The BigCityBareFeet Blog

Meal Prep Monday Summer Sippin’ Series: Georgia Peach Teaser

Monday, July 10th, 2017

The heat has kicked into high gear here in the good ole peach state of Georgia and I am loving every second of it.

Give me ALL the sunshine.

Staying hydrated in this climate is not always easy but this little recipe definitely helps.

Georgia Peach Teaser

Ingredients:

1 cup Frozen Peaches

8 oz. Peach Tea

*Stevia- optional

Directions:

This could not be easier, peeps.

First brew yourself some peach tea.

You can drop one tea bag in a cup of hot water and let it steep, and then let it cool for a single serving. OR, what i prefer is to whip up a whole gallon at a time to keep in the fridge for several servings.

I sweeten mine with just a TEENY bit of stevia.

It is illegal not to, i mean, I am SOUTHERN.

Once you have your tea prepared simple put one cup frozen peaches and 8 oz. of chilled tea in your blender and give it a whirl.

At only 50 calories a frosty serving this is sure to become a summer fav.

 

Meal Prep Monday: Summer Sippin’ Series- Healthy Cherry Limeade

Monday, June 26th, 2017

I love a good fizzy drink people, ESPECIALLY in the heat.

But most sodas out there are loaded with sugar or nasty chemicals.

This Cherry-Limeade is exactly the kind of healthy, bubbly summer drink I can really get behind.

It makes me 7 shades of seasonal happy.

Ingredients:

1 cup cherries ( I used frozen for cost effectiveness but fresh works well also!)

1 cup water

1/4 stevia

Zest of 2 limes

Juice of 2 limes

Optional- Lime slices for garnish

Lime Sparkling Water (OR Sprite Zero)

Directions:

Place the cherries and the water in a sauce pan and heat until boiling.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in the stevia until full dissolved.

Allow the compote to cool.

Put compote in the blender along with the zest of 2 limes and the juice from those two limes.

Blend until totally smooth.

Place 4 tablespoons of the syrup into the bottom of a glass and pour lime sparkling water on top.

Stir gently with a straw.

If you prefer it extra sweet you can use Sprite Zero.

Garnish with lime slices.

This recipe makes about 6 servings of syrup.

It will keep for a week in the fridge if stored in a airtight container like a mason jar!

And ya wanna know the REALLY sweet news?

Each serving of this deliciousness is roughly ONLY 25 CALORIES.

I think I just won Summer.

Meal Prep Monday: Summer Sippin’ Series- Watermelon Lime Slush

Monday, June 19th, 2017

We hit the pool this weekend for the first time this season.

I feel fairly certain that in a former life I was a lizard. I simply love lying in the warm sun.

Give me water to dip my toes in and something cold to drink and I am in absolute heaven.

Here is one of my slushy summertime favs.

Watermelon Lime Slush

Ingredients:

1 cup Frozen Watermelon

1 cup Coconut Water

1/4 cup Lime Juice (about 2 large limes squeezed)

1 tsp Stevia OR sweetener of choice

Directions:

Remove rind from watermelon and chop the flesh into bite sized chunks.

Place them in a zip-lock bag and throw them in the freezer.

Ideally allow them to freeze overnight. (Minimum 4 hours)

Toss frozen watermelon chunks in the blender with the coconut water, lime juice, and stevia and blend!

These bad boys are sweet and refreshing and come in at just under 100 calories per serving.

Meal Prep Monday: Summer Sippin’ Series – Low Sugar Mocha Frappuccino

Monday, June 12th, 2017

People, I am about to introduce you to my newest obssession:

the low calorie Mocha Frapp.

Seriously, y’all.

With these three magical ingredients, a blender, and under 2 minutes of your time you can create this mocha madness for yourself.

But fair warning, it is ADDICTING.

Ingredients:

1 cup Starbucks Unsweetened Iced Coffee

1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk

2 bars Original No Sugar Added Fudgsicle Pops (40 calories each)

Directions:

Remove the sticks from the fudgsicle.

I just slide a knife right down the edges and shave it directly into the blender.

Then just toss in the coffee and coconut milk and hit blend.

If you like it extra slushy, you can drop in a few cubes of ice.

Go ahead and buy the big box of fudgsicles because you are going to want to make these pretty much all.day.

All.Summer.

Meal Prep Monday- Summer Sippin’ Series: Low Calorie Pina Colada Slushie

Monday, June 5th, 2017

It is June in Georgia which means the heat has arrived and is here to stay a while.

I honestly loathe cold weather so I am one happy camper come summer.

There is little I love more than porch sittin’ in the summer with a cold drink in hand.

Here is one of my favorite flavor combinations sans all the carbs and calories you would normally find in such a treat.

Low Calorie Pina Colada Slushie

Ingredients:

1 cup unflavored coconut milk

1/2 cup coconut water

1/2 cup water

2 to 3 squirts of Great Value Tropical Drink Enhancer OR 1/2 packet of Crush Pineapple Singles

1 handful of ice

Directions:

If you are using the Tropical liquid drink enhancer just toss all the ingredients in a blender and whirl together.

Sometimes I opt for this route because it has the added benefit of CAFFEINE.

#caffeineislife

If you choose to use the packet of Crush Pineapple mix (my preferred method) then first dissolve the 1/2 packet of powder into the coconut water.

Stir really well until fully dissolved.

Now toss it all in the blender and enjoy!

Both methods work really well and taste delicious. And both have around 50 calories each which is not too shabby!

Meal Prep Monday: The Summer Sippin’ Series- Healthy Copy Cat Pink Drink

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Summertime is upon us, People. And I for one, could not be more happy about it.

Bring on the pool days and flip flops.

Over the course of the next few weeks I will bring you my

SUMMER SIPPIN’ SERIES

A collection of refreshing, HEALTHY drinks to keep you cool in the months ahead.

The first one is a take on the infamous Starbucks Pink Drink.

Not only does this version have 1/3  the calories, it can be made for less than a $1.00 per serving!

Healthy Copy Cat Pink Drink

Ingredients:

1/2 packet Lipton Strawberry Acai Green Tea Mix

(I got my Liptons at Walgreens but if you have trouble locating them just order online here!)

1/8 tsp Lemon Juice

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk

1/4 cup Freeze Dried Strawberries

1/2 cup ice

Directions:

Pour 1/2 the Lipton tea packet into the 1/2 cup water and stir until it dissolves.

Throw this into the blender with the lemon juice, coconut milk, freeze-dried strawberries and ice.

Blend until smooth.

Top with additional freeze-dried strawberries if so desired and serve over ice.

Meal Prep Monday: Low Carb Teriyaki Stir Fry

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Today’s post is all about a lovely little low-carb stir fry.

It has all the zing and zest of its more traditional Chinese counterpart, but with lower carbs and starch.

Ingredients for Teriyaki Sauce:

1/2 cup Soy Sauce

1 TBS minced Garlic

1 TBS minced Ginger

1/8 tsp Xantham Gum

1 TBS Truvia Brown Sugar

1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (*if you prefer less heat/spice then add less of this*)

Ingredients for Shrimp Stir Fry:

2 cups slices mushrooms

1 large head of Broccoli chopped

1 lb raw Shrimp

1/4 cup Soy Sauce

Directions:

Toss all of the ingredients for the teriyaki sauce into a small pot and heat over medium heat until it begins to just slightly boil.

Turn the heat off completely and while still piping hot stir in the xantham gum.

Once the xantham is fully incorporated the sauce will thicken nicely.

Pour into a bowl to cool and set aside.

In a large skillet combine the mushrooms and the 1/4 cup soy sauce.

Cover and cook on medium heat until mushrooms have softened and begun to reduce.

Remove mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the juice.

Toss the chopped broccoli in the pan and cover.

Cook 6-8 minutes until it begins to soften.

Now add in the shrimp.

Cook until it becomes pink and translucent- about 4-5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low.

Add the mushrooms back in and the teriyaki sauce.

Stir until evenly mixed.

And serve!

The dish is while super filling is not only low on carbs but not terribly high in calories so go ahead and have a second helping!

Meal Prep Monday- Green Smoothie Sorbet Bowls

Monday, May 8th, 2017

My husband and I have made it our mission to try every single cold-pressed juice place in a zillion mile radius and on Sunday we discovered a new one not far from our house.

The juice was delicious, but the blue green algae shot Boy gave a go was NOT.

I think his exact description was “It tastes like ball-point pen ink.”

I however made a much better gamble and tried their green smoothie bowl and it did not dissappoint!

In fact i loved it so very much I tried recreating it at home.

It took me a few rounds but I managed a pretty decent replica.

Green Smoothie Sorbet Bowl

Ingredients:

1 handful fresh Spinach

1/2 cup frozen fruit of choice (I used a mixture of strawberries and pineapple)

1/2 frozen banana

1 small handful of ice

1 cup coconut water

*Optional Toppings: Fresh Fruit, Nuts, and Seeds*

Directions:

Place everything in the blender and smoosh til smooth!

You can toss in additional ice to get to the consistency of sorbet.

Place in a bowl and top according to your taste buds!

I went with extra berries and some chopped pecans.

I didnt have any coconut flakes on hand but I plan on picking some up ASAP.

Granola tends to run a tad high on the sugar side for me, but it definitely would be a delightful addition if you are not counting carbs.

Meal Prep Monday – Egg White Veggie Wraps

Monday, May 1st, 2017

This past week buzzed by in a blur.

I made these delightful little wraps on both Saturday and Sunday for lunch.

They were quick to toss together which is always a bonus in my book.

And given they are lite and low in carbs and calories, I had a little extra wiggle room for all the food I consumed at a big Family Dinner on Saturday.

Egg White Veggie Wraps

Ingredients:

Low Calorie Tortilla (I used these by Flatout)

1/4 cup sliced cucumber

1 small Roma Tomato Sliced

1/4 diced Bell Pepper

1/8 cup sliced Red Onion

1 large handful Spring Lettuce Mix

1/2 cup Liquid Egg Whites

1 tsp Sundried Tomato Pesto

 1 tsp Italian Seasoning

Directions:

Mist a medium sized frying pan with olive oil and pour in liquid egg whites.

Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning.

Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until cooked thru.

Set aside to cool.

Spread sun-dried tomato pesto onto flatbread.

Lay your egg whites down the middle.

Layer with veggies.

Top with salad greens.

Roll up tightly and slice down the middle and done!

You can of course use whatever veggies you have on hand.

I will say, I have tried many different wraps and the Flatout Italian is hands down my fav…and I am getting no kickbacks or ad dollars for telling you this, it is just the truth!

The egg whites pack quite the protein punch so this little number while low in calories goes a long way and will keep you feeling full for hours!

And that’s a wrap!

Have a great week, everyone.

Meal Prep Monday: Zucchini Crusted Grilled Cheese

Monday, April 24th, 2017

A cold front descended yesterday bringing rain and general yuckness.

This weather makes me want to curl up with a good book and some comfort food.

But since the count down to my brother’s July wedding in Mexico is on, I am trying to stay on the healthy straight and narrow.

#bathingsuit

And to that end, I offer you a new take on an old comfort food classic: the grilled cheese.

This version is packed with veggies and vitamins, but you wont even notice thanks to all that cheesy goodness.

Zucchini Crusted Grilled Cheese

Ingredients:

2 medium Zucchini

2 large Eggs

1 cup Almond Flour

1 TBS Garlic Powder

1 TBS Minced Onion

1 tsp Ground Pepper

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese

2 slices of Cheese of Choice for filling ( I used Colby Jack)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Grate two whole zucchini into a mixing bowl.

Place shredded zucchini into a cheese cloth and wring out all the water you can.

Put zucchini back into the mixing bowl and add eggs, almond flour, garlic powder, minced onion, ground pepper and shredded cheese.

Stir until evenly mixed.

Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheet and form into 4 bread slice shapes.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until tops begin to get golden.

Flip and bake for 10 additional minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Coat the outside of each zucchini bread slice with coconut oil (or butter)

Place a slice in the frying pan, top with a slice of cheese and then an additional zucchini slice.

Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side allowing the cheese in the middle to melt.

And done!

It is a belly full of warm and cozy.

Hope everyone has a happy week!

Meal Prep Monday: Bunny Paw Print Eggs

Monday, April 17th, 2017

A year ago at Easter, we were left holding the bag on a couple dozen colorful, hard-boiled Easter eggs.

I whipped up a few different recipes to put them all to good use and thus my weekly Meal Prep Monday recipe posts were born!

I can’t believe it is already been a year.

I thought it only fitting to share a little Easter Eggspiration once again.

Not only is this easy to whip up, it is a super cute alternative to all the sugary treats floating around this time of year.

Bunny Paw Print Eggs

Ingredients:

Hard Boiled Eggs

Cream Cheese

Red Food Coloring

Directions:

Hard boil eggs.

After cooling, slice down the middle and remove the yellows.

Discard the yellows.

In a small bowl mix together the cream cheese (6 tsp for every dozen eggs) and red food coloring until a nice pink tint is achieved.

Fill eggs in with pink cream cheese to make the pad of the bunny paw.

Using a toothpick, dip it into the cream cheese and press it to the egg to make the toes.

It is a low calorie super adorable treat that is conveniently loaded with protein!

Win Win Win!!

Meal Prep Monday: Two Minute Soup

Monday, April 10th, 2017

If there is anything I have learned on this nutrition journey it is that skipping meals is THE WORST.

