Lessons From Daddy

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Every day I think about my dad.  Today is no different from any other in that way, but today I was reminded of one of the many lessons that he taught me.  My parents only had girls, and dad especially, never wanted us to rely on anyone but ourselves in this life.  Don’t get me wrong, he hoped and prayed that we’d find partners in life that would be just that…partners, and we did, but he never wanted us to be less than self sufficient.  It was instilled in us from a very young age.  One of the ways he did that was by making us mow the lawn.  Yes, I said it.  Our dad made us mow the lawn and oh how we hated this chore.  We couldn’t even hope for a tan, because he insisted we wear jeans for protection from possible flying debris.  We used a push lawn mower, too.  There was only a brief time while I was still home that a riding lawnmower was introduced, and there’s a story and a lesson that came with that, too.  I’ll save it for another day.

Today was beautiful.  I returned home after a workout sweaty and tired and decided that I would tackle our front yard.  My husband takes pride in cutting our lawn and honestly, he does an amazing job, so I rarely even think about the task.  Well, I’m really good at telling him how great of a job he did,  and even better at rewarding him with an ice cold beverage.  (it’s the southern lady in me)  This afternoon, as I struggled to get the push lawnmower out of the shed and push it to the front yard, I questioned if I was really up for it, but I knew it would be a nice surprise for my husband and I also wanted an excuse to stay outside and avoid any other work, so I pushed on.  Since the weather has been warm and gorgeous lately, the grass wasn’t overall bad, but it had sprouts of weeds poking here and there that certainly were not pretty.  I guess it’s time to address the weeds that have wondered into our yard, as well.  Anyway, halfway through struggling through the front yard I remembered a Saturday long ago.  Saturday mornings were the day of the week to cut the lawn, if we were in town.  This particular Saturday was one that my teenage self had plans on that had nothing to do with yard work.  I remember the angst I felt at having to do this chore before I could leave.  I practically ran while I mowed the endless lines of grass in the backyard and in no time I was done.  I raced to the back door with a huge smile of relief ready to take a shower and go about my super fun day with my friends, but was quickly greeted by my dad.  He met me at the door and turned me around.  I was bewildered and confused, but he quickly made me understand.  My “super fast” job was not as wonderful as I had thought.  He pointed out how I had not overlapped my lines and there were sprigs of grass sticking up all over the backyard.  I felt the weight of the world at that moment.  Not only did I have to clean those sprigs up, but as part of the lesson he made me cut the whole backyard over again while he watched.   I remember fuming inside.  How dare he make me do this task again.  I had friends to hang out with.  I had important things to do.  As I finally finished my second round of mowing, my dad greeted me and asked me what I had learned.  Begrudgingly I admitted that in my rush I had failed to do a good job.  He looked at me with the kindest eyes and said that every job we take on in life should be done the best way we can do it.  We should always worry about the quality of our work, because it bears our name.  In my haste to mow a quantity of grass in a short time, I had not done a quality job.  It was still hard to look at him with understanding then, and at that age, but to this day it has stuck with me.  I also remember that he pointed out how great the yard looked after my second attempt.  Quality will almost always win over quantity.  It’s just one of those lessons on my mind today.  Thanks dad.

Healthier Stuffed Peppers

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Red Peppers stuffed with grilled chicken, quinoa, kale and cheese

As a woman that was born and raised in the South, I’m no stranger to a stuffed pepper.  There were so many meals that my mother prepared for us growing up that still cause my mouth to water, but her stuffed peppers were not my thing.  Everyone else loved them.  I’ve just never been a fan of the green bell pepper, which is what she stuffed with some kind of hamburger meat concoction.   Trust me, I’ve come a long way from the picky eater that I was as a child, but I still have no desire to add the green bell pepper to my diet.  A girl has to be true to herself.

