Day 8 – Comfort Food

Day 8 – Comfort Food

It’s cold…. a week or so of no temps climbing above freezing, I believe.  I had to go back to work today after a two week break.  There are a number of reasons why comfort food is appropriate today so I have my day 8 assignment.

I knew one of the things I wanted to do was master chicken and dumplings from scratch. There are tons of recipes online and lots of my friends make pots of it exclaiming of its simplicity and ease.

I knew there would be the requirement to alter the recipe for the dumplings.  Rather than milk and bisquick, I would have to go dairy free to accommodate the food allergies in my home.  I pan fried chicken thighs, deglazed the pan, cooked and flavored a broth, made dumplings (which were really drop biscuits), and cooked it all together.  This wasn’t really hard but it was time consuming considering the steps.

In the end it was okay.  There were some definite changes to be made next time.  1. I need more chicken.  I used 6-7 chicken thighs, but it needs more for our tastes.  2. I would change the brand of soymilk I used.  I would only use soy as coconut and other nut milks can give a flavor.  That was also the problem with the particular brand of soymilk I used.  After more than 16 years of working with soymilk thanks to my son’s dairy allergy, I have become aware that they are not all created the same.  Some brands, although they state they are unflavored, have a vanilla hint to them.  Others do not.  As you can imagine a vanilla flavor is not what you want in your chicken and dumplings, but unfortunately, it’s what I got thanks to the particularly brand.  It wasn’t strong or I could not have eaten it, but it was mildly there.  3. I would use less liquid.  I like a thicker broth.  Nothing wrong with what we had, but I think this would improve it.

Here’s the finished product:

chicken and dumplings

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Day 7 – Movie Madness

Day 7 – Movie Madness

I know it seems rather bland….food, facial scrubs, and movies.  Again, not every day can be ziplining and parachuting.  And today was one of those blander days.  On day 7 I saw a movie I had never seen: Confessions of a Shopaholic.

This movie, starring Isla Fisher, was released a number of years ago, but thanks to the magic of Roku, I could watch it for day 7.  The night before I watched another Isla Fisher movie, Definitely Maybe.  I enjoyed Isla’s quirky but heartfelt character in that movie.  Perhaps I was expecting a little more quirkiness from her in this movie, as well.  The movie wasn’t bad.  It was entertaining.  While predictable, the suspense of her creditors catching up with her helped me stay engaged in the plot.

I will say that the movie’s title left me believing the term “shopaholic” would be hyperbolic.  It was not.  It was easy to see the main character’s habit was indeed, an addiction that was ruining her life.  However, when she hits rock bottom it was ridiculously simple for her to pick up the pieces and restore relationships.  But, then again, it’s a movie — a romantic comedy — not real life.

While I don’t have any major complaints because I am so NOT a movie critic, I don’t think I’ll make a point to watch the movie again.  Day 7 done.

Day 6 – No Need to Fear

Day 6 – No Need to Fear

 

Disclaimer:  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I don’t update the blog daily.  I try, but sometimes life happens and things get hectic.  However, no need to fear, I am still completing the task and experiencing something new daily.  I just may need a day or two to catch up on sharing it with you.

Speaking of fear, the day 6 experiment brought me a bit of trepidation.  I had a full day planned so I had to be very intentional about my daily experiment and complete it early in the morning.  I decided on a homemade face scrub.  I’ve done face scrubs in the past.  Each one is different and brings with it the threat of unleashing hell’s fury on my face. If you have read any of my previous blog posts, you likely know my skin has been a source of contention, frustration, and confidence-shaking experiences since I was a pre-adolescent.  Things have not changed in the three decades since.

Since I have rosacea, sensitive skin, and an overall Pandora’s box on my face, trying new products and recipes come with the possibility of being something great or something horrific.  I’ve used products that have left me face soft and near flawless and others that have left my skin physically hurting just from air hitting it.  However, nothing ventured, nothing gained so I’ll try another scrub….this one a DIY.

Three ingredients….that was it.  Coconut oil, sugar, and essential oil.  I love my essential oils so this appealed to me.  I decided to use lavender oil since it has calming properties and seems to be a jack-of-all-trades type choice.  The sugar sort of scared me because of it’s abrasive texture, but I have some patches of dry, flaky skin that have popped up in the last few months so maybe the sugar will help get rid of those, I thought.

