first responders risking their lives. People are losing their jobs and wondering where their next meal will come from.  So in the scheme of things, me having to figure out how to teach multiples and factors isn’t really that big of a deal. But I’ve said I will be honest here – and the honest truth is I’m overwhelmed. 

I spent a lot of time this afternoon in the kitchen and made a new recipe that Arden enjoyed and asked for more!  That was a major victory.  Here is the recipe if you are interested.

Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta with Mushrooms and Peas

  • Author: Bri McKoy

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 5 oz shiitake or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 14 oz Italian Sausage (or breakfast sausage) 
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock 
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 16 oz Orecchiette pasta or pasta of choice (we used farfella) 

Topping (Optional – we didn’t do this):

  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1/2 cup bread or panko crumbs
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme 

Instructions

  1. In a sauté pan over medium high heat, add the butter and oil. Once butter is melted add the mushrooms. Cook until browned about 2 minutes on each side.
  2. Add the shallot and cook for another minute. Add garlic and salt and sauté for an additional minute. Add the sausage and crumble while it cooks. Sauté for 8 minutes, until browned. 
  3. Slowly pour in the wine, using a wooden spoon to scrap up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
  4. Add mascarpone cheese. Stir to combine. 
  5. Add chicken stock, heavy cream and peas.
  6. Remove from heat and add freshly cracked black pepper and the parmesan cheese. Stir.
  7. Serve over pasta and top with bread crumbs. 

For breadcrumbs:

  1. In a small sauté pan over medium high heat add butter. Add panko or bread crumbs. Sauté until browned, about 2 minutes. Toss in fresh thyme. Use to top pasta.

New of the Day

Global COVID19 cases are 716,101 with 33,854 deaths. US total cases are 136,106 with 2,391 deaths.

President Trump extends social distancing guidelines until April 30th.

Country singer Joe Diffie died from complications from COVID19 

Plan for the Day:

The day is nearly over. I did get 3 days of lesson plans completed and a yummy dinner made. The rest of the evening will likely be pretty lazy, and that’s ok.

See you tomorrow!


Cheers!

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

Day 9

I spiralled down a rabbit hole of news coverage this morning. I’ve actually been doing pretty well not doing that so far, but today that came crashing down. Also, I have a terrible chest cold and am generally miserable, so I am not sleeping well.  And before you ask, no I don’t have the virus. I have no fever at all, I can smell and taste, I can breathe. I just have terrible allergies and cold like symptoms and the weather has been so icky that opening the windows to air out the house is not possible.  So basically I’m a ton of fun to be around today. Makes perfect sense that I would succumb to a few hours of the “world is going to end”; “the U.S. is doomed”; “we are all going to die” programming. I’ll pull myself out of it soon, but that’s where I am mentally right now.

Here’s our schedule for today:

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Of course, the times are subjective – we actually aren’t going to probably get started until 11. The princess is not feeling it this morning and I’m not feeling like the fight.  BUT she is excited that we have a science block scheduled and that I put math games on the schedule instead of more traditional worksheets. My goal in all this is to just keep the slide from happening – I’m not equipped to actually train her in most math concepts, but I can make sure that the math facts and principles she already has don’t dessert her. That and making sure that she keeps moving, reading and experiencing new things is really all I’m equipped to do at this point.  If, for some reason too scary to contemplate, this homeschool thing would have to extend further, then I would need to reassess that plan and perhaps move into a more concrete curriculum. We are doing our best today and there isn’t much more we can be expected to do. 

The 4th grade classes from Arden’s school are scheduled to take a field trip to Chicago on May 1st.  One of the places they are supposed to visit is Shedd Aquarium. She has really been looking forward to the trip, but as more and more things are getting cancelled, it is very likely this trip will as well.  I think she knows that in her mind, but is clinging to the hope that it will still happen. To help mitigate this disappointment, I was excited to find that Shedd does videos of their animals and shares some information about them through their website.  So this week, we will be visiting virtually. Here’s the link if anyone is interested. https://www.sheddaquarium.org/sea-curious

I’m hopeful that things will make a dramatic turn towards the positive and she will get to go on this trip – but if not, this is at least something fun to watch and “escape” the house for a few minutes.