A few years ago, my friends Bill and Cynthia brought a cool jalapeno pepper grill rack to our beach house.  They had stuffed them with some kind of sausage concoction and they were delicious.  I’m a little bit of a jalapeno pepper addict.  I like things spicy.  So, I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually start stuffing peppers.  Here’s the evidence.  🙂

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole organic red peppers
  • 1 cup dry organic quinoa
  • 2 small skinless and boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup raw kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 3 cups Gluten Free organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella and asiago cheese
  • 3 large cloves of garlic freshly minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pack gluten free taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp. fresh parsley
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil to medium high heat in a small frying pan.  Add the chicken and cook until the juices run clear.  Most small chicken breasts should cook in about 5-7 minutes.  It just depends on their size.  The chicken will need to be flipped over half way through the cooking time. Once cooked, remove from pan and set to the side. Leave any leftover chicken fond in the pan.  Let chicken breasts sit for at least ten minutes before you cut them.  While the chicken is cooking, fill a small boiler with 2 cups of the broth and the quinoa.  Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to low and cover.  Simmer for about 9-10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it and stir periodically.  You just want to cook it until the liquid is gone.  Salt and pepper to taste.  While quinoa is simmering, add the remaining olive oil to the pan the chicken was cooked.   Bring the pan to medium high heat.  Once hot, add the vinegar to the pan and use spatula to lift fond. Add the minced garlic to the pan and cook until it is golden. ( takes about one minute)  Add the kale and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until wilted.  Remove from heat and add the kale to the quinoa.  Mix 3/4 of the cheese and all the taco seasoning into the mixture and set aside.  Chop chicken into small pieces and add to the quinoa.  Remove the tops of the red peppers, seeds, and ribs.  Place in a casserole dish that will fit all four peppers inside.  Fill each pepper with quinoa mixture.  Top with remaining cheese.  Pour remaining broth into the casserole dish.  (this will help the peppers steam)  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes.  Peppers will be soft and liquid will have evaporated.  Remove foil and broil the peppers for 2-3 minutes.  Do not walk away while broiling.  As soon as the cheese starts to bubble, they are ready.  Let peppers stand for 5-10 minutes.  Chop fresh parsley and sprinkle over hot peppers.  Serve with a light salad.

Notes:

This makes 4 stuffed peppers.  Depending on the size of the peppers, there may be leftover quinoa mixture.  You can save this in the fridge for 2-3 days.  The peppers that I used were rather large and technically were two servings each.  The hubs and I shared one.  My sister heated hers the next day in the microwave and added goats cheese.  It’s not a bad idea, so feel free to add more cheese.

 

 

Tuning Out So You Can Tune In

My year of hope and joy is going strong. This grieving business is tough. After almost half a year of ignoring my nutrition and health, my body has been letting me know (screaming at me) to start taking care of it.
Luckily, I’m blessed to have a sister who is also my best friend. We have both been feeling the need for a “tune out” and we are well versed in the art of a comfortable silence with each other. We were planning to go to the family beach house for a little wellness break, but then remembered we had already winterized the cottage and with snow upon us, it didn’t seem smart to undo that work. Hence reservations at The Umstead ensued. 🙂

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Committed to creating memorable experiences for our guests, The Umstead Hotel and Spa enhances your stay with this well-considered array of luxury amenities and services. The Umstead

 

Why yes they are…it’s really so special. We were greeted by our concierge, Larry. He was delightful. He took care of our valet and escorted us to the front desk. Front desk attendants, Sarah and Hannah were able to check us in early to our room.  Yay!  For their “basic room” we were pretty dang happy.  Look at this place.  Larry made sure we were settled into our rooms before leaving.  He is the best!

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We had scheduled spa treatments early on in the day so we’d have time to enjoy the spa amenities.  I’m not new to spa time, but this place really does take it to another level of enjoyment.  I ran around and took a few pictures before more clients arrived.

We started the morning with a long steam followed by showers before our facials.  I’m slightly crushed that I didn’t take a picture of the amazing showers at the spa.  The ceilings are a good 15′ tall and the showers are frosted glass 6′ up and then clear above.  It was snowing while I showered.  Ahhhhhhh.

My facial was their signature Valmont facial.