Not only does it slow down my metabolism, it also means that when i finally do stop and eat, I basically want to eat.all.the.food.

No seriously, ALL of it.

This poses a problem for me as some days I am moving at a speed roughly equivalent to that of light. #nurselife

I tend to pack things in my lunchbox like raw veggies, fruit and the like that can be grazed on bit by bit as a whirl by.

I have now added some soup to my arsenal and I’m super excited about it.

And bonus: you can throw it together in under 2 minutes.

I’ve found that I can throw this baby into an insulated mug and sip it as I save lives one at a time.

The current flavor profile I prefer is Lemon Dill, and is vegetarian in nature.

Two Minute Lemon Dill Soup

Ingredients:

1 cube vegetable bullion OR 1 TBS Better than Bullion Powder

1/2 lemon sliced

a few springs of fresh dill

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

16 oz hot water

Directions:

Drop a bullion cube, lemon slices, and fresh dill into a cup.

Cover with hot water.

Let steep for 2 minutes.

Stir in red pepper flakes and ENJOY!

This can easily be changed to other flavors and in fact I have also made an Asian version using chopped scallions, soy sauce and sriracha in place of the lemon, dill, and red pepper.

If you are not following a vegetarian diet you could certainly use beef or chicken bullion for even more diversity.

This is fast, cheap, and portable, peeps.

It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

So, slap it in a cup and keep it movin’ but for god’s sake don’t skip a meal. #preachintothechior

Meal Prep Monday: Low Carb Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

While it is only early April, the temps here in Georgia have already been cresting into the 90’s.

Sunshine and Summer go hand in hand with ice cream for me.

I am always on the look out for healthier alternatives and this weekend I whipped up one that was, if i do say so myself, a home run.

For real, y’all.

And you don’t even need an ice cream maker for this beauty.

I’m a true Southern gal and so Butter Pecan is a favorite flavor that is practically baked into my DNA.

I decided to give that one a go first as it is generally my number one choice, but will experiment in the future with the likes of Chocolate Mint and Cookies and Creme as those tend to be my secondary frozen soldiers.

Low Carb Southern Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 TBS Butter

1/2 cup Chopped Pecans

1 cup Heavy Cream

1/3 cup Swerve Sweetener

1/8 tsp Xantham Gum

1 tsp Stevia

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

2 Egg Yolks

Directions:

Separate the egg yolks into a small bowl and add in the vanilla extract. Beat with a fork until smooth.

Set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and cook until it begins to brown just slightly.

Add in the heavy cream and bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to low and add in the Swerve.

Stir until it is fully incorporated and melted in.

Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl.

Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes while slowly adding in the egg yolk mixture.

Pour into a freezer friendly container.

Use a spoon to stir in the chopped pecans.

Freeze for 4 hours or until firm enough to scoop.

If you manage somehow not to eat this as soon as it is ready and all at once while standing there with the freezer door wide open, then cover it and it will keep for several days.

Just slap it on the counter to soften for a few minutes before serving.

Meal Prep Monday: Low Carb Salmon Croquette

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Since drifting away from eating meat, fish has become one of my primary sources of protein.

We eat salmon in our house AT LEAST once a week.

In part because it is good for you, and in part because it is simple to throw together on a work night when I come home exhausted from a 12 hour day on my feet.

To keep it from getting too repetitive, last night I changed it up a bit by making these low-carb salmon croquettes.

HOLY.SMOKES.

These turned out DELICIOUS.

I have never been a fan of the canned salmon that many people use for these types of recipes.

So instead I baked my own fillets.

While this does add a bit more time, I feel it is worth it.

You can even do this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a day or two if need be.

But if you don’t mind the canned salmon then by all means feel free to go that route.

QUICK SIDE BAR ABOUT HOW TO BAKE SALMON:

Place salmon filet on baking sheet line with aluminium foil.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and seasonings of choice.

Place in a COLD oven.

Turn the oven to 400 and set a timer for 25 minutes.

DONE.

The salmon cooks as the oven heats and turns out perfect every time.

You will never want to cook it any other way again.

Special Thanks to the Pioneer Woman for this little trick!

Low-Carb Salmon Croquettes with Creamy Sriracha Sauce

Ingredients for Croquettes:

10-12 ounces of cooked Salmon

1 cup Almond Flour

1/4 cup fresh Dill (chopped)

1 TBS Old Bay Seasoning

3 large Eggs

 1 tsp Coconut Oil

Ingredients for Creamy Sriracha Sauce:

1/2 cup Sour Cream

1 TBS Sambal Oeleke (also called garlic chili sauce)

1 TBS Sriracha Sauce

1 TBS Pickle Juice

1 tsp Lemon Juice

Directions:

In a small bowl combine the sour cream, sriracha, pickle juice and garlic chili sauce.

Stir until evenly mixed.

Set aside.

Place cooked salmon in a large mixing bowl and flake into small pieces.

(If using canned salmon then drain and rinse and toss into a large mixing bowl. If baking your own fillets, see instructions above.)

Add almond flour, eggs, Old Bay seasoning,  and chopped Dill.

Stir until evenly mixed.

Form into patties.

Place coconut oil in large frying pan and place over medium high heat.

Cook patties about 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.

Top with a dollop of creamy sriracha sauce and serve!

These were such a big hit in my house there was not a one left over.

Pretty sure this will become a regular in our dinner rotation!

Meal Prep Monday- Low Carb Zucchini Roulade

Monday, March 20th, 2017

While resting and recovering this weekend I spent some time experimenting in my kitchen with breakfast.

This little number turned out to be a winner with both Boy and myself. I will definitely be making it again!

Low-Carb Creamy Zucchini Egg Roulade

Ingredients:

1 medium sized Zucchini

1 TBS minced Garlic

1 tsp Onion Powder

6 Eggs (separated)

½ tsp Baking Powder

½ cup Coconut Flour

4 oz Cream Cheese (room temperature)

1 TBS Pesto

2 oz. Feta Cheese

2 Roma Tomatoes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Shred one medium zucchini with a cheese grater and set aside.

Separate the eggs.

In the bowl with the egg yolks combine the shredded zucchini, minced garlic, and coconut flour, and baking powder. Stir until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they reach high, stiff peaks.

Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the zucchini batter, stirring gently to not break down the egg whites too much.

Pour that batter onto the parchment lined baking sheet and spread out smooth.

Bake for 15 minutes and firm, and it begins to brown JUST around the edges.

While the dough is cooking you can prepare the filling.

Dice two Roma tomatoes into fine pieces.

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, feta cheese and pesto.

Stir until evenly mixed. Add in the diced tomatoes and stir.

Remove the roulade dough from the oven and allow to cool down just enough to handle it without getting burned.

Take a hold of the edge of the parchment paper and slide the entire sheet of the now cooked roulade dough onto the surface of a clean counter.

Spread the dough with the cheese and tomato filling.

Using the edge of the parchment paper, slowly begin to fold the dough over and over forming a roll.

Trim the uneven edges with a knife and then slice and serve!

This dish is actually quite delicious served either warm or cold.

The filling could easily be changed up as well to create different flavor combinations! Next time I am planning on trying sundried-tomato pesto in place of the traditional basil pesto and tossing in some diced peppers in place of tomatoes!

So many options!

This would also be excellent as a brunch or lunch served with a nice side salad.

It is packed with protein and fiber and very low-carb.

 

Meal Prep Monday:”Hard Boiled” Shortcut

Monday, March 13th, 2017

There is little I love more than learning efficient ways to shortcut my meal-prep time in the kitchen.

If you are looking for an easy way to crank out some hard-boiled eggs that are cooked to yellow-centered perfection, then you have come to the right spot.

I tried this out yesterday to whip up a batch of egg salad and it worked like a charm.

Heat oven to 325.

Place eggs in a muffin tin.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from muffin tin and place directly into an ice bath.

Let sit 10 minutes.

and DONE!

Peel and use as desired.

This method was a winner for me because it produced a large number and allowed me to turn my attention to other things and not worry about watching eggs boiling on the stove!

Not a bad way to whip up a bunch of eggs for the kiddos to color at Easter!

Meal Prep Monday- Spaghetti Squash Basics

Monday, March 6th, 2017

What is 5 feet tall and loves to eat? This. Girl.

I love food.

I also happen to exercise a great deal which only increases my appetite.

I am always on the look out for healthy foods that taste great and most importantly FILL ME UP.

Spaghetti Squash is one of my favorites in that category.

It is shockingly similar in appearance to spaghetti noodles and just as versatile.

Except Spaghetti squash has less 1/5th the calories of pasta and is super low-carb.

And it makes more than just good traditional spaghetti. Try it in a Pho Bowl or a Chow Mein…it is even excellent in jambalaya as a substitute for rice.

So.many.options.

As an added bonus it is packed with potassium and omega-3 and is gluten free!

If you have never bought one and cooked it before it can seem a tad confusing.

I get asked frequently how to go about it so I thought it might be helpful to share the information with you.

First of all, when purchasing, you want to look for the squash that is deep yellow in color. Stay away from the ones with green marks still on them.

A spaghetti squash can be stored at room temperature for WEEKS without going bad!

I always feel guilty when there is produce I must throw out because I didn’t eat it in time…but spaghetti squash wont do that to ya.

Seriously. It will last a VERY long time (3-4 weeks on average).

Once you get it home and are ready to cook it, cut it in half.

Take a spoon and scoop out all of the seeds and pulp in the middle.

When you are done you will be left with a smooth, firm surface.

You can season it however you choose, but I prefer to keep it very simple and go with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

I generally pour 1 tsp in the well of the squash and use my fingers to rub it all across the flesh til it is totally coated and no oil remains puddled.

Then sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

Place it on a lined baking sheet. Make sure the pan has a little lip to it to contain any juices produced while cooking.

Flip it over face down.

Bake it at 375 for 45 minutes (or until the rind is easily pierced with a fork)

It will turn a nice golden color and carmelize around the edges.

Let cool for about 10 minutes and then shred lightly with a fork.

It will produce long spaghetti shaped strands.

Once cooked it will keep in the fridge for about a week!

And DONE. It is THAT easy.

Use it in any dish you would ordinarily use pasta!

Meal Prep Monday- Low Carb Lasagna

Monday, February 27th, 2017

This past weekend was the memory-making kind. I spent it tucked away in a cabin in North Georgia with some of the best gal pals a girl could hope for.

We had an epic barefoot dance party.

We drank 5 bottles of prosecco while sitting in the hot tub laughing until we could not breathe.

We wore fuzzy pajamas and no make-up and ate ALL THE DELICIOUS THINGS.

It may have been bad for my waistline but it was good for my soul.

When I returned to the city and reality I prepped some low-carb and low-calorie meals for this week to help my body reset and get back to it’s more regular eating routine.

My low-carb lasagna is on deck for lunch this week.

I make mine vegetarian but you could EASILY brown some ground turkey or low fat beef to add in if you are a carnivore.

Low-Carb Lasagna

Ingredients for “noodles”:

4 Large Eggs

8 oz Cream Cheese

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

1 and 1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

Ingredients for Filling:

1 jar Marinara Sauce ( this one is low carb and yummy!)

2 cans Diced Tomatoes

15 oz. jar of Ricotta Cheese

2 boxes of frozen Spinach (10 oz each) thawed and WELL drained

1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

1 cup Mozzarella Cheese to top

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.

Line a medium sized cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream together the eggs and the cream cheese.

Then add all remaining ingredients for the “noodles”. Stir gently with a spatula until everything is well incorporated and evenly mixed.

Pour batter onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

Spread into a thin, even layer covering the sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until it turns a nice golden brown.

Removed from oven and allow to cool.

Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the sheet of “noodles” into long strips the size of traditional lasagna pasta noodles.

Set aside.

(You can even make these ahead of time and keep in the fridge for a day or two if need be as it is the most time consuming part of the recipe)

In a mixing bowl stir together the marinara sauce and cans of diced tomatoes. Set aside.

Take thawed spinach and place in a cheese cloth . Squeeze as much excess water out and get as dry as possible. Set aside.

Season the ricotta with the onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Set aside.

Now it is time to layer up.

On the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish spread some of the tomato marinara mixture.

Then a layer of noodles.

Spread some ricotta.

Now a layer of spinach.

Repeat until all ingredients are used up!

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with a fine layer of Mozzarella cheese.

( I also like to sprinkle with some additional Italian seasoning)

Bake an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted.

 

Meal Prep Monday – Cinnamon Roll Mug Cake

Monday, February 20th, 2017

I do not have a sweet tooth, people, I have sweet TEETH. I could happily eat all the sugar from here to eternity.

And no matter how many times I have heard the concept that if you “just go without it long enough you will no longer have those cravings” I have yet to see this actually happen for me.

Instead, I have learned that finding small, healthy ways of curbing this craving from time to time regularly keeps me from smashing my way in to the bakery department of my local grocery store in the middle of the night and eating my way out.

This mug cake comes together SUPER quick- Im talking like, 3 minutes total. Seriously.

It is low-carb.

It is gluten-free.

It is the perfect single size serving.

(added bonus: it has protein! Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?)

Cinnamon Roll Low- Carb Minute Mug Cake

Ingredients for Cake:

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 TBS stevia

1 TBS coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup milk of choice (I use unsweetened coconut)

Ingredients for Glaze:

1 TSB coconut oil (melted)

1/4 tsp Stevia

1 TBS milk (If you have half and half on hand, use this! But any milk will work)

Cinnamon to dust top

Directions:

Grease a coffee mug.