I applied the scrub in a circular motion carefully avoiding my eye region.  I did use on my lips because they can always use a good exfoliation, too.  I applied and then immediately removed as this is not a mask.  My skin was very soft.  It was, of course, still red (it’s not magic, after all) but much softer.  I would need to apply again and repeat to get all the dry patches, but I was pleased overall.  I think I noticed a difference of less red, “angry” skin that looked and felt smoother.  Here’s the before :

facial scrub 1

Here’s the after: facial scrub2

Day 5 – Can You Keep a Secret?

Day 5 – Can You Keep a Secret?

My boys are with their dad this week, and I’ve been out of work for Winter Break (one of many teaching perks) so doing laundry has been optional in my mind….as have been wearing make up, fixing my hair, going to bed at a decent hour, and anything remotely resembling adulting.  Today I needed to leave the house (boo…hiss) but my options for clean clothes were limited. Don’t judge….I can’t be alone in this.

I did have a few laundry baskets of clean clothes that have yet to be put away so I spilled them onto the bed to figure out my options.  And then I had my first for the day.

Being a boy mom, I don’t have the opportunity to swap clothes and shoes like I did (and still do) with my mom.  My oldest son is close to the same weight as I am….we won’t talk specifics here…..and about three inches taller.  He loves this height differential.  Most of the basket was of his clothes….tee shirts, sweat pants, socks, sweatshirts, etc.

It’s colder here in NC right now than in parts of Alaska.  The polar vortex arrived and liked our sweet tea and college basketball so much it decided to stay for awhile.  Those sweat pants, long sleeve shirts, and sweat shirts looked so comfy and warm.  My options were to go to my closet and put on actual work clothes (gasp….the horror) or put on these lined, elastic waistband sweat pants and such.

At this point, I need you to keep a secret.  If you cannot, immediately stop reading and forget you ever saw this.

Yes, I wore my son’s clothes.  I don’t even feel bad about it.  OMG…..so comfortable, so warm.  A little long maybe, but eh.  I don’t need you to keep this secret because I’m ashamed.  I’m not.  I need you to keep the secret because my son will kill me.  He will die a hundred deaths of humiliation and he will take me with him.  The idea that his middle-aged mother wore his super cool, athletic based, teenage identity clothes will mean the Earth will open up and swallow him.  If he finds out, I know you will have told him and I will hold you responsible for paying for the therapy that will no doubt ensue.  How do I know you will have told him?  While he loves the internet, he avoids anything that can possibly connect parent to child so he is not reading this.

I wish I could promise you I won’t do this again, but I cannot.  Those sweat pants were super comfy.  I guess I could buy some for myself, but I’ve already paid for these.  I will not be ashamed.

Day 4 – The Doggy Doctor

It is total coincidence that I have two days in a row dealing with dogs.  But in any event, I do.  On day 4 (I’m writing the day after because I was tired and went to bed…..sorry/not sorry) I took a family member to a doctor’s appointment.  This doctor had a regular menagerie compared to what one expects of a doctor’s office.  There were two cats and three dogs calmly roaming through the office.  The dogs were huge!  Two were great pyrenees and the other was a golden retriever. I happened to get pictures of two of them because I was afraid few people would not believe me!

The three dogs followed the heels of one of the doctors, their owner.  When she entered a room to meet with a patient, they followed.  When she would go to the nurse’s station to get papers or write scripts, they followed.  However, from time to time — I assume when she was on the phone or busy with something — they would roam in and out of patient rooms and the hallway.  They were the single most calm, gentle dogs I’ve ever seen.  Apparently, they have been trained to be therapy dogs.

I’ve seen therapy dogs before.  When E makes his visits to Maryland for his appointments, the lodging we use is specifically for pediatric patients.  Therapy dogs have been there for patients….however, I’ve never seen animals inside doctor’s offices.

As is the case with many medical offices, there was a lot of waiting here.  Having the animals (the cats seemed just as docile) definitely made a better way to pass the time than reading magazines. For children, especially, who may be nervous about seeing a doctor, I can imagine this would be the best thing ever.