This skin-firming, 100% collagen mask is like a “biological face-lift.” Through unique and exclusive treatment protocols, the Valmont treatment is easily distinguished from all others notably because of the “Butterfly Movement”. Thanks to its combination of active ingredients, it helps reactivate the skin’s deficient natural functions and from the very first application, the appearance of the upper layers of the skin is visibly and lastingly improved. Skin instantly recovers its natural resilience, suppleness and radiance.
*For 30 years, the Valmont Group has been helping women and men master the visible signs of aging. Heir to traditional Swiss medicine, the company draws inspiration from the unspoiled natural resources of Switzerland and the latest cellular cosmetic research findings to formulate utmost anti-aging skin care products featuring visible and long-lasting efficacy. Patented Triple DNA, Glacial Spring Water and pure plant extracts are the key ingredients used for their unequalled hydration, regeneration and cellular reactivation properties.

Kelly had the Jurlique Brightening Vitamin C Facial.

This relaxing facial addresses uneven skin tone and skin discoloration. The concentrated VitaBrightKX, a superfruit complex featuring Kakadu Plum Extract – the worlds’ richest fruit source of Vitamin C, helps to brighten and even skin tone.

After our facials we relaxed in the downstairs women’s lounge by the gas logs, reading our books.   We had a late brunch in the hotel bar around 1.  I had a decadent smoked bacon casserole with pepper preserves, aged cheddar and Yukon gold potatoes.

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My sister had a healthier brunch.  She had the salmon with capers, red onions and boiled egg.

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After our strenuous morning of facials, steaming and brunching, we headed back to our lounge chairs by the fire with our books.  The staff was able to squeeze me in for an afternoon massage, too.  I was a little bit of a princess.

After my massage, a little guilt set in and we both decided to hit the hotel gym.  I started with a little yoga and ended with 20 minutes on the elliptical machine.  After our workouts, we tried the outside, heated current pool followed by a little time in the sauna.  If you are going to a spa, make sure you have allotted time to use all of the spa amenities that are offered.  It’s part of the experience.

Look at this cutie!

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We dined in the hotel bar for dinner, as well.  Heron’s is closed Sunday afternoon and evening, but the same culinary team takes care of the hotel bar food, as well…so yes it was delicious!

The Umstead is pleased to offer homegrown vegetables and herbs from our nearby dedicated farm. Herons has been recognized by Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Southern Living, in addition to receiving numerous accolades and awards including Five Stars from Forbes Travel Guide and Five Diamonds from AAA.

For my dinner, I had oysters on the half shell with a champagne and herb mignonette and pickled vegetables.

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I also couldn’t resist ordering the charred beets with pistachio and horseradish rye crisps.

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And this beautiful cocktail called the Hibiscus.  It consisted of Ciroc, St. Germain, Sparkling wine, lemon and an edible hibiscus.

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After dinner we went back to our beautiful room and opened a great bottle of red and cuddled up in our beds to watch whatever was on TV.  We settled on zoning out to the X-men.  We were both asleep before 8.  It’s tiring to be pampered so much. 🙂  We’ve both been working so hard to close dad’s store and make sure that mom has all of her needs taken care of and in that process we both had kind of lost our mojo a little.  After the wonderful attention the Umstead staff provided us, we are both feeling refreshed.  Sometimes tuning everything out for a while allows you to really tune back in to yourself.

What’s Under Your Desk?

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Between the after Easter candy that was on sale this month and the slow progression of warm weather this month, my pants were getting tight.  I’ve been reading reviews on under the desk exercise bikes for the past few weeks and making notes.  They range in price from 20.00 up to 200.00.  (Obviously way less expensive than a bunch of new pants.)  When I started my search for one of these, I was first considering one for around 100.00.  The more reviews that I read, I found that there wasn’t a huge difference between all of the options.  The 20.00 one was clearly not going to handle the work load I intended to give it, but the 100.00 one seemed to have the same cons as the lesser expensive models.  I was looking for a really low profile to accommodate the height of my desk, but not looking for any fancy electronics that might fail.  I ended up purchasing the Stamina Instride Cycle on Amazon for a little over 35.00.  It came in today and I love it.  I’ve finally stopped biking due to the fact that my knee was starting to hurt and my dress kept riding up too far.  I’ll have to rethink my work attire-Maybe I’ll just bring a throw blanket.  In fact, that will most likely work best.  The guys I work with pump the air conditioner in the summer and I’m always freezing.