News of the Day: Global coronavirus cases surpassed 395,000 to date, with more than 17,000 deaths.

In the United States, there have been more than 46,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 600 deaths.

The World Health Organization said the United States has the “potential” of becoming the epicenter of the virus.

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed until 2021.

Plan for the Day: Math, reading and science and then Momma is going to lay down for a while.  Clean the kitchen (I feel like all I do is wash dishes – because we are eating all our meals here and we don’t have a dishwasher.) My hands are always washed! 

See you tomorrow!

Cheers!

Monday, Monday

Day 8

Week 2 begins! I couldn’t sleep last night and ended up on the couch watching Ken Burns’ Baseball until the wee hours of the morning.  I finally fell asleep at some point around dawn, but then the dog needed to be walked around 6:30. Long story short (too late), I went back to bed and didn’t wake up until 10:30, so we got a very late start to school today.  We are running so far behind our schedule that we decided to do the first part of the day in our pjs! It is chaos over here I tell you!!

We’ve already had an emotional meltdown – her’s, not mine this time – but the storm seems to have passed. I’m hopeful the remainder of the day will go OK. Here’s our schedule for the day – but as we started so late, I’m not sure we will get to all of it.  If I need to be fired for not meeting expectations, I’m cool with that!

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I thought it might be worthwhile to tell my future self that there were things during this social distancing/canceling of everything in the world time that we enjoyed.  It is easy for me to dwell in the negative, and so today, I’m going to list a few things that have been making me happy. Things that I wouldn’t be doing if we were on a “normal” schedule.  Maybe you will find one or some of them interesting, or maybe I can just look back at the list and be reminded that were good things walking side by side with the bad.

Podcasts

That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs – I have listened to this podcast for a while, but the last couple weeks have been different.  Annie is quarantined in her house for 10 days because she was exposed to the CoronaVirus. So, instead of just her normal twice a week episode, she is also doing a 30 minute daily episode.  It is funny and touching and real and has been a lovely 30 minutes of my day to check out and listen. Today is Day 9 and she has a plan to go through Saturday of this week for these daily shows.

Imagined Life Podcast – I just discovered this one this week.  It has been around for a couple years. This is the description:

What is it like to be famous before you’re famous? What is it like to walk in the shoes of another person?  Each episode of Imagined Life takes you on an immersive journey into the life of a world-famous person. It’ll be someone you may think you know, even admire – or maybe the opposite. You’ll get clues to your identity along the way.  But only in the final moments will you find out who “you” really are.

Each episode is about 1 hour. I have enjoyed playing detective and seeing how soon I can guess “who I am”!  Give it a listen – it is a great distraction when folding laundry or doing dishes. 

Music

Each morning, Arden and I pick a station or artist to play on the stereo while we are doing school work.  I am very pleased to have made the decision to subscribe to Amazon Music – because the sky’s the limit on what we can choose!  Today it is Imagine Dragons. We’ve done Panic At the Disco, Top 40 Radio, Classical, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, etc. I never get to choose, but I’m ok with it.  Arden has good taste in music!

Coloring and Painting

I mentioned this yesterday, but I’m enjoying coloring and painting A LOT!  Arden has these math worksheets that are color coded and sometimes she even lets me do some of the coloring.  I think that is ok, because she has to do the math – and that is really the point! We also have several of those “Grown Up” coloring books.  Coloring is a lifesaver for the overactive brain!

Face Masks

Terry got me a subscription for Fab, Fit, Fun for Christmas a couple years ago, and I have kept up with the subscription.  If you don’t know what that is, it is a health and beauty subscription service. I get a box full of health and beauty products once a season. A lot of things I would not be likely to purchase for myself, but are really fun to try.  They often send different types of face masks or eye masks or scrubs, etc. Because life doesn’t often lend itself to trying everything out – I have a stash of products that I haven’t used. I’ve been doing a different one nearly every day of this isolation.  Each day I tend to take a long bath and do a beauty treatment. It is one place where I can be alone with my thoughts and not have to be “up” for Arden. I can cry or pout or listen to whatever music I want. I can read or just stare at the wall. AND my skin has never been so hydrated!!