Day 4 – Visiting a doctor’s office filled with therapy animals. Done.

Day 3 – Peanut Butter and Dogs

Day 3 – Peanut Butter and Dogs

As mentioned before, I expect many of the year’s firsts will include recipes and cooking.  Today I tried a new recipe, but I couldn’t tell you if it tasted good.  I had my dog be the taste tester.  I made homemade doggie treats….and apparently, it was a success.  It was a simple recipe with few ingredients and no complicated techniques.  I got the recipe from the website Puppy Leaks: https://www.puppyleaks.com/pb-dog-treats/

I preheated my oven to 350 and mixed flour, peanut butter, and eggs.  Then I slowly added water until it made a nice dough.  I rolled the dough out and used a small juice glass and a small square container to cut out the treats.  You could use any cookie cutter to make cute designs.  Dinosaurs are the only cookie cutters I have so simple shapes worked just fine for me.  I don’t think my beagle mix minds.  I baked for 20 minutes and that was it.

My dog, Cinnamon, could smell the peanut butter while I was cooking and stared me down while I was making them.  She sat in beg mode while they were cooling off.  She enjoyed them thoroughly.  I love that they were quick and easy and that I know what’s in them.  I will definitely attempt dog treats again…..next time probably with meat.

Calling All Ideas for Adventures

My friend, Melissa, suggested I share my list of ideas for my firsts.  Some of these I’m sure I’ll do, several are just potentials, some are just a pure wish list, but coming up with 365 new things to do, see, go, and try is intimidating.  Below I’ve listed some of my possibilities, but I’d love to hear your ideas so be sure to share with me!

  • Take my boys to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge
  • Take my boys camping
  • Shoot a gun (Not including a BB gun, no….I’ve never done it.  Don’t tease me.  I’m aware that I live in the South….sheesh.)
  • Bake a cheesecake from scratch
  • Make homemade chicken and dumplings
  • Go ziplining
  • Take a ride in a hot air balloon
  • Take a cooking class
  • Watch my son go to Prom (how did this happen?  where did the time go?  I need a minute.)
  • Paint my kitchen cabinets (do I really want to do this…it sounds like a lot of work.)
  • Repair my deck
  • New floors in my home
  • Have a reflexology session
  • Try a sensory deprivation tank
  • Visit a salt cave
  • Go to a Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre
  • See Hamilton live
  • Try an Escape Room experience
  • Walk on the Mile High Swinging Bridge
  • Go inside a lighthouse
  • Visit New England
  • Learn how to play something on my grandfather’s hammer dolcimer
  • Clean out my own gutters
  • Go snow tubing
  • Visit the US National Whitewater Center
  • Try geocaching

Just some random possibilities floating in my head.  What are your suggestions?

Day 2 – Red Velvet Cheeseball

I need to make a confession.  This is not a first.  It’s a second.  I started the day with all the right intentions.  I even completed a first.  I walked right into Starbucks and told them I wanted to try something new.  After a short discussion with the barista, I got their featured black and white mocha.  But….it’s a mocha.  I mean, how unique is that?  I ordered it, drank it, , enjoyed it, but…..it’s a mocha.

And then I came home and prepared for a dinner and meeting tonight.  A potluck dinner.  And I made this……..

red velvet cheeseball

A red velvet cheeseball is so much more interesting than a mocha.  So I’m breaking my own rules and blogging about a second for today.

As I shared with friends tonight, I don’t cook.  I’m not great at it.  I don’t like it.  I feel very inadequate in my own cooking abilities. (Be prepared….a lot of my firsts will be cooking related as a result of this awareness.) So if I make something to bring and share with others I have to know it’s going to be a hit.  I made this a few years back for another gathering and it was every bit as dramatic and decadent and delicious as the name implies.  Red velvet cheeseball.  It’s poetry on a plate.

While you can find a number of recipes online for this beauty, I took mine from the awesome website http://www.tasteandtellblog.com.   All credit for this amazingness goes to Deborah of the blog.