Add all dry ingredients to the mug.

Stir until evenly mixed.

Whisk in the egg and the milk until the batter becomes smooth.

Put that sucker in the microwave for 6o seconds. (until toothpick comes out of center clean)

While it is cooking, mix the milk, stevia, and coconut oil for the glaze.

You CAN just pour the glaze right on top of the mug but i like to tip mine out into a small bowl and then add the glaze so it can run down the sides.

Priorities, People.

After glaze, dust the top with cinnamon.

And there you have it. A cake in under 5 minutes.

You’re welcome.

 Get your sweet teeth on!

Meal Prep Monday- Thai Shrimp Soup

Monday, February 13th, 2017

I have been on quite the soup kick at my place these days.

I’ve been making large batches of different kinds of soup and portioning them out into separate containers. This way when I come home at night I simply empty a container into a soup pot and heat it up.

Dinner is done is minutes and it is warm and comforty. My favorite.

This has been about the only way to survive my hectic schedule of late.

As an added bonus, I can adjust the calorie and carb count to keep things on the lighter side which works well for me. I prefer to eat the bulk of my macros during the day.

But somehow a steaming bowl of soup still gives my belly that full and happy feeling so I don’t go to bed hungry and therefore cranktastic.

In addition, these homemade soups are not loaded with truckloads of sodium and other preservative shades of nastiness that you will find in the store-bought, canned kind.

The recipe I am sharing today is probably one of my favorite little numbers.

It is super flavorful and has a great little zing to it.

I like to close out this dinner be eating a couple of squares of my favorite chocolate.

And because the calorie/fat/carb count is so reasonable with this recipe, there aint no shame in my game.

(If you have not tried the Lily’s chocolate bars, get thee immediately to a Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or Sprouts and do so. You will not regret it.)

Tasty Thai Shrimp Soup

Ingredients:

1 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. medium shrimp peeled and de-veined

Chopped red, yellow and green bell peppers

(I usually do one of each color but this week I just tossed in what I already had on hand, which was mostly red)

1 small white onion chopped

2 TBS curry paste (I prefer the flavor of Panang Curry)

2 cans unsweetened coconut milk

4 cups vegetable broth

1 TBS chopped cilantro

1 TBS minced garlic

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 tsp lime zest

*OPTIONAL: 2 Cups Cauliflower Rice*

Directions:

In a stock pot or dutch oven drizzle olive oil and toss in the raw shrimp.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until pink and opaque.

Remove shrimp and set aside.

In the same pan add the garlic, onion, and chopped peppers.

Cover and cook until they begin to soften.

Add in curry paste and the lime zest.

Stir the peppers and curry paste until the heat begins to liquefy the paste and it becomes nice and evenly mixed into the peppers.

Whisk in the coconut milk and the vegetable broth.

(Make sure you shake the cans of coconut milk up very well before opening them!)

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer until the soup begins to thicken slightly.

(About 10-12 minutes)

Add the shrimp back to the pot.

Stir in the lime juice and chopped cilantro.

At this point your soup is ready to be served and it is delicious just like this BUT…

If you want to bulk it up a bit and make it a bit more filling, add in two cups of cauliflower rice (Or cooked brown rice if you are not in the low-carb camp)

Again, this is totally optional.

If you are meal prepping this, may i suggest you only add the cooked cauliflower rice at the time of serving. (Just keep it is a separate bowl in your fridge and toss it in when you heat up the soup) Otherwise it breaks down a little too much if left soaking in the soup too long.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Happy Valentine’s Week!

Meal Prep Monday- Low Carb Pizza

Monday, February 6th, 2017

We here in Atlanta woke up to a cold, gray morning.

Our Falcons flew close but could not manage to pull off the Super Bowl win.

In the grand scheme of Life I am aware there are much greater tragedies occurring, but it still stinks.

If you feel the need to eat your way out of the sadness, here is the recipe for a ketogenic pizza that can help.

It has all the delicious, hallmark flavors of the real deal, but without all the pesky carbs.

And if you dont care AT ALL about the state of things like the Super Bowl then this recipe is excellent for a quick dinner that will make you forget all about the fact that it is MONDAY.

If you happen to be a Patriots fan, Congratulations.

Hang in there Dirty Bird disciples…we will #riseup again next year.

Low-Carb Pizza

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 cup Almond Flour

1 1/2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

4 oz Cream Cheese (room temp)

1 TBS Italian Seasoning

1 tsp Garlic Powder

1 tsp Onion Powder

1 tsp Ground Black Pepper

1 pinch salt

Toppings of Choice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425.

Toss the mozzerella and the cream cheese into a micrwaveable safe bowl.

Microwave in short bursts until cheese is very soft and mostly melted.

In a seperate bowl mix flour and spices until uniform.

Add the flour mixture to the melted cheese and stir together.

Whisk in one egg.

Remove from the bowl and form into a loose ball with hands.

Place the ball of dough onto a sheet of parchment paper.

Now cover it on the top with an additional sheet of parchment paper

(I know it is tempting to skip the parchment or to substitute aluminium foil, but TRUST ME, this is what gives the crust that nice brown color and crunch!)

Using a rolling pin, smooth the dough between the two layers of parchment paper into a even layer of crust.

Slide the flattened crust onto a pizza stone or pan.

Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until  it becomes golden and edges begin to brown.

Remove the crust from the oven and spread with pizza sauce. Throw on the cheese and toppings of your choice and place back in the oven for an additional 5-7 minutes to melt cheese and heat toppings.

Slice and serve!

While I have always liked pizza, it has never been something I missed overly much when I switched to a healthier eating lifestyle. I have found this recipe however to be a godsend in my household though because it works for both my meat-eating husband and my more vegetarian self. There are not a ton of dinner options that allow us to both eat the same thing at the same time with little extra work so I consider this a HUGE win!

In this photo Boy opted for turkey pepperoni and chicken sausage while I went the way of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.

Meal Prep Monday: Low-Carb Loaf of Bread

Monday, January 30th, 2017

A few weeks ago I discovered a new gem near my office. It is a fabulous little joint called Sublime Tree that sells all sorts of fresh, cold-pressed juices and super foods. I have LOVED everything I have tried thus far off the menu.

But to date, my hands down favorite is their avocado toast.

O.M.GEEEEE.

It is DELISH. I could probably eat it every single day of the week and never grow tired of it.

Unfortunately, my body likes to grab on to carbs, slap them on my thighs and never let go.

So I decided to try to make my own keto version of this little wonder. And that lead to my first ever loaf of low-carb bread.

It turned out pretty decent. And I was even more delighted with how well it made into toast.

With less than 3 grams of carbs per slice and NO sugar (like most processed breads) it is hard to beat.

Low-Carb Loaf

Ingredients:

1 TBS Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Cream of Tarter

1/4 cup Butter (melted)

6 eggs (with the yellows and whites divided)

1 1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

Toss all of the ingredients except the egg whites and the cream of tarter into a bowl and mix mix mix. A food processor works best for this if you have one.

This will form a kind of crumbly dough.

In a separate bowl combine the egg whites and cream of tartar.

Beat until they form stiff peaks.

Add one cup of the stiff egg white mixture to the dough in the food processor and mix it very thoroughly.

This will loosen up the dough a little but it will still be reasonably thick.

Now you just want to FOLD IN the remaining egg whites. This is best done very gently by hand with a rubber spatula and NOT with a processor or mixer.

I found it easiest to take the dough from the food processor and dump it into the bowl with the remaining egg whites.

This will give you a smooth fluffy batter.

The more gently you mix this the higher your bread will rise so go easy!

Slowly pour the batter into a greased bread pan and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Slice into pieces of your desired thickness.

(At 1/2 in. each piece is right around 2.5 net carbs per slice)

This bread turned out to be quite yummy and sturdy even! I have yet to try it out but I think it would make an excellent sandwich!

I’ll be toasting a slice each morning this week and making my beloved Avocado Toast.

Sprinkle it with a little crushed red pepper, pink sea salt and black sesame seeds. You will thank me!

Meal Prep- Crockpot Mexican Quinoa Casserole

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

January in Georgia is always a mystery.

One day you’re scraping ice off your driveway and celebrating school and work closings.

The next you are shedding your sweatpants and breaking out your flip flops.

And I mean LITERALLY this happens from one day to the next down here.

You just learn to roll with it.

This week for Meal Prep I knew I was going to need something easy to whip together that was also full of fuel for my body.

There are days when just looking at my calendar makes my knees week and this is one of those weeks.

So I broke out the crock-pot, threw a whole bunch of things inside and walked away for 3 hours.

That blessed appliance worked its magic and I wound up with a very tasty main meal for the days ahead.

It actually made quite a few servings at a very affordable price with little effort so I will be keeping this one in my back pocket for sure!

Crock Pot Mexican Quinoa Casserole

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked Quinoa

1 can Corn (drained)

1 can of Black Beans (drained and rinsed)

1 can of Diced Tomatoes

1 medium sized White Onion chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper chopped

1 Red Bell Pepper chopped

2 chopped Jalapenos (with seeds removed)

2 TBS minced Garlic

1 TBS chopped Cilantro

1 TBS Chili Powder

1 TBS Ground Cumin

1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper

1 tsp Black Pepper

1 tsp Oregano

2 cups Vegetable Broth

1 cup shredded Mexican Cheese for topping

Directions:

Toss all the ingredients into a crock pot except the cheese.

Cover with vegetable broth and stir.

Set Crockpot on HIGH for 3 hours.

While that was cooking I took a few extra minutes to make some low-carb tortilla chips.

316

I simply take a low-carb tortilla and slice it into small triangles.

One tortilla makes a decent handful of chips (enough for one serving) and at only 4 net carbs!

Toss the chip sized pieces onto a lined baking sheet.

Mist both sides VERY LIGHTLY with Olive Oil.

Sprinkle with salt.

Bake them for 4 minutes at 400. Flip once and bake 4 more minutes.

They toast right up and are deliciously crispy!

I store mine in tupperware with a paper towel to absorb moisture. They stay nice and crunchy this way for several days.

Once your quinoa casserole has thickened after 3 hours, top it with the shredded cheese and put the lid back on for 10 minutes until the cheese melts and then you are done!

Serve with low-carb tortilla chips or just a fork!

Meal Prep Monday – Chick Pea Tzatsiki Bowl with Greek Salsa

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Hello, People. And welcome to 2017!

Here is a little spicy Greek number to kickstart your January.

Chick Pea Tzatsiki Bowl with Greek Salsa

Ingredients:

6 Roma Tomatoes

1 large Cucumber

1 small red Onion

2 TBS Feta cheese

1 TBS Olive Oil

1 tsp Cavenders Greek Seasoning

2 cans Chick Peas (garbanzo beans)

3 Cups Cauliflower Rice

Directions:

For Greek salsa, finally chop Roma tomatoes

Finely chop cucumber and red onion and toss in with tomatoes.

Add in olive oil and feta cheese and Greek seasoning and stir.

Set aside. (This actually gets better the longer it marinates!)

Next up, drain and rinse the chick peas.

Pat them dry and toss them onto a lined baking sheet.

Mist them with a little bit of live oil and then sprinkle with Dill and Paprika.

291

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until outside is browned up nice and just a tad crispy.

I plate this up on top of some cauliflower rice and top with the Greek Salsa and some Tzatziki dressing.

I use one from Sam’s that is delish!

If you need instructions on how to make the cauliflower rice just see here!

Serve with a slice of low calorie pita bread.

Meal Prep Monday: Low-Carb Chocolate Fudge

Monday, December 19th, 2016

It is less than one week til Christmas, People!

*Picture me dancing around like a deranged little elf*

I have always enjoyed being in the kitchen, but at the Holidays I indulge in one of my favorite culinary activities: BAKING.

To be honest, I enjoy the decorating aspect of it more than anything. It somehow feels like a grown up, edible version of arts and crafts.

While most of the things I bake are of the indulgent variety, I do occasionally make some treats that are less of a cheat. It is all about balance after all.

Here is my go-to Low-Carb Chocolate Fudge recipe. It is rich and creamy and really does feel like a treat.

And the real bonus is that it takes only MINUTES to prep!

Ingredients:

1 stick butter (melted)

1 block cream cheese (room temp)

3 TBS cocoa powder

2 TBS Truvia

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

Combine the melted butter and softened cream cheese.

Stir in the cocoa powder and Truvia.

Add in the vanilla extract.

Mix until evenly combined.

Stir in chopped pecans.

Pour batter into 8×8 baking pan and chill in fridge covered for 2 hours.

Slice and serve!

I will be taking a break from my Meal Prep Monday posts for the next couple of weeks to enjoy some much needed down time with my critters, and my friends and family.

I hope that wherever you are your Holidays are filled with peace and joy and all things delicious.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Winter isn’t just coming people, IT IS HERE.

And with it, my insatiable desire to eat ALL the comfort foods.

This week I decided to whip up a little something special that will motivate me to get out from under the cozy covers each morning.

It turned out quite delicious. Not delicious enough to make a morning person out of me, but it definitely helps!

Cauliflower Hash Rounds

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower (or an 12 ounce bag)

1 egg

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup cheddar cheese

1 TBS garlic powder

1 TBS onion powder

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

If using fresh cauliflower, remove stems and pulse crowns in a food processor to create cauli-rice.

I cheated and use the pre-made organic Trader Joe’s version. Walmart sells a delicious one also!