News of the Day: Global coronavirus cases surpassed 350,000 to date, with more than 15,000 deaths and 90,000 recoveries.

In the United States, there have been more than 35,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 400 deaths.

 U.S. Senate leaders are seeking to work out a $1 trillion-plus bill that hopes to ease the impact on the economy. Democrats say they’re not ready to sign off on the package.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the lockdown affecting many Americans is likely to last 10 to 12 weeks. But lockdowns alone aren’t enough to defeat the virus, the WHO’s top emergency expert said Sunday.

It is cloudy and cold today.  Rain is in the forecast for nearly everyday this week. 

Plan for the Day:  Make the school day as much of a success as I can. Arden asked to bake something – so I may pull out some baking ingredients and we will make something.  Spaghetti, meatballs, salad and garlic bread for dinner.

See you tomorrow!

Cheers!

I Put Out All My Fall Decorations – So, the Weather Should Feel Free to Cooperate!

According to the calendar, Saturday is the first day of Autumn.  According to my car’s thermostat today, it is the 1,000th day of Summer.  It was 98 degrees yesterday.  Today it is likely to be 93.  This is not OK.  This is the exact opposite of OK.  It is awful.  My brain is melting!

Monday evening, I was getting things shut down around the house after tucking Arden into the bed, and I noticed a sound that seemed to be coming from the air conditioner.  I would best describe it as a forceful moving air sound – a whooshing, maybe.  I was tired and ready for bed and I wasn’t sure if the sound was really louder than normal, or if the house hadn’t been quiet enough while the a/c was running for me to actually pay attention to the sound of the a/c.  So I went to bed.

Tuesday I woke up and the sound was still occurring, so I got things going with the Princess (breakfast, lunch packed, clothes picked, etc.) and then woke up Terry and said “I think the a/c is dying,” and with the saying – my heart sank.  I typically work on Tuesdays, but I had a bunch of things that I needed to get done around the house so had taken the day off.  At that moment, saying that the a/c was dying, I felt like all my best laid plans were about to dissolve into a pool of sweat.

Terry went to investigate, and sure enough – the unit was frozen over.  So we turned it off and called for a repair man.  I started every fan we own blowing on high – the thermostat read 71 at the time, but I was absolutely sure I would be a/c-less for several days, so I was trying to keep the temp as low as I could so I would not have to move into a hotel!! This mama does NOT do heat.

As I often do, I over reacted.  Shocking.  The repairman came at noon, had it fixed by 1 (filter and low coolant levels deemed to be the problem) and my house was a cool 68 degrees in no time.  Crisis averted and I was able to get all my many chores accomplished – which included putting all my fall decor out….so that means it should be 65 today, right?  RIGHT!  It is not – BUT, as promised – here a few recommendations that might get you in the “mood” for cooler weather…

Recipe

Jones’ Kinda Famous Chili

chili

The starting point for this recipe comes from a church cookbook – Not By Bread Alone.  It is the pastor wife’s recipe and great by itself – but I have made some tweaks over the years and I’ve enjoyed the results.  I made it for a party a couple weeks ago and was asked several times for the recipe.  And 2 years ago, I won a chili cook off with it – so I’m going to say it is probably one of the best things I make.  So, time to share the love…

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds of 75/25 ground beef – I have used less fatty levels of ground beef – but with chili I think you just need to embrace the grease and this is the best for this recipe.

1 medium onion diced

2 tablespoons Chili Powder

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste – I just guess at this – there is so much going on here, it would be hard to over salt and pepper – maybe a teaspoon each?  You do you

1 packet of dry chili mix – depending on your heat preference you can choose original or hot.  I prefer the generic Aldi packet (Friendly Farms, I think) for this – I don’t know why, but it always makes the best pot ‘o chili.