Here’s the recipe:

Beat 8 oz room temperature cream cheese with a stick of butter (also at room temperature).  When smooth, add 1 1/2 cups of dry red velvet cake mix, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 2 tbsp. brown sugar to the mix.  Continue to beat until everything is incorporated and smooth.  (It’s not in the recipe but I also added a few drops of red food coloring because I just wanted to for added color drama.)  Put the mixture in plastic wrap (I used wax paper because I was unexpectedly out of plastic wrap….part of my problem with cooking is I begin before I know what ingredients I have and then I have to improvise.  Usually it’s an epic fail, but worked well here.)  Wrap into a ball shape and stick in the fridge until set….at least two hours.  After two hours, pour a bag of mini chocolate chips into a shallow dish (a pie plate worked fine for me.)  Remove the cheeseball from the wrap and roll in the chocolate chips.  Your hands will get messy and very red.  Serve with cookies.  I used vanilla wafers and ginger snaps.

Super easy and yet, dramatic and impressive.  Find a reason to make this.  Super Bowl party, girls night in, because it’s a Tuesday night and you had to go back to work after the holidays…..what evs.  You’ll thank me.

Same Concept, New Year – Day 1

Several years ago I used this blog to document my New Years resolution to do something or try something new daily.  I was going through a rather tough time personally and so attempting something new gave me a sense of novelty, adventure, and fun.  And it appeared a number of my friends and family members loved living vicariously through my exploits.  Of course, let’s be honest.  If you read it, it was simply because my fails were hilarious crash and burns.  Many times I was the poster child of Pinterest failures.

A little more than a month ago my students had to complete and present projects on different topics.  One student made a cheesecake.  (I was despondent that she did not bring samples as part of the presentation.)  As she shared her failures with us and then the ultimate success, she talked about the need to inject your life with new experiences in order to grow.  She talked about how important it is to conscientiously go after the things in life that seem intimidating and scary.  Hearing her words, I was reminded of the year I tried something new everyday and I was inspired to attempt it again.

So hear I am.  Day 1.  Everyday will not be bells and whistles and mindblowing experiences, but even small, simple new attempts and experiences and foods and movies and friendships will add to the growth and fun that I want from life.

So today I took my boys to see the new Jumanji starring The Rock.  I’m happy for any excuse to see Dwayne Johnson, really.  E and I had been excited about this movie’s release because a year ago while on our Make-A-Wish visit to Hawaii, we spent an afternoon where much of the movie was filmed.  The scenes from “the transportation level” were shot at this building about a month prior to our visit according to our guide.  Jumanji

It’s not a movie that will likely win any Oscars, but it was certainly entertaining for the three of us.  It’s pretty dang hard to find an activity or movie that a 16 year old and a 6 year old will equally enjoy, so I was happy to see smiles on their faces.  I especially appreciated the nod to Robin Williams’ character (Alan Rickman) from the original movie more than 20 years ago since I’m such a fan of his.

On to Day 2….

Auld Lang Syne

On this NYE of 2017, I was curious what the title “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates to.  Of course, this is the song that is synonymous with the stroke of midnight to bring in a new year.  It’s from a Robert Burns poem and is Scottish.  I found a few variations on the web, but I think it’s safe to assume it is loosely translated to something meaning the good ole’ days.

This is not how I view 2017.  I can’t say it was a terrible year.  It had its struggles, to be sure, but no more so in totality than other years.  I mean since 2013 things have been….shall we say…..challenging.  It’s been full of more struggles and growth and pain than I care to recall.  So 2017 really just added to it.  Therefore, I don’t really view any of the last five years as “good ole’ days”.

2017 was hard.  If for nothing else, the realization the time had come for E’s heart surgery and the surgery and recovery itself would have prevented 2017 from being among my list of favorite years.  However, now I’m so glad we’ve closed out the year with this behind us.  It’s done.  Over.  On to years without dreading surgery.

Of course, there were other challenges….much the same for everyone.  But now they’re in the past.  So 2017 may have been hard, but it wasn’t impossible.  It didn’t do us in.  Older, wiser, stronger now as a result.

I’m looking ahead to the new year with anticipation.  Just like every year before, it will not be all good or all bad, but a mix of both.  Will we choose to focus on the struggles or the strength we’ve gained from them?