Microwave the rice for 8 minutes until moist and moderately tender.

Add in mozzarella, cheddar, garlic and onion powder.

Stir in one egg.

Spoon the mixture on to the parchment paper and pat into 6 even hash rounds.

Bake for 15 minutes until warm and golden.

If stored in an airtight container (add in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture) these will keep for about 5 days.

I serve mine with a side of eggs or topped with avocado.

I bet sour cream would be an excellent way to go also.

The extra good news is these babies take no time at all sling together, which means more time for shopping and holiday gift wrapping!

I hope you enjoy these little nuggets of comfort and that your week is warm and wonderful!

Meal Prep Monday- Thanksgiving 2016 Edition!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Thanksgiving is almost here and my heart is overflowing with all I have to be grateful for.

I am so looking forward to all the family and friends I will be seeing in the coming days. So many necks to hug!

I certainly plan to indulge myself a little (my sweet tooth teeth are quite excited about the red velvet cake my Aunt Pauline promised to make me), but with a little planning I think I will be able to stay reasonably on track.

Today I am giving you the recipes for the dishes I will be contributing to my Family’s celebrations.

They are both delicious and I guarantee very few will realize just how healthy they are!

First up is my black-eyed pea based Georgia Caviar Dip.

I made this one year for a huge family gathering at the lake. To say it went over well is an understatement. It is hands down the thing I am most requested to bring.

It is great to set out before the meal during appetizer hour but my clan prefers to pull it out during the early evening once people start to get hungry and go in for leftovers.

Ingredients:

Tomatoes

Red Onion

Green Bell Pepper

Red Bell Pepper

Yellow Bell Pepper

Orange Bell Pepper

Cilantro leaf

Scallions

Minced Garlic

Black-eyed Peas

Fat Free Italian Dressing

Avocado (optional)

Directions:

I generally chop one of each color peppers, one small red onion and 6 tomatoes.

You can however, freestyle this portion and add more or less of each to create the volume you want.

Then add 1 cup chopped cilantro leaf, 1 tbs minced garlic, and one cup Italian dressing. (I use fat free)

Last but not least, rinse and drain one can of black-eyed peas and mix it all together.

I like to add some diced avocado to mine for a dose of healthy fat, but it is best to do so right before consuming so they do not turn brown.

My crew prefers this served with corn chips. Tortilla chips are also a good option. Or if you are looking for ways to cut the carbs, endive is a delicious alternative!

If your lookin’ to advance your low-carb side-dish game, this Loaded Twice Baked Cauliflower Casserole is an excellent choice!

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower

1 cup chopped scallions

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup turkey bacon (about 6 strips)

1/2 sour cream

1/2 cup cream cheese softened (4 oz)

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish

Chop one large head cauliflower into medium size chunks and place in a pot.

Cover with water and boil until cauliflower is soft.

While cauliflower is cooking, place bacon in frying pan and cook on medium-high heat until crispy.

Set aside on paper towels to drain and cool.

Once cooled, chop into small size bits and place to the side.

Chop scallions.

Once cauliflower is soft, drain well and place in a large mixing bowl.

Using a potato masher or fork, gently mash the cauliflower leaving it slightly chunky.

Stir in 1/2 of the chopped scallions, 1/2 of the cheddar cheese,  and 1/2 of the turkey bacon.

Stir in all of the sour cream and all of the cream cheese.
Pour into a casserole dish and smooth
Top with remaining cheddar cheese, scallions, and turkey bacon bits.
Bake for 30- 35 minutes until bubbly.
This is nothing short of warm, delicious goodness.

I sincerely hope you each have a wonderful holiday! May your hearts and bellies be warm and full!

Meal Prep Monday- Meximash

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Boy and I attended a wedding of some dear friends down on Jekyll Island this weekend.

It was my first trip to this particular swath of Georgia coastline and our dog Biggs’s first EVER trip to the beach.

It.was.fabulous.

We played in the sand. Splashed in the surf. Rode bikes. Danced. Drank wine. Ate cake.

I soaked up every minute with a grateful heart.

Given our weekend was a blissful yet a total blur, I knew that I would be short on prep time for the week ahead.

I opted for a recipe known around our house as “Meximash”.

It is my version of a burrito bowl that is quick, simple, and most important delicious and nutritious.

Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 can corn

1 can of black beans

1 can of  dark red kidney beans

1 can of light red kidney beans

4 TBS Culantro cooking base

1 TBS chili powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 TBS ground cumin

 1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

 1 tsp salt

 1 tsp black pepper

diced Avocado

1 cup chopped tomato

Directions:

Chop one cup tomatoes and set aside.

In a large pan brown the ground turkey along with all the powdered spices.

(This is basically a healthier version of a taco seasoning packet without all the preservatives. You can use regular taco seasoning if you prefer or need to make this even more simplified.)

Rinse and drain all three cans of beans and stir into the ground turkey.

Drain the corn and add to the pan.

The next step is the KEY, and what really makes this bowl taste so delicious.

Stir in 4 heaping tablespoons of Culantro cooking base.

You can find this easily in the Mexican section of your local grocery store.

Even Walmart carries it.

It is life changing, people. LIFE. CHANGING.

Once this is nice and incorporated cover the pan and let simmer for 5-8 minutes.

Spoon into bowls and top with diced avocado and chopped tomatoes.

This is a STAPLE in our home. We eat it at least every other week.

Give it a try.

You can thank me later :)

Meal Prep Monday – Quinoa Breakfast Bowls

Monday, November 7th, 2016

The Holiday season is almost upon us, people.

I love everything about the last few weeks of the year, especially all the decorations and deliciousness.

I’ve doubled down on my exercise efforts hoping to offset the impending damage.

I am typically not a huge fan of eating first thing in the morning. I think it is the one time of the day i am NOT actually hungry.

My breakfast is generally just enough nutrients to get my system started and that is about it.

oh and COFFEE. Lots and lots of coffee.

But  I am finding that in order to sustain my energy level with the extra workouts I am including, I need more fuel in the tank.

I added both extra protein and some healthy carbs to this week’s morning meal with my old friend quinoa.

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Ingredients:

2 cups Quinoa

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup chopped spinach

4 tsps pesto

4 eggs

Directions:

Chop 1 cup tomatoes and set to the side.

Chop 1 cup of raw spinach and set to the side.

In a medium sized sauce pan add 2 cups of quinoa and 4 cups of water.

Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Divide evenly among 4 small bowls.

Stir in 1 tsp of pesto to each bowl and stir until evenly mixed.

Add 1/4 cup of the tomatoes to each bowl.

Add 1/4 cup spinach to each bowl.

At this point i seal the bowls up and each morning i remove one from the fridge and microwave for 40 seconds and then top with a fried egg and one fried egg white.

To make the process even more efficient in the mornings, adding hard boiled eggs a head of time is also delicious!

Here’s to hitting it hard before the Holidays hit!

Meal Prep Monday- Low Carb Shepherd’s Pie

Monday, October 31st, 2016

The final weekend of October was both fast-paced and fun.

Boy and I rocked the 80’s movie magic at the annual Halloween Party we attend.

We love ourselves some homemade costumes!

Since we launch headfirst into November this week and are slated for a dip in the temperature I decided to whip up something hearty and warm to get me through the super busy days ahead.

This is simple to make and low in carbs and fat. It has loads of protein and real stick-to-your-ribs appeal.

Low-Carb Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground low fat ground beef or turkey (I use 97/3)

1 TBS minced garlic

2 lbs frozen cauliflower florets

1 can of peas and carrots (aka Forest and Jenny)

1 package brown gravy mix

2 TBS oregano

2 TBS light sour cream

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 cup turkey bacon bits

2 TBS reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large pot cover the 2 lbs of chopped cauliflower florets with water and boil until soft.

 You can certainly use fresh cauliflower and chop it yourself but I find the frozen is generally cheaper with the added bonus of being more convenient!

Once cauliflower is fork tender, drain ALL water and place in a food processor.

Pulse several times til cauliflower is “mashed”.

Add in 2 TBS oregano and 2TBS light sour cream and blend until well incorporated.

Stir in salt to taste.

Set aside.

Over medium high heat brown the ground beef.

Add in one packet of brown gravy mix.

The gravy mix is being used as a spice so DO NOT add the suggested water amount on the package.

Simply toss in the powder and stir well.

Once the gravy mix is well incorporated, reduce heat to medium and stir in one can of mixed peas and carrots.

<Insert obligatory Forest Gump joke here>

Stir well, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Now it is time to put it all together.

I  small oven-safe ramekins to make mine individual. This way they are pre-portioned and easily ready to toss in my lunchbox. You can make this in one regular 9×13 casserole dish.

Layer the ground beef mixture on the bottom.

Top with the mashed cauliflower. Then sprinkle with the chopped scallions, turkey bacon, and reduced fat cheese (optional).

Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes.

Delicious!

I hope everyone has a safe and festive Halloween.

Here’s to all treats and no tricks!

Hello, November!

Meal Prep Monday- Spicy Thai Turkey and Naan

Monday, October 24th, 2016

I spend as much time as possible out of doors this time of year.

Dog Jogs tend to get longer and longer.

And this suits Biggs just fine…because SQUIRRELS!

(He is obvi an “Autumn” because look at how those warm colors blend with his skin tone.)

All the fresh air and exercise makes a girl HUNGRY.

Given free reign, I am sure my body would eat every carb in site in an effort to pack on 25 lbs of thermal winter fat.

I find myself craving warm, solid, stick-to-your-ribs goodness.

This week I went with not only warm but straight up SPICY with some southeast Asian delicious.

If you are able to locate it, pick up some of this high-fiber, low-fat naan to go along with it!

(I found it at my local Sprouts.)

It is divine and only 120 calories!

Spicy Thai Turkey

Ingredients:

1 small white onion chopped

1 TBS minced garlic

1 lb lean ground turkey (I use 97/3)

2 TBS Chili Garlic Sauce

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped scallions

1/4 chopped cilantro

2 TBS curry paste of choice (panang is my fav!)

1 can coconut milk

3-4 cups cauliflower rice (I use Trader Joe’s brand)

Directions:

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine curry paste and 1 can coconut milk. Be sure to shake the coconut milk can VERY well before opening!

Whisk until the curry paste is completely incorporated. (This will take a little persistence and elbow grease!)

Set curry sauce aside.

In a deep skillet on medium-high heat, saute minced garlic with chopped onions until onions become soft and translucent.

Add ground turkey and brown.

Once turkey has mostly browned add chili garlic sauce and zest of 1 lemon.

(If you like it really hot add in more garlic chili sauce. 2 TBS has a decent kick but it is not 4 alarm fire hot.)

Stir in the chopped cilantro and chopped scallions.

Pour in the curry sauce.

Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

Serve over cauliflower rice with a slice of naan.

I hope you everyone has a colorful, leaf-crunching happy kind of week!

Meal Prep Monday- White Bean Chicken Chili and Low-Carb Corn Muffins

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Well folks, I’m back from vacation and back in my groove.

Three days in the Big Apple followed by a week in Bermuda- we know how to VACAY, for serious.

We had the most amazing time, and honestly could not have enjoyed ourselves more.

That being said, it feels good to be home and settling back into my routine.

We ate ALL THE FOOD on vacation so last week was a lower-calorie reset for me. My body felt really out of sorts from all the sugar in particular. (I plead The Fifth on the number of cupcakes consumed.)

Currently the weather here in Georgia is just spectacular.

I am soaking up every fabulous second of my favorite season and that includes all my beloved, healthy Fall comfort foods.

One of my all-time dearest is White Bean Chicken Chili.

The recipe is from one of my closest gal pals, Gina.

She is known among our crowd as Pickle, and she is far and away one the people I love most on this planet.

Pickle made the mistake of making White Bean Chicken Chili for a group get-together many years ago and we all nearly lost our minds we loved it so. We then proceeded to ask her to make it constantly.

This was back when none of us had children, we hung pretty much every single night and Sunday brunch was practically our religion.

(Oh how I miss those days.)

She must have fixed this every other week for months.

Im telling you, it is ADDICTIVE.

She finally got sick of our whining and gave us the recipe.

Now, whenever I smell this cooking on the stove I am flooded with memories of our large, goofy gang crowded around our kitchen table, making inappropriate jokes and drinking wine.

This recipe warms both my belly and my heart. I hope you will love it as much as I do.

Ingredients:

4 large chicken breasts (about 2 lbs)

Lemon Pepper Seasoning

3 cans  northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 onion, chopped
2 small cans chopped green chilies
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
6 cups chicken broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Coat chicken breasts with lemon pepper seasoning. Wrap in aluminium foil and place on a baking sheet.

Cook for 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove from oven and chop into bite sized chunks.

In a large pot combine the beans, the chopped onion, oregano, cumin and green chilies.

Add the cooked chicken and cover the entire contents with the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 1 hour.

Top it with some plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.

(Shredded mozzarella is also a winner if you are not worried about keeping it lower in fat and calories)

It is that simple, folks.

This tastes like Autumn in a bowl. For reals.

The best part is it is packed with protein, low on fat, and high in fiber.

This slow-carb, long-digesting action will fill you up and keep you that way for a good long while.

Pickle always served this with cornbread muffins but since those tend to find their way straight to my waist-line and hang out permanently, I whipped up a low- carb version to eat this week with lunch.