1 can of diced tomatoes

2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce

1 can chili beans in sauce

 

How to:

Brown ground beef with onions and Chili Powder/Cayenne/salt and pepper.  I use a dutch oven or large soup pan from start to finish – you want all the brown bits in the finished product! DO NOT DRAIN.  To cooked beef mix, add can of tomatoes and 1/4 of the chili mix pkt.  Let simmer together for a couple minutes.  Add tomato sauce and 1/4 of the chili mix pkt. Bring to boil.  Once boil has been achieved, lower the temp to medium low (you don’t want it to boil for very long, just enough to bring up the temp and then simmer it on medium low). Let cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. About 30 minutes through cooking, add 1/4 pkt of chili mix.

Add can of chili beans and remainder of chili pkt and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

Viola!

Serve with shredded cheese, crackers or Fritos and sour cream if you like it – really whatever fixin’s you want. Chili is really good over mashed potatoes – did you know that?!?!  It is – try it and tell me I’m wrong!

Nothing says fall like a big pot of chili bubbling on the stove, football on the TV and cozy socks.  It is too hot of the socks right now – but crank down the a/c and give it a whirl!

Book

I’ve read a lot of duds lately, but I think that is the way it goes when you are trying to read more books than you have in the past – you gotta kiss a lotta frogs.  However, I just read the most delightfully light, heart warming, feel good, romantic comedy type book that I think is worth the read.  Plus it is set in Oxford – and what makes you feel more like wearing tweed and sipping hot tea on a dreary fall day more than Oxford?  Not much I say! 35068830.jpg

This was simply delightful (and sad).  I hope she writes more.

Podcast

Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People

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1 phone call. 1 hour. No names. No holds barred. That’s the premise behind Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, hosted by comedian Chris Gethard (the Chris Gethard Show, Broad City, This American Life, and one of Time Out’s “10 best comedians of 2015”). Every week, Chris opens the phone line to one anonymous caller, and he can’t hang up first, no matter what. From shocking confessions and family secrets to philosophical discussions and shameless self-promotion, anything can and will happen!

Episode 121 is amazing – “Prison Bound” – In a few days, this caller will turn herself over to federal authorities and begin a multi-year prison sentence. She tells Geth about how she ended up with a federal indictment, getting sober and all the fast food she’ll be eating before turning herself in.

Not all episodes are so sad or stark – some are funny, some are odd, some are just “hmmm” inducing.  There is some language in some of the episodes, so I wouldn’t listen with small children around.

I’ve enjoyed picking and choosing through 130 episodes when something looks interesting.


Well, alrighty then – that’s about it for today.  See, I can do light and cheerful as well as dark and needy!  Let me know if you try out any of the suggestions above.

See ya soon!

Reading Challenge Update and Some Random Things I Like Right Now

Yesterday’s blog was a bit depressing – so I thought today I’d lighten the mood a bit and give you an update on how my self-imposed reading challenge is going.  I’m also going to throw in some links to few things I’ve found lately that have made me think, smile, and/or cry. Hope you enjoy!

Book Challenge

As you may remember, this year I challenged myself to read 40 books. I set up my challenge on Goodreads – and I am happy to report, I have completed 21 of 40 books thus far in 2018!  It is all very exciting!  Only 19 books left and I’m feeling pretty confident in my ability and resolve to accomplish this goal.

Here are a couple books that I really enjoyed and a couple sentences to describe them.  These two books are what I consider good “summer” reading – so if you are interested in a quick, light and enjoyable way to spend some summer reading time, you might check them out.

The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy Reichert

Cover art

Three generations. Seven days. One big secret.

I found this to be a fun and heart warming story about family secrets and how they impact not only the ones keeping the secrets but also those from whom the secrets are kept.  A character study of 3 generations of women in a tight-knit family all of whom have their own damage, heartbreak and ultimate redemption.

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

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I found this to be thoroughly charming.  This author has also written a book called Delancy about her and her husband’s adventure to open a pizza restaurant in Seattle.  It is delightful as well.  Food memoirs just make me happy.  Check this out if you are hungry for a good story and some good food!

Ok, so that’s the book part.  Here are a few other recommendations for things I’ve come across lately:

Movie:

Set It Up on Netflix

Image result for set it upIn the mood for a good romantic comedy?  Check this movie out. It was cute and funny and light and airy and well Taye Diggs is in it – so that’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon!  I really enjoyed this movie, and it made think that it has been a LONG time since a decent rom-com has been out.  And that is just a shame!