So my thoughts thus far on just 2 hours of use:

     Even the lowest profile version still doesn’t allow me to sit with my chair pulled all the way up to my desk-slight bummer

     My chair doesn’t have locking casters, so I have to keep at least one hand solid on my desk to keep stationary-dang

     I’m amazed that I was able to do this easily for two hours while being productive at my job

    The resistance can be adjusted, but I didn’t make it too hard-I’m going for more repetition

     Even with the rubber feet, I had to make sure they were on the carpet so it would not slide-Not a problem

All in all, I’m excited to have a way to do a little more during the sedentary part of my day.  I’m pretty thrilled that I only spent 35.00 for this much happiness.  This is the link to the one that I purchased:

http://www.amazon.com/Stamina-15-0120-InStride-Cycle-XL/dp/B000PEM63K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430423233&sr=8-1&keywords=stamina+instride+XL

So what’s under your desk?  Sassy answers welcome.  🙂

Avocado, Corn, Cherry Tomato & Black Bean Salad

imageHello Friday night.  I didn’t work today and spent most of the day re-painting the media room.  I was tired, but I wanted to make a good meal, worthy of a Friday night at home. A good burger can really do the trick at my house, but I couldn’t handle the normal side of sweet potato fries, or any other potato side I would normally do.  I mean, what is it with the potato and burger combo?  If it’s not a potato chip, its french fries, or sweet potato fries or potato salad?  And don’t get me wrong, they are all worthy combinations.  I just wanted something different tonight, maybe a little more nutrition to go with my burger.  I’m no nutritionist, so I’m not sure of how one would react to my substitute or even that I was having a burger.  Oh well.  I chose to make one of my favorite summer sides and I hope you’ll try it this spring as one of your side dishes.

Avocado, Corn, Cherry Tomato & Black Bean Salad

Ingredients:

9 ounces fresh cherry tomatoes-washed and cut in half
1-15 ounce can black beans-rinsed and drained
1-15 ounce can corn-rinsed and drained

1 avocado peeled and cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1 large lemon
Juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro or 1 teaspoon dry cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients together and refrigerate for ten minutes before serving.  Bon Appetit!

Tears May Fall

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Oh how I love my book club. The variety of books that I have read this year has been astounding. I’m normally not a girl who likes to read a tear jerker. I try to stay positive and reading these books can take me down. One of the girls in book club recommended this book to me and since she’s never let me down with her book choices, I went for it. Wow. I thought it was really interesting. Although, I came close, I did not cry. This was my first Jojo Moyes book and I found her to be a great storyteller. As usual, I can’t tell you more. I rarely even like to read a book jacket for fear of it taking away from my experience with reading a book. Thank goodness for my book club. If it were not for them I would just read a ton of books on dystopian societies. Yep, I’m weird like that.
But for those of you who will take a recommendation from me on a tear jerker. Read this. Be warned that tears may fall.

Parallel Jump

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Cameron Garriepy has composed a great novella with this one. Sadly, this book has been sitting on my dresser for far too long. I have been slowly sifting through the stack of books on my dresser this summer. Parallel Jump has been sitting patiently waiting for my attention. I have a bit of a problem when it comes to books. I love them so very much and I buy them often. I joke with my friends that if the lights ever go out, I’ll have a great library that they can borrow from and enjoy.
So finally, I picked this book up on Monday evening after work. For the month of July, I read The Goldfinch and The Glass Castle. Both books were astonishingly good, but oh so deep. I also read The Vacationers, but it wasn’t really my thing. I needed something fun and light to follow them up and Parallel Jump fit the bill. To be honest, it will be a great book to recommend to my middle school teachers and friends. In fact, one of my book club ladies has a daughter that I adore, but sadly I had to tell her that she couldn’t be a part of our book club due to the sometimes “too adult” content of our choices. Also, the excessive wine that I indulge in during our book club talks probably isn’t suitable for an eight year old, either. But what I did promise her was that I would keep her in mind when I found books that I thought were appropriate and that we could discuss them on our own. I can’t wait to share this book with her and then later have our own book discussion. Parallel Jump is a great book. I look forward to picking up another book by Cameron D. Garriepy. Next up, The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat.