I fully admit these are not as good as Pickle’s but they are pretty decent if i do say so myself and guilt and gluten free!

Low-Carb “Corn Muffins”

Ingredients:

1/3 cup coconut flour

1/3 cup almond flour

8 eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine the flours and stir until mixed.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and then add the coconut oil.

Fold into the flour mixture until smooth.

Pour into greased muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Happy Fall Y’all!

Meal Prep Monday- Low Carb Spinach-Stuffed Meatloaf

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Two weeks from today I will be sailing across the ocean blue bound for Bermuda with my Boy.

Since this will be my last Meal Prep Monday post for a couple of weeks, I decided to make it a super delicious one.

This one is certain to please even the pickiest of eaters.

Low Carb Spinach- Stuffed Meatloaf

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground beef

2 whole eggs

3 scallions

1 white onion chopped

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup smashed pork rinds

2 TBS minced garlic

1 cup baby spinach

4 oz goat cheese

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp oregano

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Throw all ingredients into a bowl and mix well with hands.

Throw down some plastic wrap on the counter and then roll out your meat on top of it.

Try to flatten it out and create a rectangle and then add the spinach and goat cheese to the middle.

Use the plastic wrap to help you roll meatloaf into a a log (you want it to look like a swiss cake roll with the cheese and spinach in the middle if that makes any sense)

Place in a glass baking dish.

Bake for 50 minutes or until center reaches 150 degrees.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Slice and serve!

This dish disappears in my house faster than your average magic trick.

I often prep this on Sundays and place in tupper ware in the fridge. This allows me to simply come home from work on Monday and toss it in the oven.

Before you know it dinner is done.

As previously mentioned, Meal Prep Mondays will be on break for a couple of weeks while I take some much needed time off for vacation.

When we resume in mid- October there will be Fall Feelings and Recipes a plenty.

I’m thinking soups, and stews and comfort foods… But with a healthy flare that won’t leave you feeling like an overstuffed turkey with a side of guilt.

Enjoy these final super warm days of Summer and Happy Monday, everyone!

Meal Prep Monday – Mediterranean Cauliflower CousCous

Monday, September 12th, 2016

I could probably eat Mediterranean food every single day. Go Greek or go home.

I’m still working on perfecting my own version of chicken gyro (this girl just cant wrap her mind around the concept of eating lamb ) and I am getting really close to my ideal. I have a couple tweaks left to try and then hopefully soon I will be able to share it with you.

This week however, I was able to get a lock on an excellent version of cauliflower couscous that makes a perfect side.

Mediterranean Cauli-CousCous

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower

 1 TBS butter

2 TBS Olive oil

1 TBS Lemon Juice

1 tsp Parsley flakes

1 tsp Dried Dill

1 tsp Garlic Powder

1 tsp Dried Basil

Directions:

Wash and chop cauliflower into large chunks and place into food processor.

Pulse until the cauliflower is in very small grains.

Add olive oil to large skillet.

Over medium high heat, toss cauliflower grains in the olive oil until well coated.

Add the lemon juice, parsley, garlic powder, dill, and basil.

Stir until evenly mixed.

Saute until cauliflower is tender. (about 5-8 minutes)

Serve with tomatoes, olives and cucumbers.

Meal-Prep Monday – Low Carb Turkey Wraps

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Well, clearly this is NOT Monday, but I took advantage of the holiday and the gorgeous weather here in Georgia yesterday to go for a hike with my little family.

Because this week was going to be abbreviated, I went with something simple and quick for meal prep.

I discovered these low carb tortillas a while back and they are seven shades of versatile.

Do yourself a favor and pick some up ASAP.

With only 5 grams of net carbs per serving they are a total win.

Tacos, Breakfast burritos, pizza crust….they offer so many possibilities.

This week I went wrap-style and whipped up a protein-packed turkey filling that will keep you full until dinner time.

Low Carb Creamy Turkey Wraps

Ingredients:

6 slices Turkey bacon

1/2 cup chopped scallions

4 oz cream cheese (room temp)

8 oz turkey lunch meat

1 cup chopped tomatoes

Directions:

Cook turkey bacon until crisp and then set aside until cool.

Chop into small bacon “bit” size and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add in 1/2 cup chopped scallions

Toss in 4 oz of cream cheese that has been allowed to warm to room temp for easy mixing.

Dice 8 oz turkey lunch meat. I find this cracked black pepper version to be DELISH.

Add in 1 cup chopped tomato.

Add salt and pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients together until well-incorporated.

Spread a low carb tortilla with yellow mustard.

Top with several slices of butter lettuce.

Layer on the turkey mixture.

Roll it up and slice down the middle!

I find this to be a delicious alternative to plain old chicken or tuna salad!

Makes 4 wraps.

Meal Prep Monday- Low Carb Sushi Bowls

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Over the past several years of my fitness journey I have discovered that eating a diet higher in protein and fat and lower in carbs is really where my body feels at its best. My husband however, is a giant muscled bag of crazy that needs large amounts of carbs to fuel him each day.

This can sometimes make finding compatible dinner options for the both of us a bit of challenge.

We both LOVE sushi so I came up with a solution that fits both of our macro needs.

Low Carb Sushi Bowls

These things are THE JAM. I’m completely addicted!

I think I could probably eat these every night for weeks on end.

Ingredients:

Cauliflower Rice (about 1 cup for each serving)

Protein of choice (I used Salmon)

2 Cups Chopped Cucumber

2 Cups Shredded Carrots

2 TBS Cream Cheese

1 Cup Chopped Cilantro

Sliced Avocado

1/2 tsp Rice Vinegar

1/2 tsp Sesame Oil

1-2 tsp Wasabi paste

 (you can find this in a tube at your local grocery in the Asian foods section. The more you add the greater the heat!)

1/2 cup Soy Sauce

1 cup Sour Cream

2 TBS Siracha

Black Sesame Seeds

Directions:

I eat my sushi bowls cold, just like regular sushi. Because of this, there is not exact order to how I prepare these. Do so in whatever order suits you best!

I would love to try this recipe with raw sushi-grade salmon but because it is so expensive I typically use the ordinary wild-caught variety and bake it.

I sprinkle a little soy sauce on top before placing it the oven.

I find THE BEST way to cook salmon is to place it in a COLD oven, set to 400 and hit the timer for 25 minutes.

It comes out perfect EVERY TIME.

 While my salmon is baking, I chop all my veggies: cucumber, carrots (pro tip: i buy these already shredded), and cilantro.

Slice up some avocado.

Next up I typically make my sauces. These will both keep nicely in the fridge for several days if you have any left-over.

I mix mine up in the handy little squeeze bottles I picked up at Walmart.

They make it easy to serve and store and clean up is a breeze. They cost less than a dollar a piece!

Sauce #1:

In the first one I mix 1 cup sour cream and 2 TBS sriracha sauce. Just dump them in and shake, shake, shake!

Sauce #2:

Combine soy sauce

and sesame oil

and rice vinegar

and wasabi paste

Stir or shake VERY well until all ingredients are evenly mixed. Be sure and especially see that the wasabi paste has been completely incorporated.

Set your sauces to the side.

Now to make our “base” for the bowl.

I love me some cauliflower rice.

This one from Trader Joe’s is my fav.

Not only is the flavor mild, but you can simply open the bag and cook as little or as much as you need  IN THE MICROWAVE and then put the rest back into the freezer until the next time.

(If you are NOT reducing your carbohydrate count, brown rice or red quinoa is a good choice here!)

The KEY to getting that STICKY RICE feel with the cauliflower is to add 2 TBS of cream cheese once it has been cooked!

This makes all the difference and REALLY gives the over-all texture exactly what it needs!

Now you are ready to prepare your bowl!

Layer cauli-rice on bottom and top with veggies and salmon then sprinkle with both dressings and black sesame seeds.

DELISH!

I think this would also be delicious with Shrimp or Spicy Tuna!

Meal Prep Monday – Basil Curried Chicken

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

I had a busy weekend of Brunching and errands so when it came to Meal Prep, CROCK POT was the name of the game. Set it and forget it.

I’d been tossing around a couple of different recipes, but on Friday my bestie Nik passed me a big bunch of fresh basil right from her garden so that settled it: Basil Curried Chicken it was!

Basil Curried Chicken

Ingredients:

2 cans coconut milk

2 TBS yellow curry powder

1 TBS Chili powder

1/2 cup fresh chopped basil

1 small red onion chopped

2 TBS minced garlic

2 jalapenos diced (seeds removed)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

1 tsp xantham gum (optional)

2 lbs chicken ( I used tenders cut into bite-sized pieces)

Directions:

Coat a frying pan in a small amount of coconut oil and heat to medium high heat. Sear chicken briefly on both sides (about 2 minutes per side)

Remove from the heat and set to the side.

Shake coconut milk well and then pour both cans into your crock pot and stir in the curry powder and chili powder.

Add the chopped basil and jalapeno

And then the chopped garlic…

And then the chopped onion…

Then add the seared chicken.

Stir until everything is mixed and the chicken is well coated.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours OR high for 4-6 hours.

If you like your sauce a bit thicker (which I prefer), just before serving remove a small amount of liquid from the crockpot (about 1/2 cup) and combine with 1 tsp xantham gum. Stir until this becomes a paste. Add the paste back to the crock pot and stir well. This gives you a thicker sauce without the added carbs a traditional flour would add to things! And bonus, it is gluten free!

I serve this dish over Cauliflower rice and topped with chopped cilantro.

Meal Prep Monday -Meatballs and Mushroom Gravy

Monday, August 15th, 2016

I’ve been burning my candle at both ends lately and it has left me feeling a bit run-down and ragged.

I have found myself craving comfort food and there is little that fits that category better for me than mashed cauliflower…all the creamy goodness of mashed potatoes but without the carbs and lethargic feeling eating heavy starches gives.

I topped the mash off with a DELICIOUS new version of Meatballs and Mushrooms that turned out spectacular.

It doesn’t hurt that Cauli-mash could not be easier to make: chopped a head of it up, cook until soft, and toss it in a food processor until smooth. THAT’S.IT.

I season mine with salt and a bit of oregano.

Here’s to fueling up for another week of heavy lifting and hard work.

 

 Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy

Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey or lean ground beef

1/2 cup pork rinds finely crushed

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1 beef bullion cube crushed

1 TBS mustard

2 1/2 cups beef broth (divided)

1 large thinly sliced white onion

1 TBS butter

1 tsp xantham gum

Directions:

In a large bowl combine the ground turkey (or beef), chopped scallions, pork rinds, bullion cube, and mustard.

Mix together until well-combined.

Form into small meatballs.

Melt butter in a frying pan on medium heat until pan is well coated.

Cook meatballs until seared on all sides.

Remove meatballs from pan and set aside.

In the remaining grease (there should not be large amounts if you use low fat meat) toss the sliced mushrooms and onions until well-coated.

Saute until mushrooms are soft and the onions translucent.

Add in two cup of beef broth and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

154

In a separate small dish combine the remaining 1/2 cup of beef broth and the xantham gum. Whisk briskly until the mixture becomes thick. (This is used to thicken the gravy in place of  flour)

Do not worry that it is not smooth. There WILL be small lumps.

Add the xantham gum and broth mixture to the pan with the mushrooms and sauce.

Stir well and cover allowing it to simmer an additional 5 minutes.

Return the meatballs to the pan toss to coat in gravy.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

Meal Prep Monday – Baked Eggs and Cream

Monday, August 8th, 2016

This past week was hard-core and hairy.

 

The kind where you just hang on by your fingernails and pray you make it til the weekend.

 

 

I fell in bed Friday night fried and frazzled.

 

 

 

But after a fabulous long night’s sleep I woke up Saturday feelin’ sassy.

I wanted to try something different for breakfast so I threw this little number together and MAN am I glad I did.

 

It was so delicious I am certain this will be made around our house much more often.

The add-in options for this are endless and it is so hardy it could easily be a lunch or dinner option.

 

Baked Eggs and Cream

 

Ingredients

 

3 oz protein of choice ( I went with this chicken sausage)

 

1 tbs chopped red onion

 

2 eggs

 

1 Tbs Oregeno

 

1 Tbs Basil

 

2 Tbs heavy cream

 

1 ounce shredded cheese ( I used freshly grated Swiss)

 

 

Directions:

 

 

Heat oven to 375.

 

 

 

Place protein of choice in the bottom of a greased ramekin.

(You could also put veggies in here. For my meal prep this week I added bell peppers and cherry tomatoes in this step)

 

 

Top with chopped red onion.

 

 

Crack eggs over the protein and the onion careful not to break the yolks.

 

 

 

Add in Basil and Oregano.

 

 

Cover the whole thing with 2 Tbs heavy cream.

 

 

Place on a cookie sheet (for stability) and bake for 10 min.

 

 

 

Remove from oven, top with grated cheese and return to bake for an additional 10 minutes until egg whites have set.

If you prefer your eggs more on the hard side, I recommend cooking for an additional 12 minutes instead of 10. However, I gotta tell ya, the combination of sunny-side eggs and cream is TO DIE FOR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was delicious and kept me feeling full all morning long!

Meal Prep Monday- Short and Sweet

Monday, August 1st, 2016

I hit the RESET button this week.

 

The first of the month landed on a Monday so the stars just seemed aligned for it.

 

And given I spent my weekend celebrating my dear friend Melanie’s leap into the next decade with copious amounts of wine and laughter, my body was ready for the reboot.