Podcasts:

How I Built This

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“How I Built This is an American podcast about “innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built” produced by NPR.”

Talk about inspiring!  I stumbled across this when I heard it referenced on NPR after the passing of Kate Spade (she and her husband are featured in a episode a couple years ago) and went to find it immediately.  I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not having known about it earlier – but that simply means I have a lot of listening to look forward to! There are interviews with all types of people from the inventor of Spanx to the founder of Starbucks and a ton in between.  Episodes are from 30 – 60 min long and so well done.  Highly motivational and idea sparking.  I thoroughly recommend.

The RFK Tapes

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“From the creators of ​Crimetown​ and Cadence13, this is ​The RFK Tapes—an audio documentary series that takes a new look at the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. For the past fifty years, authorities have claimed that the case was open and shut. Sirhan Sirhan was captured at the scene, gun in hand. He admitted to the crime and is serving a life sentence. But some say there’s evidence of a larger conspiracy.”

I’m a sucker for a conspiracy theory and all things Kennedy – so this hits a lot of my “must listen” boxes. Crimetown is another favorite podcast of mine, so I had high hopes it would be good – they were fulfilled (so far).  This is a 10-part documentary podcast and so far there have been 4 episodes released, but I’m loving it.

TV Show:

Younger

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“Forty-year-old Liza (Sutton Foster) passes herself off as 26 to land a job — and now, she has to make sure no one discovers her secret.”

I recommend this with trepidation – because there are some adult themes in it, but it is set in the book publishing world and reminds me a bit of Melrose place without the cheesiness of the 90s mixed with Sex in the City without the trashiness of HBO.  All previous seasons (1-4) are available on Hulu and season 5 just started a couple of weeks ago.  Tuesday nights on TVLand.

Recipe:

Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole (don’t judge)

Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole- simple, delicious, and hearty. Perfect for a weeknight dinner!

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds extra lean ground beef, browned (I brown with garlic and a bit of diced onion and black pepper for taste)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 8 oz tub of sour cream
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or more if you like more cheese)
  • 1 package of frozen tater tots
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray.
  3. Layer the beef of the bottom of the pan.
  4. In a small bow, mix the sour cream and cream of mushroom soup. Then spread on top of the beef.
  5. Layer the cheese on top of the sour cream mixture.
  6. Layer the tater tots on top of the cheddar.
  7. Bake covered for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes.
  8. Serve with ketchup and mustard for that cheeseburger taste!

This is SO not healthy, but oh so VERY good.  It has all the things you shouldn’t love but just can’t help yourself.  It is on a pretty steady rotation in my house.  Sometimes I make a salad as a side – just to make myself feel less guilty.

Enjoy!

That’s all for today.  I hope you are having a fun summer so far!

See ya soon!

 

Eat, Read, Listen and be Merry

Hey all!  It’s been a while since I shared some things that I’m loving right now.  On tap today – a couple recipes, a couple books, and a couple podcasts that are making me happy right now.

But before we start – today is the first day of spring – and I had to wear a winter puffy coat because it was 30 degrees when I left the house this morning.  I’m not OK with that.  I just am not.  I think when spring – ah, springs – the temperature needs to automatically rise by at least 20 degrees, the leaves need to magically appear on the trees and my lawn should suddenly resemble Central Park in full bloom.  I’m aware none of these things have any chance of happening, but a girl can dream.

Ok – some fun things I’ve found recently…

Recipes – I’m desperately trying to add new recipes to my dinner routine.  Taco Tuesdays are great, but sometimes you need to switch things up a bit.  Here are a couple I’ve found recently that were a hit with my husband (my child rarely eats anything I cook) AND made great leftovers (which is key because we are really trying to stick to the budget this year, and that includes bringing our lunches to work).  Both of these were found on Pinterest – but I will link to the original website for you if you would like to try them.

