Remembering Today

I couldn’t let Memorial go by without commenting what it means to me. My husband is in the Army. My dad is retired Air Force. My cousins are in the Navy and the Army. My brother-in-law just joined the Army.

This day is more than war movies, more than the flag we fly, more than the barbecues, the hot dogs or the hamburgers. Today is the day we remember our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives or husbands who chose to serve our country so we could have the freedoms we so often take for granted. We also remember those who we don’t know who chose to forever change their lives for the good of this country we call home.

I, for one am grateful. So today, when we go into a grocery store packed with food, today when we freely state our opinion, walk around with our arms bare, and faces uncovered, when we turn on the faucet, drive our cars and live in peace, we remember those who have served for a cause greater than themselves, the cause which isn’t free, so thank you, whoever and wherever you are, for fighting for our freedom.


Wild 4 Day Weekend

As I write this, my butt is crying out in protest of sitting on a hard chair. My knees are bruised, and my pride is a little bit too. What inspired this masochism? Well. It’s fun! As I had written a few posts back, I got a dirt bike. Now the process of learning to ride. It looked so simple. Not so much.

Next time I go ride, I won’t do an intense circuit training the night before. Yea, I was ALREADY sore!!

Even though I had gotten my bike a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t been able to go learn with anyone. But finally, FINALLY my new friend who is a seriously good rider took me out. Turns out there’s quite a bit to learn about riding. Starting the bike is a feat on it’s own. You basically have to bring your knee almost up to your chin (I’m only exaggerating a little) then kick down really hard to get it started, while holding the clutch, the break, trying to balance, and giving it enough gas so it wouldn’t die. The throttle (gas) is super sensitive, so it took me a while jerking around on the bike to kind of master it. Then there’s the hand break, the clutch, the foot break and the shifter. Both the foot break and the shifter are used with your feet, which is a little scary either feeling for it with huge, thick boots (kind of like snowboarding/ski boots) or daring to peek down while riding to locate it.

I am proud to say, that I only fell a couple of times. This lovely bruise pictured above (the picture truly doesn’t do it justice) was when I was riding over some little hills, and I was feeling a lot out of control, and sure enough I accidentally wrenched on the throttle, hit a bump wrong, got bucked off and literally went flying. That was the fun part. The landing…. while not as bad as I was afraid, was not so much fun. Go big or go home right? I was glad for my first fall, so that I could get that fear out of the way. I’ve had worse tumbles snowboarding. After lying there for a minute getting re-oriented, I got back up and was ok!

After a little break, I actually rode back and forth on a less bumpy trail, and even got to 2nd gear! You gotta count the little victories. I did start to learn to fall a little more gracefully, as well as learn how to correct the bike when I felt like it was getting out of my control. Man, it is heavy! And mine is considered light! I was really thankful for my helmet, and chest protector. Next investment will definitely be knee pads!! Turns out there’s a lot to think about while riding. You have to learn to use your whole body to balance, sit forward on your seat, grip the bike and steer with your legs, keep your arms relaxed, and most of all not let it all get to your head! There were times when I’d be doing fine, and start doubting myself, and I had to just breath, relax, put on my game face and tell myself “I can do this!”

After getting beat up for a couple of hours (time really flies out there!) , I was exhausted, and the soreness was starting to set in. I had bruises on both knees, my arms and I’m pretty sure my butt will never be the same. Despite the bruises, (which I iced that night- like a good girl) it was definitely my butt (which I also iced, haha) that was in the worst condition the next morning.

All in all, it was SO much fun. Learning something new is always intimidating for me. I’m so AFRAID of failing. It’s embarrassing when people see me fall. I had to accept that learning means falling along the way, and even when you get good, you still fall from time to time. Which is kind of a metaphor for life in general. I think everyone is afraid of failing, or looking bad. Our lives are not defined by the number of times we fall, it’s how we handle it afterward by getting back up, dusting ourselves off and trying again. Even for those who it seems always get everything right, they fall from time to time too. Part of being human is making mistakes, learning from them and getting better. Letting fears of what might or might not happen, only hold us back from the achievements we can accomplish if we just set our minds to it.

My friend kept telling me to look farther ahead when I was riding. I was looking right in front of my bike at every rock worrying that it might make the bike tip. She said you’ll go where you look, and you have to look farther ahead so you know where you are going. So it is with life! If we look at the situation we are in right now, worrying about it, we aren’t looking ahead at the bigger picture of where we are going. Instead of worrying about little bumps in the road, we look ahead to where we are going and plan accordingly.