 

Since I am basically doing smoothies during the day and the Lean and Green for dinner, it meant my weekly Meal Prep was a quick and simple one. And thank god for that because apparently, 39 year old me does not recover well from a late night like it used to. Yowza.

Instead of a recipe today, I am sharing a super fabulous little time saver I came up with to make my mornings move more quickly and with less crankiness.

If you have grown addicted to Bullet Proof Coffee as I have, this one is for you!

 

I simply melted the grass fed butter and coconut oil, placed the liquids in my ice cube trays (each tray holds one tablespoon) and then froze them.

 

Once I popped them out of the trays I place them in a tupper-ware and keep them in the fridge so each morning I can simply toss one cube of each into my blender and hit GO!

It saves me from having to measure things out while bleary-eyed and hangry at the crack of dawn.

Anything to save a small bit of my sanity in the mornings is key for me.

So there ya go…short and simple this week, but hopefully you found it useful!

Everyone have a healthy, happy start to the week and the month!

 

Meal Prep Monday- Low Carb Chili Dog Bake

Monday, July 25th, 2016

We happen to live right around the corner from where the new baseball field is going up in Atlanta. GO BRAVES!

 

The traffic in the construction zone is a HOT MESS at the moment but we are consoling ourselves with how great it will be when it has been completed and we can catch a game so close to home!

The best part about of being at the ball park is of course THE FOOD.

There isn’t much I like more than a good hot dog.

 

 

I whipped up a healthier, lower carb version this week that I think is quite the home run.

 

 

It’s a double play of protein that is sure to keep you full through the extra innings of your day.

 

I was super happy with how delicious this came out!

Ingredients:

2 lbs lean ground turkey (I use 97/3)

8 turkey hot dogs

12 oz jar of Walden Farms tomato basil sauce

1 TBS chili powder

1 tsp Cumin

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 TBS Worcester sauce

 

 

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350.

 

Grill hot dogs, chop into bite size pieces and place in the bottom of a 9×11 casserole dish.

 

 

 

Place the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, black pepper and salt in a bowl and mix together until even. *If you prefer you can substitute the Walden Farms for 1 can organic tomato paste and 1 can organic tomato sauce, just be aware the carb count will be higher.

 

Brown ground turkey in the Worcester sauce.

 

 

Combine the tomato sauce mixture and the ground turkey to make a low-carb, no bean chili.

 

 

Pour the chili mixture on top of the hot dogs in the casserole dish.

 

 

Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

 

Bake for 10-15 minutes until hot throughout and cheese is melted.

 

 

 

 

I like to serve mine topped with chopped red onions and a drizzle of mustard, but you could choose from so many options! Banana peppers, pickles, slaw, jalapenos!

 

 

 

 

It is a home run as far as I am concerned!

Meal Prep Monday – Margherita Quiche

Monday, July 18th, 2016

This week is going to be one of the warmest weeks on record here in the South so fresh and lite seemed the way to go in the lunch department.

 

But since I’m facing a very hectic week, I still needed something that packed a real protein punch to keep me energized enough to survive the crazy.

 

I whipped together a low-carb, ketogenic pie crust and filled it with a delicious Margherita Quiche.

 

 

I am pretty much obsessed with all things Mediterranean at the moment and this DID NOT disappoint.

And it can be served for any meal of the day! WINNING!

 

Crust Ingredients:

3/4 cup Coconut Flour

1/3 cup Coconut Oil (melted)

1 tsp Salt

2 Eggs

 

 

 

Crust Instructions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.

 

I suggest just getting in there and using your hands.

122

 

Once the mixture gets nice and crumbly, pack into a tight ball and wrap with plastic wrap.

 

Place ball in the freezer for 5 minutes to set.

 

After the dough has set, place in the middle of a lightly greased pie pan and begin to press.

 

Continue pressing until the pie pan is covered and the dough evenly spread.

Set aside while you prepare the filling.

 

*Note* This quiche can be made crust-less if you so desire. It IS sturdy enough if you want to go that route.

 

Margherita Quiche Filling Ingredients:

6 large eggs

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup fresh chopped basil

1 TBS chopped garlic

2 large tomatoes

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

3/4 cup milk of choice (I used coconut)

1/2 a small onion (I used red)

 

Filling Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350.

 

Dice the onion and add it, the garlic, and black pepper to a frying pan on medium heat.

 

 

Cut the top off one of the tomatoes and scoop out ALL the seeds (this keeps the quiche from getting soggy)

 

Chop the now de-seeded tomato and toss it in with the onion and garlic.

 

 

Continue to brown until onions become translucent.

 

126

 

 

Sprinkle chopped basil over the pie crust.

 

Next, layer on the onion, tomato and garlic mix.

 

 

 

 

Dice up the fresh mozzarella and layer that on top of the onion tomato and garlic mix.

 

127

 

 

In a separate dish whisk the eggs, salt and milk.

 

Pour the egg mixture over the cheese.

 

 

 

 

Thinly slice the other tomato and layer on top of the egg mixture.

 

 

Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper.

 

 

Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes until filling is set.

 

 

 

Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Hello, Happy Belly!

 

 

Meal Prep Monday- Smoothie Secrets

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Smoothies are MY JAM.

Quick, easy and healthy…what is not to love?

With the right ingredients they can even be a total meal replacement for those moments when there just isn’t enough time to sit and eat.

Here are a couple of my Secret Smoothie weapons:

TIP ONE: I use them to sneak extra greens and vitamins into my diet.

 

But since kale and spinach can often go bad before I’ve had a chance to use them up, I’ve got a little trick.

 

 

I toss them into my blender with a little bit of water and make a puree.

 

 

 

I tend to prefer the more subtle taste of spinach while my husband would rather have the kale.

 

112

 

 

 

Look at that bright green goodness!

 

 

 

 

I start with about 1/2 cup water and add more as needed to make it smooth.

113

 

 

Then I pour it into ice cubes and freeze.

 

 

I do recommend buying ice cube trays JUST for this task as they will become a lovely shade of stained after a couple uses.

 

 

Boy bought me some heart-shaped trays which I love.

 

It is dorky, but little things like that make me happy.

 

 

 

I recommend 1-2 cubes per smoothie.

 

 

 

 

Any more than that and the “green” flavor will over-ride whatever else you have going on in the way of taste.

 

 

116

 

 

The cubes stay good for several weeks and BONUS they make my smoothies nice and cold with a hint of slush!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIP TWO: I use Sugar Free pudding and jello mix to change the flavor!

 

 

 

We use a generic vanilla whey protein powder that we purchase 6 lbs at a time at Costco because it is the best price-point.

 

But that same old vanilla flavor gets OLD.

 

 

I have found that adding 1 TABLESPOON of sugar free jello or pudding mix will change the taste right up and all without adding any extra sugar or unwanted calories!

 

I was on a real butterscotch bender there for a while.

 

 

My current favorite is Sugar Free Cheesecake with blueberries mixed in!

 

I generally use coconut milk though I have been known to use almond milk upon occasion.

 

I usually go with the ratio of 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup berries, 1 tbs pudding mix, 1/2 cup ice cubes. But you can experiment to get a sweetness/thickness level that satisfies your personal taste.

TIP THREE: Smoothies dont have to SWEET!

I have really come to love a savory concoction that is basically a Bloody Mary sans alcohol.

118

I use:

1 cup chopped cucumber

1 cup organic low sugar tomato juice

1 cup ice cubes

1-2 spinach cubes

2 TBS lemon juice

1/2 tsp sriracha

1 tsp Worcester sauce

 

This has a nice zing to it and it WAY lower in sugar than a canned V-8 drink.

Add more sriracha if you like it extra spicy!

TIP FOUR: Avocado makes everything better.

Tossing in about 1/4 of a sliced avocado with really thicken up a smoothie and give it a milkshake like texture.

 

It sounds strange, but I promise it is delicious.

 

 

The taste is almost non-existent and it REALLY makes the whole thing extra creamy!

 

I have a smoothie nearly every day in the summer and find there is little that can beat them for convenience and curbing hunger.

Hope these tips proved helpful!

Happy Blending!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday – Popsicle Party

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Summer is officially here and along with it my cravings for all things cold and creamy.

I love, and I really mean LOVE, my ice cream, especially in the summer.

And popsicles being both portion-sized AND portable just make them the hero of the season.

This weekend I whipped up three different flavors ALL of which are low-carb and SUPER easy!

I used the little “bags” for mine so I could grab and go and not have to worry about the container.

This means I can throw one in my lunch box for a late afternoon treat at work or take it to the pool with me!

I used the Zipzicles brand and I found mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond, but I am sure they sell them many places.

You could also use the popsicle molds just as easily!

I chose Cherry-Limeade , Peaches and Cream, and Chocolate as my flavors. You can easily change this up as you see how they are made. If anyone comes up with a stellar combination of their own, please share it with me!

Cherry-Limeade Popsicles

Ingredients:

1 box sugar free lime jello

1 package unsweetened cherry kool-aid mix

1/2 cup Truvia (or natural sugar replacement of your choice)

1/2 cup boiling water

1 1/3 cup cold water

Directions:

Pour jello and kool-aid and Truvia into a large bowl with a spout or lip that will allow for easy pouring. ( I used my quart sized measuring bowl)

Pour hot water over this and stir until all ingredients are completely dissolved.

Add the cold water.

Pour into popsicle bags (or molds) and freeze for at least 4 hours.

ZERO CARBS PER SERVING!

Peaches and Cream Popsicles

Ingredients:

1 small box sugar free peach jello

4 tsp Truvia

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup crushed ice

Directions:

Add the boiling water to the jello and mix until fully dissolved.

Add the ice and stir to cool the mixture.

Add the sweetener and heavy cream and stir until evenly mixed.

Pour into popsicle bags or molds.

Freeze for at least 4 hours.

NET 2.5 CARBS PER SERVING

 


Creamy Chocolate Popsicles

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup water

2 TBS Truvia

2 TBS unsweetened coco powder

Directions:

Whip all the ingredients together until smooth.

Pour into popsicle bags or molds.

Freeze for at least 4 hours.

NET 2.5 CARBS PER SERVING

Hope everyone enjoys this little low-carb treat to beat the heat!

 

Meal Prep Monday- Water Works

Monday, June 20th, 2016

It’s June in Georgia which means it’s almost as hot outside as Ryan Reynolds.

All in all, I actually prefer the heat to the cold, so this is my happy season.

I  spend a fair amount of time outdoors going for dog jogs with my critter, Biggs. Between that and my regular exercise schedule at the gym, a girl can get dehydrated in a HURRY.

Getting the necessary water in to stay fully hydrated can be a challenge, especially if you don’t particularly LOVE water.

While my taste for it has grown, it does sometimes seem boring and flavorless.

Enter: Infused Water.

These offer a flavor punch for your taste-buds without all the chemicals and sugar of popular sports drinks or sodas.

And preparation could NOT be more easy. Just wash your fruit and herbs, slice and throw it in a jar. Top with cold water and allow to steep for at least 6 hours to start.

The ingredients will stay good for a week if stored in a glass container like a mason jar and continually covered by the water. Just leave the fruit and herbs in bottom of the jar and refill as needed throughout the week!

Here are the five flavors I will be rocking for the next five days and the benefits of each!

 

Raspberry Mint:

Contains Vitamins C, K and E.

Helps maintain a clear complexion. Can  help ease nausea.

 

Blueberry Lime:

Packed with Vitamin c!

Helps aid in digestion and appetite control.

 

Citrus Circus: (Lemon, Lime and Orange)

Aids in immune defense and digestion.

Can help ease heartburn.

 

Apple Cinnamon: (use cinnamon sticks)

Can help reduce blood sugar and inflammation.

Builds the immune system and strengthens cardiovascular system.

 

Cucumber Rosemary:

Helps brighten skin.

Decreases appetite and relieves headaches.

 

Happy First Day of Summer! Don’t stay thirsty, my friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday – Ten Feet Tall and Bullet Proof

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Saying “I am not a morning person” is kind of like calling the Grand Canyon a big ditch.

I have gotten up very early routinely for years because of my job, and it never gets any easier.

But since I am a grown-up I suck it up and deal. I just prefer for things to be calm and above all QUIET until I have had my first cup of coffee.

I am also not a big fan of food first thing in the morning. I just don’t typically wake up with any type of appetite. (This is the only time of day the statement “no appetite” might ever apply to me)

But given all signs point to the importance of breakfast as the means to kick-starting your metabolism for the day, I do my best to eat something.

I often go with a smoothie/protein shake or hard-boiled egg situation. I have said for years, if coffee was just a meal replacement then I would be all set.

Enter, BULLET PROOF COFFEE.

I heard about it a while back but it did not sound super appealing so I put off trying it until recently.

I am here to report that as odd as it seems, it is DELICIOUS.

And it is a double winner because it is so nutrient dense it replaces the need for breakfast. I. AM. SOLD.

The healthy fat content keeps me feeling full LONG into the morning…well past the time when my previous go-to of hard-boiled eggs would have worn off.

I’ve experimented a little trying a few different flavors of extract and I found my personal favorite combination to be the one listed below.

BULLET PROOF COFFEE

Ingredients:

8 oz freshly brewed coffee (still hot)

1 tablespoon grass fed butter (I use Kerrygold)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 “pinch” of cinnamon (adjust this for your own taste)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

 

Directions:

Toss it all into a blender and mix until smooth. IT IS THAT EASY.