Teriyaki Chicken

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http://www.crunchycreamysweet.com/2016/06/06/quick-teriyaki-chicken-rice-bowls-recipe/

This one has made its way into our regular rotation.  It is super easy and yummy.  I doubled the recipe last time I made it and we had lunches for 3 days. Sometimes I mix the broccoli in with the chicken and sauce and sometimes I serve them separately.  The hardest part of this recipe is cutting the chicken up into bite sized pieces – because I HATE working with raw chicken.  But I bought these from Pampered Chef a few years ago, and they have helped a bit…

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Also, the blog this came from has a bunch of what look to be easy Chinese takeout knock offs – I’ve not tried them yet, but I plan to.

One Pot Sausage/Penne Skillet

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https://www.julieseatsandtreats.com/one-pot-ham-penne-skillet-recipe/

This recipe calls for ham, and I’m sure it is great with that; but I had an Italian sausage in the fridge that needed to be used, so I used that instead.  I was worried the sauce would taste like flour because I struggle with sauces that have flour in them – so I whisked the flour into the milk before adding it to the skillet and that seemed to solve the issue.  Next time I make this, I will salt and pepper a bit more aggressively because it seemed a bit bland.  Also, may try to amp up the spices.  But as a starting point it was pretty tasty.

Terry thought this tasted a bit like a carbonara (although carbonara has eggs in it and this does not) and I agree.  It was REALLY good the next day.

Books – I’m well on my way to my 40 books in 2018 goal.  I’m due to finish up 2 more books this week which will take me to 9 and according to Goodreads I’m right on track.  Winning!  Here a couple books I’ve read so far this year that I would recommend (one fiction and one non-fiction)

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly (fiction)

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“In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack. She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever. Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear, and while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something, and someone, is always in the dark.”

I’m a sucker for a book that keeps you guessing until the end; and this book comes through in spades.  I enjoyed it so much.  I will say, it starts a little slowly, which can sometimes make me abandon a book, but I stuck with it and the payoff was pure gold.

I also thought the backdrop of solar eclipses around the world was fun given last year’s solar eclipse mania.

The author is British and this is set in London, so sometimes pop culture or language differences get a little distracting, but you can maneuver through these pretty easily.

If you give it a try, let me know.

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of New America by Gilbert King (non-fiction)

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“Devil in the Grove is the winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when he became embroiled in an explosive and deadly case that threatened to change the course of the civil rights movement and cost him his life.

In 1949, Florida’s orange industry was booming, and citrus barons got rich on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. To maintain order and profits, they turned to Willis V. McCall, a violent sheriff who ruled Lake County with murderous resolve. When a white seventeen-year-old Groveland girl cried rape, McCall was fast on the trail of four young blacks who dared to envision a future for themselves beyond the citrus groves. By day’s end, the Ku Klux Klan had rolled into town, burning the homes of blacks to the ground and chasing hundreds into the swamps, hell-bent on lynching the young men who came to be known as “the Groveland Boys.”

And so began the chain of events that would bring Thurgood Marshall, the man known as “Mr. Civil Rights,” into the deadly fray. Associates thought it was suicidal for him to wade into the “Florida Terror” at a time when he was irreplaceable to the burgeoning civil rights movement, but the lawyer would not shrink from the fight—not after the Klan had murdered one of Marshall’s NAACP associates involved with the case and Marshall had endured continual threats that he would be next.

Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI’s unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund files, King shines new light on this remarkable civil rights crusader, setting his rich and driving narrative against the heroic backdrop of a case that U.S. Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson decried as “one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice.”

This was really well done.  I, sadly, did not know this story nor much about Thurgood Marshal other than Brown V. Board of Education and his eventual seat on the Supreme Court.  To say this was an enjoyable read would not be true, although the author does add the humor of real life to the tense story (those times were certainly welcomed and appreciated), but I did learn a lot and was glad I picked it up.  To be honest, I can’t remember where I saw this or heard about it, but I’m glad I did.

I will say – it is long (434 pages – with tiny type), and there are a lot of details and a lot of characters to keep straight.  I think the struggle with books like this is to make it readable for the audience while still including the details necessary to give a true picture.  I think being able to navigate that fine line is a challenge for modern day non-fiction authors – unfortunately readers’ attention spans are not getting longer.  I thought King did a decent job at this, and the moments of “skimming” to get farther along in the story were very few.