I’ll end with this quote I recently stumbled upon:

“You never know how STRONG you are… until being strong is the ONLY choice you have.”

Oh summer… where are you?

So it’s the end of May here, and still, the temperatures are in the 50’s one day, then nearly 80, and then right back down again. What is up with that?

Despite my last two posts, I don’t sit around eating cake all the time!

One day it’s cool enough for a good soup, and the next, I don’t even want near the stove. Today was supposed to be warm and sunny, so I finally made a delightful chicken salad for dinner. Kudos to my friend Sara for introducing me to Galeo’s Miso Sesame dressing. While you can’t buy it here, you can on the website. I did give a bottle to a friend who has a friend who owns a gluten free store locally. So maybe it will be coming to Idaho!

Galeo’s Chicken Salad
(note: I did copy this off of a recipe on the website, but changed it just a bit)

1/2 pink lady apple, diced
1/2 head shredded green cabbage
1 c. shredded carrot (I went the easy way and bought some pre-shredded organic carrot)
1/4 c. chopped walnuts (easily found in the bulk section)
1 c. chopped cooked chicken (you can either use leftover chicken or buy the pre-cooked grilled chicken strips. I get mine at Costco)
Add Galeo’s sesame dressing to taste!

Next time, I think I’ll add some red cabbage for more color, maybe some raisins, and some cracked pepper.

I made this based on my tastes, less apple and less walnut, more carrot. So play around with it to suit your liking! 🙂

Lovely Lemons

I am so, so excited about today’s post. Little lemon kick? Yep. Better than boring lemonade? Absolutely.

Let’s start with the dessert I made the night before, shall we?

This, I am in love with. LOVE.

(Disclaimer: This dessert is in no way low fat, low sugar or low guilt! It is excellent for sharing with company, because you could easily devour it alone!)

Lemon Ripple Cheesecake Bars

For the crust:

1 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/16 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled

For the lemon part:
1 tbs. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water
2 large egg yolks
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice, about the juice from one ripe lemon
(I added a little extra for a more tangy flavor)
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

For the cream cheese part:
20 oz. (2 and a half bricks) 1/3 fat (or fat free) cream cheese
1 c. sugar
2 tbs. all purpose flour
3 large eggs at room temperature
1/4 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Step 1: Prep

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in the center. Butter a 9-inch-square nonstick baking pan. I used an 8 x 11 and that turned out fine too.

Step 2: Make the Crust

In a food processor, or with a pastry cutter mix the flour, sugar, lemon zest, salt and butter until a soft, crumbly dough forms. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and a scant 1/2 inch up the side of the pan. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until golden and firm.

Step 3: Make the Lemon Part

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. In a medium sauce-pan, whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the sugar and the lemon juice. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and cook over moderate heat, whisking gently, until the sugar is dissolved and the lemon mixture is hot, about 4 minutes. Boil over moderately high heat for 1 minute, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Strain the lemon mixture into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and let cool.

Step 4: Make the Cream Cheese Part

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup of sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour until blended. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Add the sour cream and the vanilla and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour the cream cheese batter over the crust and smooth the surface with a spatula.

Step 5: Put it all Together!

Dollop the lemon mixture on the cheesecake batter and carefully swirl it into the batter; take care not to cut into the crust. (Here it is, just going into the oven!) Bake the cheesecake for about 40 minutes, or until golden around the edge and just set. Run the tip of a knife around the edge to loosen the cheesecake from the side of the pan. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate the cheesecake until thoroughly chilled. Cut into 16 bars and serve.

There was a little bit of spatula licking here and there… so I knew this was going to be fantastic!

Rewind to the meal.

I don’t eat much pork, but this recipe for Southwest Pork Cutlets from Women’s Health Magazine piqued my interest.

I seasoned the pork with this seasoning called Dillo Dust (randomly sent to us with an order from LaRue tactical in TX) which is basically celery salt, sugar, paprika, chili powder and garlic powder. I browned both sides, and then added the carrots and some minced garlic on highish heat so they slightly caramelized. I put the lid on and cooked on low to finish cooking the pork Served this with some rice pilaf on the side.

We also had a colorful green salad made from Romain lettuce, spinach, halved grape tomatoes, diced avocado, sliced mushrooms, clamata olives and cucumber topped with a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. Served with Galeo’s miso sesame dressing or a homemade lemon salad dressing.

Lemon Salad Dressing

3/4 c. olive oil
Juice from two ripe lemons
4 tbs grated Parmesan cheese (I just used the stuff from the bottle for this)
1/4 tsp salt (I skipped this)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp sugar
dash or two of paprika

1 garlic clove, peeled (I halved mine for more garlic flavor)

Place all ingredients in a jar. Shake it up and store in the fridge for about 24 hours before serving.