It comes out frothy like a latte and so creamy.

Adding flavors isn’t necessary…i found it quite tasty with the butter and coconut oil alone. But ground cinnamon is great for inflammation as well as a metabolism boost!

There ARE some folks out there shouting that using something called MCT oil is better for you than using coconut oil. MCT just stands for Medium Chain Triglyceride….. which is a fancy way of saying it is the healthy kind of fat. I could get all flashy and show off my biochem knowledge here but it is SUPER SNOOZE BORING so I wont. I will just say this, coconut oil IS a medium chain triglyceride…it just also happens to contain some lauric acid and straight MCT oil does not. HOWEVER, coconut oil is significantly cheaper and has so many other uses that most folks have it around the house already. Healthy eating is complicated and expensive enough so let’s simplify where we can, shall we? And

BONUS: Lauric acid has really great antibacterial properties!

Give this concoction a try…I am so glad I did, because this one has been a real game changer for me!

 

Meal Prep Monday- Cereal Killer

Monday, June 6th, 2016

I have always had a type-A personality. I love to set goals and make lists. I am a Planner with a capitol P.

I suppose that is one reason prepping my meals ahead of time is so appealing to me.

But honestly, one of the best things about meal-prep is how convenient it makes things during the week. My life stays so endlessly busy that having food ready to grab-n-go saves my sanity a thousand times over on any given day.

Eating a ketogenic, low-carb diet I began missing one of my favorite go-to convenience meals for breakfast: CEREAL.

Even most of the “healthy” ones marketed today contain wild amounts of sugar and carbs.

I whipped up this little concoction and I was surprised at how delicious it turned out and how well is satisfied my cereal cravings, with just a hair over 1 gram of sugar per serving and net carbs under 7 grams per serving!

 

My husband and I have been debating on what to name this recipe.

So far the contenders are:

Frosted Fakes

 

Cereal Killer

 

 

Granolish

 

CHeeriNOs

 

Cinnamon Faux Crunch

 

Which one gets your vote?

 

92Ingredients:

8 oz sliced almonds

8 ounces chopped pecans

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 tbs coconut oil

1 tbs ground cinnamon

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 400.

Toss all the ingredients in a large bowl until well-coated with coconut oil.

89Spread across a lightly greased cookie sheet.

 

Bake for 4 minutes, remove and toss, and then bake for an additional 6 or until lightly golden brown (THIS DOES NOT TAKE LONG SO KEEP AN EYE ON IT!)

 

Once cool you can store this in tupperware or a mason jar for up to 10 days!

 

Top with almond milk or coconut milk.

 

Makes about a dozen servings.

 

*BONUS* If your sweet tooth is acting up, toss in a few sugar-free chocolate chips!

93 (frosted fakes)

National Donut Day- Nutritious Edition

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

There is little on earth that excites me like a truly delicious baked good. My sweet tooth is MIGHTY, let me tell ya.

 

So in an effort to stay on track AND indulge my cravings, I have been experimenting lately with ways of making “healthified” goodies.

 

In honor of National Donut Day, I am sharing this recipe for Low Carb Red Velvet Donuts. Whether it is gluten or gluttony you are runnin’ from, I think you will find these to be a delicious little winner.

 

Ingredients for Donuts:

2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup Swerve Sweetener

1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp xanthan gum

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

6 oz greek yogurt (you can sub sour cream in a pinch)

1/4 cup butter, softened

3 large eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup almond milk

15 drops red

 

 

Ingredients for Icing:

2 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup powdered Swerve Sweetener

 

 

Instructions for Donuts:

Preheat oven to 375.

Lightly grease donut pan with coconut oil.

Mix together the almond flour, sweetener, protein powder, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make sure it is clump-free.

Beat yogurt and butter, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth. Add half of almond flour mixture and beat until combined, then beat in almond milk. Beat in remaining flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

Place batter into donut pan and cook for 20-30 minutes until toothpick inserted at center comes out clean. ( This makes 12 donuts but I only have one pan so I repeated the process twice.)

Place on wire rack to cool.

 

Instructions for Icing:

Mix the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.

Add the powdered sweetener, cream and vanilla and stir until well blended.

IF YOU WANT THICKER ICING WAIT UNTIL DONUTS ARE COMPLETELY COOL. IF YOU PREFER A MORE GLAZED LOOK, SPREAD ICING ON WHILE STILL WARM. (I went for the glazed feel.)

 

 

Meal Prep Monday- Memorial Day Edition- Cream Cheese Danish Flags

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Like the many of you I am spending this long weekend with my family so this will be a brief blog!

 

I whipped together a special breakfast for this week...Low Carb Cheese Danishes! Since I was in the patriotic spirit i shaped them into flags and dyed the icing.

I would like to note here, that these took some time to put together.

 

I don’t generally post recipes that require so much involvement, and I wouldn’t attempt these in a rush.

 

But if you are looking for a special treat or have some extra baking time on your hands, give them a whirl.

 

 

Ingredients for Filling

6 oz cream cheese

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup Swerve or Truvia

1 egg yolk

 

Ingredients for Dough

1 1/4 cup 2% mozzarella shredded cheese

6 tbsp Almond Flour

3 tbsp Coconut Flour

4 tsp Swerve or Truvia

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

4 tbsp butter

1 egg

3Ingredients for Icing

3 tbsp powdered Swerve

2 tbsp heavy cream

2 oz cream cheese

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400.

I made the filling first:

Combine all the ingredients listed and whip with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Set in fridge til needed.

4For the dough:

 

Combine almond flour, coconut flour, and baking powder and stir until mixed well.

 

Place the butter, mozzarella, and vanilla in a microwave safe bowl and melt.

 

Once slightly cool, knead in the flour mixture. Add an egg and knead until the dough is smooth and all the same color.

 

Roll out the dough and slice into 4 quarters.

 

Spoon filling onto each danish.

 

1Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

 

Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

 

For the icing:

 

Soften the cream cheese and then combine the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth.

 

Place in a plastic baggie, cut a small hole in the corner, and pipe icing onto the danish. ( I separated mine into 3 bowls and added food coloring before piping my flag design)

 

Hope you enjoy and Happy Memorial Day!

5

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday – Buddha Bowls and Asian Awesomeness

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

I discovered the grocery chain Aldi ages back, but only recently have I been doing the majority of my shopping there.

 

While there are still the occasional items I find I need to seek out at a larger retailer, this little spot has become my primary source for groceries.

 

I bought a dozen eggs last week for LESS THAN A DOLLAR. That is practically stealing, people.

 

You will want to make sure you bring your own bags with you, but since I do that routinely anyway, it’s already part of my system.

And seriously, how cute are these adorable reusable bags I found at the Dollar Tree? They are totally my new favorites.

Bags and Bowls. Those are my two latest obsessions.

And by bowls, I simply mean the little thing that’s been taking the healthy-eating community by storm known as Buddha Bowls.

Building a Bowl could not be more easy:

Step 1- Pick a base

Some common ones include: quinoa, rice, barley or beans.

Step 2- Add some protein

If you aren’t a meat-eater toss in some tofu or chickpeas.

Step 3-Add some complimentary veggies

My go-to’s are peppers, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and carrots. These hold up well during the week, and are versatile enough to transition from Mexican to Thai in a snap depending on your seasonings and toppers.

Step 4- Add some greens

Sure Spinach and Kale work here, but I rather enjoy going outside the box and adding mint, or cilantro, or fresh dill.

Step 5- Top it

Dressings can be loaded with extra bad fats and calories so keep it simple…think lime juice, or balsamic vinegar…those types of things.

Step 6 – *Optional Extras

Throw is some healthy fats like avocado or sunflower seeds for a meal that will stick to your ribs a bit longer and really leave you satisfied.

The best thing about the Buddha Bowl concept it that it is totally easy to find the combinations that work best for YOUR kind of diet.

I’m a low-carb, keto lovin’ gal so I tend to choose a base like Cauliflower Rice.

This week I topped it with some chopped peppers, carrots, cucumbers and shrimp. At serving time I will add some cilantro, avocado and soy sauce for a delicious little far eastern zing.

For my snack attacks this week, I mixed up a little Thai Cucumber Salad.

 

This is a great little slightly spicy number with a good little kick of twang.

 

It is as close as I get to the whole “fermented foods” craze and anything resembling kimchi. (Sorry, kimchi lovers, I just simply am not a fan.)

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups sliced cucumbers
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs natural sugar substitute ( I used Truvia)
  • 1tsp sesame oil (if you aren’t a fan of spicy, reduce this to 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

 

Slice cucumbers and place in a large, gallon size ziplock bag.

 

Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl until uniform.

 

Pour mixture into ziploc bag and close.

 

Shake vigorously until all cucumber slices have been well coated.

 

For dinner I went with a little copycat PF Chang’s recipe for chicken lettuce wraps that I found here, on the blog Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen.

 

I did however, sub the vegetable oil called for with coconut oil.

 

This recipe calls for a fair number of ingredients, many of which I gathered over time from other recipes.

 

If you don’t already have most of them, it can get pricey to purchase them all at once. Fair warning.

I’m looking forward to my week of Asian Awesomeness and staying on track!

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday- Coconut Flour Pancakes

Monday, May 16th, 2016

This past week was the kind that makes you want to crawl in bed and stay there for the foreseeable future.

So Sunday morning naturally called for pancakes. Delicious, delicious pancakes.

I’ve tried the whole healthy banana-batter option before and it was NOT for me.

Not only did it taste too much like a banana to be a good pancake, it was also a weird texture.

The whole thing was just WRONG.

So this time, I experimented with a new, low-carb coconut-flour version and they turned out so delicious I whipped up a second batch during meal prep to eat throughout the week.

This recipe makes 10 pancakes at 1/4 cup size a piece.

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs (hello protein!)
  • 1/2 cup Almond Milk
  • 6 TBS coconut oil (in liquid form)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBS Swerve (or natural sugar substitute of choice)

 

 

 

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl place the coconut oil (I melted mine in the microwave and the allowed it to cool), eggs and almond milk.

Whisk until smooth.

 

In a separate bowl stir the coconut flour, salt, baking powder and Swerve until evenly mixed.

 

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and mix well.

 

Place 1/4 cup spoonfuls on a greased skillet heated to medium-high heat.

 

When bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the cake (about 3 minutes), flip and brown the other side.

 

 

 

Top with butter and sugar free syrup.

 

Stuff your face, guilt free.

 

These were fluffy and lite and really did taste like a traditional carb-laden pancake.

 

I probably could have eaten this entire batch in one sitting entirely on my own.

 

Instead, I showed a little restraint and dished up two a day for my breakfast for the next five days.

 

I ate them this morning and can attest they held up well to reheating!

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday- Twice Baked Loaded Cauliflower Casserole

Monday, May 9th, 2016

 

Sometimes we just NEED comfort food.

 

This week, Life dealt me a hand that called for exactly that.

 

When I think comfort, I think CASSEROLE.

 

And this Loaded Twice Baked Cauliflower Casserole does NOT disappoint.

 

I think I might even consider making this for Thanksgiving this year!

 


Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup turkey bacon (about 6 strips)
  • 1/2 sour cream
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese softened (4 oz)

 

 

 

60Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

 

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

 

Chop one large head cauliflower into medium size chunks and place in a pot.

 

Cover with water and boil until cauliflower is soft.

 

While cauliflower is cooking, place bacon in frying pan and cook on medium-high heat until crispy.

 

Set aside on paper towels to drain and cool.

 

Once cooled, chop into small size bits and place to the side.

 

Chop scallions.

 

Once cauliflower is soft, drain well and place in a large mixing bowl.

 

Using a potato masher or fork, gently mash the cauliflower leaving it slightly chunky.

 

Stir in 1/2 of the chopped scallions, 1/2 of the cheddar cheese,  and 1/2 of the turkey bacon.

Stir in all of the sour cream and all of the cream cheese.

 

Pour into a casserole dish and smooth.

 

Top with remaining cheddar cheese, scallions, and turkey bacon bits.

 

 

Bake for 30- 35 minutes until bubbly.

 

This turned out to be a straight up warm bowl of goodness.

I am pretty sure you could sub the sour cream for Greek yogurt if you aren’t a keto eater and want to lower to fat content.

I prepped this as a side dish, but quite frankly it could easily be the main event because it is so filling.

Here’s to getting through this week retaining as much of my sanity as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday – This Ain’t Your Mama’s Grits, Y’all

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

I am OBSESSED with all things cauliflower these days.

I am convinced it must be the most versatile veggie on the planet.

It has become my GO TO low-carb replacement for so many things.

Since I already had my SOUTHERN card practically revoked for making low-carb biscuits, I decided I might as well go all out and try my hand at low-carb grits.

These also happen to be gluten free and vegan.

I topped mine with chicken sausage (obviously not vegan) and some spinach and I was very pleased with the way it turned out.

Perhaps next I will tweak these and add them to my breakfast menu as well… topped with fried eggs! I love discovering a new “base” staple option because: POSSIBILITIES!

Cajun Chicken Sausage and Cauliflower Grits

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Riced Cauliflower
  • 2 TBS Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 TSP Onion Powder
  • 1/2 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 TSP Xanthan Gum (this is pricey, but a small bag lasts forever and it has super powers. see note below )
  • 1 Can of Coconut Milk
  • 1 lb Chicken (or Turkey) Sausage (I love the Simply Nature brand at Aldi!)
  • 4 cups fresh Spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp Cajun Seasoning (My current fav is a brand called “Slap Your Mama”)

 

55Quick note about Cauliflower Rice-

You can make your own SUPER easily. Just chop the green stem off a head of cauliflower, cut the head into chunks and pulse it in a food processor until the grains are rice-like in size.