When Life Hands You Lemons

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My book club is small and relaxed. It’s just the way I like it. We’ve been getting together for over a year now and we all still find it enjoyable. I’ve had a hard time not feeling like a jerk when people ask to join. I’m not willing to change a thing, because it works as it is now. When it started I had a syllabus of books with reviews and we followed it for a few months before we found our groups flow. It has evolved in a way that allows one to read at their own pace. Some of us read slow and some us read fast. One of the members savors each page of a book so much, that sometimes she’ll spend a week on the last five to ten pages. Some of us read multiple books at the same time, while others can’t fathom reading that way. We each give each other “suggestions” of books we think would be awesome to read. We normally meet at our local wine and cheese shop. They have a large wooden table, ironically named Woody that we reserve. I usually show up with a pile of books to either share or to review with the group.
Last month I decided to mix it up a bit. A short half hour drive away is a wonderful book shop in Fearrington Farms. It’s called McIntyre’s Books. It’s an independent book store, too. My heart sings when it comes to supporting these places and this place deserves the support. They have regular author events at the store, which most of the time are free to the public. Of course, I recommend purchasing a book or two in thanks. I suggested to the group via email that we go to one of these events. Who knew that I would choose an author that two of the ladies already loved? I had not even researched the author, other than to read one of the reviews of her latest book.
Jeannette Walls is an American author. Her first book, The Glass Castle was on the New York Times Best seller list for five years. Once again, where have I been? I loaded the ladies up in my ride and we drove to McIntyre’s books. Since we were all meeting after work, we made it just in time as she began to speak. It was so packed that we were seated in a secondary room. Since I had not read her books yet, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Let me say, she did not disappoint. Of course I had no idea on what a harsh upbringing she had experienced. She was homeless at different points of her childhood and never had a real home growing up. My heart ached for her as she told her story, but not because she was asking for any sympathy. Quite the contrary. She embraces her childhood and gives it credit for her strength. My only quote from the night that I will take with me was, “I’ll never start a fight, but I will never back down either”. She was witty and strong. After meeting her I read her first book, The Glass Castle, in about two days. Knowing it was her truth was tough, but mostly it was enlightening. Truthfully, I’m glad that I had not read her books prior to meeting her. It was good to know that she had survived and excelled in her life. When life hands you lemons, Jeanette Walls made a tasty lemonade!

#SummerStack

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Well, I’m not a student anymore or a teacher with her summer off, but what I do have is lots more energy. The added daylight makes me so much happier. I do more in general. Mostly, I like to read on my porch after work, if possible. I’ve been slowly reading The Goldfinch, for too long. Don’t get me wrong…it’s a great book, but a long one that is a little slow to get into. Now that I am over halfway through the book, I’m hooked. I had planned on finishing it this past weekend, but I ended up playing too much. Well, maybe not too much. I just did other fun things. Tonight is my book club get together and I am disappointed that I did not finish in time to fully discuss it. Of course during the time I’ve been reading this book, I started and finished two other books.
So tonight I will admit to the group that I didn’t finish the book. Booooooo. Anyway, our assignment for tonight was to bring a list of at least two books that would make fun summer reads. I’ve been seeing a lot of posts recently on the book, The Vacationers, so I picked it up. Sisterland just looked good and so I added that to my cart. It looked so good that I think I may have already read it. Haha. Margaret Atwood has been sitting on my nightstand since Christmas, so it now has become a part of my summer reading. Really? I just can’t seem to get my reading mojo right this year. I get a little overwhelmed with the greatness of authors and books. My stacks keep growing. Last night I looked around the den that I’ve housed with a ton of my books and imagined myself being locked up in that room. How long would it take to re-read the books in there? Between the treadmill and the books, I think I would be pretty happy for a long time. I guess the need for food and water would have to come into play, but that was not part of my daydream.
If you had no obligations for the next week of your life and could relax on a screened-in porch with an oscillating fan blowing softly by you…What would you read? Would you use the time to think and write more? I’ve been a terrible writer and reader this year and I need to get it together. I’m going to take a long weekend, make a list of my writing goals and hopefully work on my summer stack. How about you?