I was a little unsure about how this would be, but it was citrusy and light. Lovely!

Mowers and Miles

It’s been a busy couple of days.

First, let me introduce the remnants of the cake that I made. You can see that it had been demolished before I remembered to take a picture of it, but you can see that everyone LOVED it! (Including me!) Definitely making that again!

I hadn’t been eating a very good dinner lately, either too tired, too lazy or too bored to think of anything quick and easy. One day I ate canned ravioli with popcorn. No, it wasn’t worth it. Well, the popcorn was. Orville Redenbacher’s Natural Flavored popcorn has all of the flavor (butter, salt and pepper and lime and salt are my favorites) without the artificial flavoring, or fake butter taste. Mmmm mmm!

I did one night, however, whip up this yummy mushroom and spinach omelet. Omelet’s are kind of a big deal at least to me, because I’m not very good at making aesthetically pleasing ones. To my credit, I am getting better. First, I cooked some mushrooms, then threw in some chopped spinach and wilted it just a bit, then I added 4 scrambled egg whites, cooked a couple of minutes, then added a sprinkle of flaked Parmesan cheese, and a wedge of broken up Laughing Cow cheese. Folded over the omelet and viola! Super, duper good.

On a side note, the grass in the front lawn was long enough for a jungle, so I went out and bought this mower. Exciting, I know. Mowing the grass is actually kind of a sneaky way to get in a little workout as well! Sorry the picture is a little grainy.

This Friday, I decided to try a new pizza place down the street, Garbonzo’s Pizza. I got the Garbonzo’s original: pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, tomatoes. I changed out the pepperoni and sausage for chicken and pineapple. It was super good, good ingredients, sauce and of course, the CHEESE. Mmmm! The only thing I didn’t like, was they put fresh tomatoes on the pizza, after it had been baked. Next time I’ll leave off the tomatoes.

I hadn’t been running since Monday and not eating great, not sleeping great I knew I needed to give my body a kick start. It was kind of cloudy and threatening to rain, which seemed like a good excuse to stay in but Hunter was so eager to go, I couldn’t disappoint. I planned to just take a walk about 3 miles around the neighborhood, but I still set up my Nike + on my iPhone so I could track my pace and mileage.

If you don’t have one of these, I highly recommend getting one. You can either buy the sport kit with includes the part to plug into your iPod, or just get the chip use it with the program already on your iPhone. You can make a cartoon of yourself and save it to your screen saver. When you’re consistently running, it will run and give positive encouragement. When you’ve been slacking, it will sit around and yawn and stretch or play with a paddle ball saying things like “I’d like to go for a run, but my hands are tied up!” I think it’s a hillarious way to remember to go running, and stay motivated.

Just a little background on my running history. It started when I took P.E. summer school my junior year of high school, and our teacher was an avid runner. In fact our final was to run 2 miles in 20 minutes. That seemed like forever! Nonetheless, after running/walking 5 days a week in class for an hour, it was an easy feat, coming in at about 18 minutes. Since then, I’ve been into it more at times than others. Last summer, I ran my first 5k, and went on to even finish a 10k. I’ve done another other race since then and have come to really enjoy it. Plus, it’s a great way to exercise my 90 lb golden retriever with endless (and I mean ENDLESS) energy! Hence, a picture of my pooped out doggie after today!

Ok, back to the run. It was windy and attempting to rain, but I figured that I should just get out and go. So I started walking and listening to my iPod. Man, it was kinda cold with the rain blowing, and a light rain in my face. About half a mile in, my muscles were warmed up, but I was still cold. I was feeling pretty good, so I began a light jog. I’ve noticed that I take a while to get my gait and my pace at a good place, and Hunter was keeping up right next to me. 🙂 So we continued the whole way, and the wind and drizzle actually let up for the remainder. Good thing too, because right when we got home, it started to rain a little more seriously. I’m so glad I went!

Stay tuned for the feast I’m making tomorrow for my favorite adopted family!

A day of firsts

I’ve been meaning to mention more recipes here, but lately I have been blah when it came to trying anything new. My work was having a birthday luncheon and I wanted a chance to showcase my baking skills, so I volunteered to bake a cake. Super! Wait. What cake am I going to make that doesn’t contain 1,000 calories a serving, but still tastes super good.

Luckily, a while ago my friend Sara made this impressive angel food and Heath bar cake for a birthday. I knew that would be the perfect choice. There was only one tiny concern: I’d never attempted to make angel food cake. Surprise, I know. I bought two boxes, just in case. Luckily, I got it right the first time!