Podcasts – I listen to podcasts on the Stitcher App on my Android phone – but I believe all of these are available through iTunes as well if you are an Apple person.  (10 years ago, the previous sentence would have made NO sense! Wow, the machines are running our lives!)

….These Are Their Stories: The Law & Order Podcast

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www.lawandorderpodcast.com

 

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!???  I found this podcast this week and knew I had found my people.  This podcast is hosted by a husband and wife team who are true crime authors and also work in Public Radio.  Each episode recaps Law and Order episodes (original, SVU or Criminal Intent) with famous or semi-famous guests (actors, authors, podcasters, journalists, musicians, etc).

There are about 3 years of episodes already – so I’m clearly late coming to this party – but I was super excited that

a. I am not alone in my love of Law and Order and

b. I have lots and lots and lots of episodes to binge listen.

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate

http://www.slate.com/articles/slate_plus/watergate.html

“You think you know the story, or maybe you don’t. But Watergate was stranger, wilder, and more exciting than you can imagine. What did it feel like to live through the scandal that brought down a president? Join Leon Neyfakh for an eight-episode podcast miniseries that tells the story of Watergate as it happened—and asks, if we were living through Watergate, would we know it?”

So very, very good.  I have been a Watergate nerd forever, but a lot of the details this podcast brings to light are things I hadn’t heard or remembered. It is not politically wonky – so if you don’t geek out on all things politics you can still enjoy the story.

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Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. Let me know if you check out any or all of the above and if you liked any of them – but only if you want to, no pressure, I’m not the boss of you.

Next time on “If My Love Were” – Terry and April celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.  I am writing up our “story” to add to the blog this weekend.  Not because I think anyone is all that interested in our story, but because (per the previous blog post) I’m afraid I will at one point have no memories left and need to get things written down!

See ya soon!

Getting Old

It is Monday.  Have you noticed? Mondays are typically the day I get all my “house” stuff done – cleaning, laundry, catching up on Netflix – you know the important stuff!  But today we have no food.  Like none.  There is 1/3 a gallon of milk and some onions in my fridge and other than that – NOTHING.  So I need to go the grocery store.  Here is my problem…the closest grocery store to the house in the woods is way more expensive and choice limited than the Aldi in Springfield.  So, while I could go to the closest grocery store and probably accomplish getting the bulk of what I need, I would completely break the budget for groceries this week (which if you recall, I am determined to stick to in 2018!) and not have as much of a selection of products from which to choose. I have had several internal and external discussions this morning trying to psych myself up to get out and go to Springfield.  I’ve worn out my family with my self-encouragement.  They are over me.  They have quit taking my calls. So, I bit the bullet and pulled out the planner and grocery list notebook.  I have the list completed, the money envelope is in my purse and the grocery bags are set out.  I’m basically out the door.  So, why not sit down and write a quick blog?  Procrastination is my love language!

Getting Old

I was drying my hair this morning, and it occurred to me that I’m getting old. I turn 42 in a couple months and this fact is striking me as a bit concerning.  Especially because I’m starting to notice in myself attributes of the middle aged that I was certain would never ever happen to me…

  1. I have a 6 step face cleaning regime.  A regime I tell you!!  What has happened to me???  I used to maybe run a cloth over my eyes before falling into bed each night and now I am cleansing, buffing, exfoliating, masking, astringent-ing and moisturizing every night.  This process feels like it takes an hour.  I have to time budget it into my bed time process.  And to be honest, I’m not at all sure it is doing any good.  I still have these ridiculous age spot things and tiny wrinkles around my eyes (which my daughter has pointed out to me on more than one occasion).  I really believe things would be much easier if I could just have Oprah’s lighting crew follow me around all day every day (because that woman always looks flawless and she is a couple decades older than me).  And before you say that I should have been doing this face cleansing process thing since puberty, I say to you that I am aware and well shoulda, coulda, woulda.