I get home, and realized that the bundt pan I bought was slightly smaller than what was required for the entire box, so I just poured the remaining batter in a loaf pan. Luckily, my guestimations came out just right. Tah dah! my first angel food cake! I had already wrapped it up before I took the picture, but you can see it isn’t burned and after a little coaxing, came out in one piece! If I remember, I’ll take a picture of the final product tomorrow.

I do, however have a picture of the remining batter baked in the loaf pan. A (not so) mini strawberry dessert with a bit of real whipped cream. I am enjoying it as I type. Mmmm!

And speaking of fresh fruits, I got my very own first gardening book today. “Starter Vegetable Gardens” by Barbara Pleasant.

For a little change I tried making some slow roasted sweet potatoes to go along with my (whole wheat) spaghetti and broccoli dinner. I decided to try it after reading this blog. Surprisingly easy:

1 sweet potato cut into thick slices
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, toss potatoes in oil, salt and pepper.
2. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Lay the potatoes flat on the sheet.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn oven up to 400 F for an additional 20 minutes.
4. (p.s. remove the potatoes from the sheet when you pull them out of the oven, or they’ll stick!)

So there you have it: a day of firsts. 🙂

3 cantaloupe

Question for the day: have you ever gotten 3 cantaloupe, and proceeded to eat them all by yourself? I have. Most of 2 down, one to go.

Busy, busy reading

So my mom sent me this book. I’d heard of it before, and had always wanted to read it. I’m glad I waited until now that I’m married, because I bet I’ll be able to understand and relate to it much better.
This book reviews the ways people express and understand love. Can’t wait to see how Jeremy and I fit in to this. 🙂

Another read and review: The Hunger Games

I told you I had book ADD. This book snuck to the front of my reading since I borrowed it from a friend.

The Hunger Games sort of reminded me of The Giver and Fahrenheit 451, which also takes place in the future about a civilization living under strict government rules. It is the first of a series of three books.

This book is about a civilization called Panem in the future on the North American continent. The US, Canada, and Mexico cease to exist after all but destroying themselves by war.

Panem is divided into 12 districts surrounding the Capitol. Each district has a certain industry, such as factories, gem mining, agriculture, etc. Actually there were 13, but the 13th district disobeyed strict rules made by the government and was destroyed. The main character, Katniss is from district 12, one of the poorest districts, whose industry is coal mining. When her father is killed in a mining accident she is able to help her family survive by sneaking out of the district boundaries to go hunting and gathering.

To remind the remaining districts the dire consequences of war, they introduced the Hunger Games. A boy and a girl called tributes are chosen once a year from each district, 24 in all to fight each other to the death until only one is remaining and named the winner. All of this is televised for the whole civilization to watch.

Tributes from the wealthier districts are actually trained for this event, and it is a great pride for the families to have their child selected. For the poor districts, this is an immediate death sentence. The winner and his/her family is rewarded with a life of luxury.

For a week before the Hunger Games, all the tributes are waited upon hand and foot, given the best food, clothing and training. At the beginning, there are opening ceremonies glamorizing the tributes. In a way it reminded me of the Olympics ceremonies.

Katniss and her teammate Peeta are overwhelmed by being so spoiled by rich food and attendants at their beck and call. But there is still an overwhelming nervousness of what is to come. They have an advisor, you could call him, who was a previous winner of the games from district 12. He is all but useless to Katniss and Peeta, since he is bitter and drunk all the time.

Somehow, he manages to give them useful tidbits from time to time before they are released into a huge “arena” which seems more like a giant stretch of wild land. Cameras watch their every move and announcements can be made for all the players to hear. Each night the pictures of the fallen players are displayed on a large screen over the arena. Each district has “sponsors” who can send supplies to the players need during the game.

Katniss is able to survive with a few supplies provided, and goes as far away from the starting point as she can get. She is very good at hunting and gathering from her experiences before the games, and is able to use a bow and arrow and climb trees exceedingly well.

She is able to avoid much of the violence at the beginning of the games, by running and hiding. After a brief alliance with another player ends when that player is killed, there is an announcement that if the final two players from a district remain, they will both be named the winner. Katniss and Peeta eventually team up and against the odds, become the final two players. They are waiting to be released when the announcement is made that only one can be the winner. When they outsmart the game, they are both declared the winners, but the Capitol is not happy that they have been tricked. Stay tuned for book two: Catching Fire.

This book is about survival, and the relationship she has with Peeta, and the other players. I would give it a 5 out of 5, and would read it again. Can’t wait for book 2!