2. I think I may be going through a bit of a midlife crisis.  Now let me be clear, I’m not on the verge of buying a sports car or trading my husband in on a 21 year old.  Nothing that life destroying.  My crisis is of the more mild variety.  It’s my hair.  My hair is now longer than it has been since my Freshman year of college.  I started growing it out when I turned 41.  I don’t know why that year prompted me to begin, but I think I had the idea that at a certain age you are just too old to grow your hair out anymore (I have NO idea what age that is). Also, I was not entirely sure I COULD grow my hair out anymore (maybe at 41 your hair stops being able to grow past your ear lobes – or at least mine).  I’m also not sure if I were to grow it out, I would have any earthly idea how to style it – because the last time I used a curling iron, I sprayed Aqua Net on every curl and then teased like my life depended on it (I AM completely sure the “kids” aren’t doing that these days). But grow it out I have, and it isn’t bad. I’m not sure it is good, but it isn’t bad.  So I’m keeping it for a while and we will see.  I’m hopeful that this life change is the most extreme my mid-life crisis advances, because I’ve also noticed as I get older, I’m too tired to really give energy to much more change.

3. I’m addicted to podcasts and sportsTV. I used to be a total political and news junkie.  I used to be up on all pop culture news.  I used to know all the songs on the radio.  And now? Now, I find pop culture annoying – because kids these days.  I find politics and news anger inducing and blood pressure rising (oh yeah, my blood pressure is a thing I have to think about now). I now find the nostalgia of a good sports retrospective documentary relaxing.  And nothing chills me out like listening to a well crafted podcast mini-series.  I prefer to listen to NPR than Top 40 radio.  See – I’m old.

Here are some podcasts you should check out if you, like me, are addicted to well produced podcast stories….

Slow Burn (produced by Slate Magazine) – this is a 9 part series on the Watergate scandal.  It is SO good and digs into details you probably don’t know – I didn’t.

Origins with James Andrew Miller – Season 2- an 8 part series on the “origins” of ESPN.  Oh my goodness – so good – and combines two of my favorite things – sports documentaries and podcasts

Someone Knows Something – this is produced out of Canada Public Radio.  I’m only 3/4 of a season into a 4 season series, but it is good.  Investigative journalism in serialized format of unsolved crimes.  Good times.

More Perfect produced by Radiolab – I can’t remember if I recommended this before, and I am not going to take the time to go back and look – but this is a 2 season (so far) series on the the Supreme Court – probably the least well known of the 3 branches of government.  Very entertaining and thought provoking.  Disclaimer – they do approach it from a slightly leftist point of view, so just pass that through whatever political filter you may possess.

4. I was talking to my sister earlier today and asked her if she has noticed anything that she does now that she never thought she would do when she was younger.  (Disclaimer – she is younger than I and hasn’t broken the 40 year threshold yet, so I have to say that she still displays youth and vitality much more than I.  But no one can hold off time and the changes come on slowly and start before you actually hit your 40th year). She said the thing she noticed is that she has to turn down the car radio if she needs to think.  YES!  Me too!  Our dad used to do that and we both thought it was so weird.  Like why can’t you think with the music loud!?!?  I now have to turn down all noise when I need to really concentrate on something.  I used to be able to write, read, do math with music or the TV blaring.  I got through two semesters of Russian history thanks to the blasting of The Hunt for Red October sound track. Now, it is like a constant ADD fest of distractions if even the spin cycle can be heard in a room in which I’m writing or thinking. Is this normal?  Again I say – What has happened to me??

I am sure there are many other examples of how I’m starting to change now that I’ve tip over the edge of the life hill – like that mountain climber on that Price is Right game. (Exhibit 5 of my advanced age – I’m fairly sure they haven’t used this game on Price is Right since Bob Barker was there – if you ask me who Bob Barker is, I may have to come through this screen and slap you). I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but let’s be honest – 90 years is about the most we can hope for and really 80 or 85 seems more realistic given some of my youthful choices and McDonald’s consumption – so I’m about at the half way mark. And Isn’t THAT a happy thought!?!?

I will say though, that even with all these not all together welcomed changes, I am finding that I do somethings way better now than when I was half of THIS age.  I definitely am better at planning, I’m better at prioritizing what is important, I’m better at not giving energy to things that simply don’t matter (though I will probably always struggle in this area).  And I’m better and kicking myself in the tail to get things done….

and with that…off to the grocery store I go!

Happy Monday!  See ya soon!

 

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