Don’t have a food processor? An old fashioned grater works too, it just takes a bit longer.

Personally, I go the total convenience route and but it already grated in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s!

It is very inexpensive ($1.99 a bag) and has no additives…it is just delicious cauli-rice with all the work done for you.

It can be challenging to find, because it sells out QUICKLY. When I do run across it I buy several bags at a time. My local TJ’s will even hold a few bags and call me when it comes in because they are just that fantastic.

When I run across a sale on heads of cauliflower at my Farmer’s Market, I swipe them up, break out the food processor and makes large batches of rice that I then portion out into ziplocks and freeze for future use.

56This recipe also calls for Xanthan gum.

I avoided recipes that called for this in the past because it can be kind of pricey.

I finally caved and boy am I glad I did!

This stuff is MIRACULOUS. It acts as a thickening agent, but without adding any flavor or carbs!

It takes very little, so a small bag will last you a LONG time.

Believe it or not I found the best price at my local Super Target.

This little gem is also gluten free!

If you are a carb-counter or celiac-challenged, you will find this stuff to be absolute magic and your new best friend in the kitchen.

*Bonus* I add just a PINCH of this to my smoothies to get a more milkshake like consistency!

53

 

Directions:

Over medium heat combine coconut oil and cauliflower rice.

Cover and cook until rice is tender but not yet browned. (About 2 minutes)

Reduce heat to low and add 1 can of coconut milk. Be sure and shake well before opening the can.

Stir in Xanthan Gum, onion powder and garlic powder.

Cover and cook until the mixture is soft and of “grit” texture (about 10 minutes)

 

Add salt and pepper to taste.

While grits are cooking, dice and saute sausage in 1 TBS coconut oil and Cajun seasoning.

(You could easily swap the sausage for shrimp in this recipe if you are looking for a lower calorie option!)

52

 

When sausage is cooked through and slightly browned, reduce the heat.

Add in the fresh Spinach leaves and cover.

Cook until spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally.

Place cooked grits in the bottom of a bowl or on a plate.

Top with the sausage and wilted spinach mixture.

 

 

 

These flavors all came together delightfully well. The grits were so creamy!

This might make me a less-valid southerner, but it is so worth it.

 

54

Meal Prep Monday – Ceviche Style Fish Salad

Monday, April 25th, 2016

I prepped and packed my meals for the upcoming week in record time this weekend.

Our social calendar was overloaded with lovely events with wonderful people, leaving me with a very narrow window to shop and cook.

For this reason, I went with some tried and true staples that I knew would come together quickly:

Breakfast:
Low Carb Protein Muffin
Hard Boiled Egg

Lunch:
Turkey  Salami 
Turkey Pepperoni
Sliced Colored Peppers

Snacks:
Baby Carrots with Hummus
(In colored topped containers)
Cheesecake Protein Balls
(Not pictured)

Dinner:
Fish Faux Ceviche salad topped with Avocado

The best thing on my menu this week is my personal version of “ceviche” salad. I put that word in quotes because unlike traditional ceviche, my fish is actually cooked with heat.

I simply don’t have the budget for the high sushi-style grade of fish required to make actual ceviche safely, nor do I feel comfortable making it head of time to be consumed a few days later.  My cooked version however is just as delicious and has the bonus of being affordable!

 

 

Ceviche Style Fish Salad

49

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 2 medium peppers)
  • 3 diced roma tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or white onion (I had white on hand this week so I went with that, but red if my fav)
  • 1 small lime
  • 16 oz white fish
  • olive oil
  • avocado (optional)
  • sea salt (optional)

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375.

Place fish on greased baking pan and coat with seasonings of choice.

(I generally go with a lite dusting of garlic powder, onion powder and dried cilantro seasoning)

45Bake for 18-20 minutes until cooked throughout.

While fish is cooking, chop and dice the peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, and onion into a large mixing bowl.

Once the fish has finished cooking and is cooled, take two forks and flake all of the fillets into small bite sized pieces.

Place the flaked fish into the mixing bowl with the peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, parsley, and onion.

Stir until evenly mixed.

Squeeze 1/2 a fresh lime over the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.

I typically serve mine with a drizzle of olive oil and some sliced avocado, but that is completely optional.

If you want to keep it low fat, it is still tasty without either of these.

 

48

 

 

 

BONUS PROTEIN ADD IN: hard boiled egg white!

This does little to change the taste of the dish to be honest, but it is an excellent, very inexpensive way to make sure you hit those high protein macros!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday- Biscuit Baking Beautiful

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Everyone is different, but for me Meal Prep seems more simple if I find a protein I enjoy and stick with it for a while.

Then I just change up my snacks or breakfast for some variety.

I find that if I am trying to make SEVERAL new recipes all in one prep, things can get crazy and take way too long.

As it is, I spend a fair amount of my Sunday on this task, so I am all for ways to shave off time or make the process more efficient.

People often think that motivating myself to get to the gym 6 days a week is the tough part…but the reality is the effort I make to shop and eat clean…that far and away takes more effort.

I do find however, that it is so worth it. Not only do FEEL better when I eat healthy, it is actually even more convenient that running out to grab fast food!

I am still very much in my Fish Phase so I stuck with that as my protein.  I picked the veggies that looked best at my local farmer’s market and this week that was asparagus, squash, cucumbers and peppers.

34And for my “something new”, I experimented with a grain-free, low carb BISCUIT for breakfast.

I will be honest, I had no idea how this was going to turn out, but I was delightfully surprised!

My husband, who is a pretty tough critic of the majority of my low-carb creations, even declared it a winner and asked me to make more.

(Pardon my Penguin slippers peekin’ up at y’all. I love baking ALMOST as much as I love fuzzy footwear.)

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of egg whites (or 6 egg whites if you’re crackin’ them yourself)
  • 1 cup Almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter CHILLED
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400 and grease a large cookie sheet.

Combine the almond flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture.

Most people probably use a fork for this, but I found that to be entirely too slow. I simply worked in in with my hands.

 

Continue this until the mixture is crumbly throughout.

 

Place the crumbled flour mixture in the fridge while you work on your egg whites to keep it cold.

Beat your egg whites until they form stiff, white peaks.

40Fold the egg whites gently into the flour mixture until evenly combined.

Scoop the combined mixture onto your cookie sheet in small mounds, (I used a 1/4 measuring cup to try and keep them uniform) and smooth the tops.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

I waited for mine to cool before carefully slicing them in half.

It should be noted that these will NOT be as fluffy or thick as your typical carb-loaded biscuit, but i was surprised as the real biscuit texture they possessed.

We found them to be delicious with just a small pat of butter, but later I taste-tested one with a healthy dollop of sugar-free jelly (you know, for science sake and all) and found them to be downright wonderful.

They were best right out of the oven, but not at all bad when re-heated.

(I popped one into the microwave for about 20 seconds)

I have mine stored in the fridge in a Tupperware container lined with paper towels (to absorb moisture) so they will last the week. I feel pretty certain they would stay good for a couple of days simply wrapped on the counter though.

37

33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, I think i will experiment with some healthy recipes for sausage gravy to accompany these! Oh! Or maybe adding some cheese and garlic…so many possibilities. Regardless, I am thinking this may become a staple around our home.

 

 

 

 

Meal Prep Monday- Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Monday, April 11th, 2016

32From time to time lately I’ve had mini moments of freak-out about the fact that I will be FORTY in 6 months time…for no other real reason than man, has it gone by FAST. For the most part, aging has been a GOOD thing. It took me what felt like longer-than-most to figure out who I was and what I wanted out of life…but I’m finally here. I sweat less and less of the small things. I grow more comfortable in my own skin every single day.

It’s not to say I don’t notice flaws or strive for change. It’s simply that I have embraced that in some things there simply will be limits. I’ve discovered that beautiful place where perfect isn’t the only road to happy.

This is especially true of my health and fitness journey. I’m learning that while my body is far from flawless it is still a very powerful thing.

It took much trial an error to find what type of diet and exercise routine was my best fit. I have never been a morning person so I was SHOCKED to discover that after trying out many different time slots my best work-out docket was bright and early before work. I just have so much more energy than I do at the end of the day. Oh, i am miserable for the first 5 minutes or so…but once my heart gets to pumping my body is ready to bring it.

And I have learned that i feel best eating a ketogenic diet…which is a fancy way of saying low or “slow” carb. It’s just where my particular arrangement of atoms feels its most efficient and effective.

I am on a real fish kick right now, so I baked some up for lunch this week. To the side I added one of my favorite belly-fillers: Black-eyed Pea Salad. If you aren’t carb-counting, scoop it up like a dip with some corn chips. If you’re like me, enjoy it with some endive or straight out of a spoon. The black-eyed peas add some stomach stuffing fiber to keep you feeling satiated longer. And BONUS, they also have protein! Keep it veggie or add in some shredded chicken, the options are endless.

26Ingredients:

Tomatoes

Red Onion

Green Bell Pepper

Red Bell Pepper

Yellow Bell Pepper

Orange Bell Pepper

Cilantro leaf

Scallions

Minced Garlic

Black-eyed Peas

Fat Free Italian Dressing

Avocado (optional)

 

24I generally chop one of each color peppers, one small red onion and 6 tomatoes.

You can however, freestyle this portion and add more or less of each to create the volume you want.

Then add 1 cup chopped cilantro leaf, 1 tbs minced garlic, and one cup Italian dressing. (I use fat free)

Last but not least, rinse and drain one can of black-eyed peas and mix it all together.

I like to add some diced avocado to mine for a dose of healthy fat, but I do so right before consuming instead of at the initial prep.

 

As previously mentioned the serving options here are endless.

This week I went with the “endive boats” and it.is.delish.

This recipe is simple, quick, and colorful.

I take it often to family gatherings and it is always a big hit.

31

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ones in Front of You

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

3

This past weekend I rescued my umpteenth critter.

A little lost kitty that crossed my path while i was out walking my dog, Biggs. A trip to the vet and a few phone calls and we managed to return the little urchin to his rightful home safe and sound in just a couple days time.

I will never forget the look on Boy’s face the first time I burst through the front door and said the words “Grab a towel, there is a critter that needs help.”

For the life of me I am uncertain why I feel like an old bath towel is the one and only requirement to rescue the wretched, but it is my go-to life-saving device for all.

Boy has since heard those infamous words on more occasions that he can likely count.

Our current cat, Teakerbell, was found under a tool shed at about 7 days old. It was 8 weeks of round the clock bottle-feedings before she was weaned and could eat on her own and I could sleep more than two hours at a stretch.

As far back as I can remember I have been dragging in the lost and lame and doing my level best to set them whole and set them free.

This is why  I am sure it came as no shock to those who know me that i would choose a career in medicine.

278

I am frequently asked why in the world I go so far out of my way so often to rescue random fur-balls. I can not tell you how many times someone has called me foolish or weird for this.

The time we took in a bitty baby squirrel (so young its eyes were still closed) that had to be fed pedialyte with a syringe every half hour, seems to get the most odd looks and head scratches.

Folks seem quite perplexed by my motivations to “save” a critter most people see as little more than an nuisance.

Well, I will let you in on a little secret- this is how I make sense of the World.

Save the ones in front of you.

I am often overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of suffering on this planet.

Watch the nightly news for 30 seconds and you will see countless very real and very pressing problems that need immediate action:

#blacklivesmatter

#refugees

#ISIS

#worldhunger

No matter how big a fight i put up, I’m not irrational enough to believe i could solve it all. But what i can do is: Save the ones in front of me.

Day by day. One case at a time. Be they Person or Pet. Sister or Stranger.

I am by no means a hero. And I OFTEN drop the ball. (Dear Lord i don’t even want to THINK about all the ways I screw up sometimes.) But i try.

It may seem ridiculous to you for someone to spend a half hour trying to herd a tiny mouse out of the road and back into the foliage so he doesn’t get squished by a car…but that’s just my way of trying to change the world for the better.

And like they say “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

279

Meal Prep Monday : Lemon Poppy-Chia Seed Cookies

Monday, April 4th, 2016


19

I have a MAJOR sweet tooth. Strike that. I have sweet TEETH.

I love nothing more than a little sweet treat, ESPECIALLY with my coffee.

I do not however, like what sugar does to my midsection, or the inevitable crash that comes mid-morning when I’ve eaten it for breakfast.

This week during meal prep, I whipped up a batch of breakfast cookies that I can grab along with my coffee and GO. Not only are they portable and low carb, but they’ve got plenty of protein which makes them an excellent way to start the day. What better way to welcome the first of April and the budding Spring than with some sunshiny lemon goodness.

18Ingredients for Cookie Dough:

¼ c  coconut flour

2 scoops  vanilla protein powder

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp xantham gum

¼ tsp salt

1/2 Tbs  poppy seeds

1/2 Tbs chia seeds

Zest of 1 medium sized lemon

1 ½ tbsp  coconut oil melted but slightly cooled

1 large egg white, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

Juice from 1 medium sized lemon

1/2 c Truvia

(Glaze optional: see below)

17Combine the following into a bowl:

¼ c  coconut flour

2 scoops  vanilla protein powder

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

1/2 Tbs  poppy seeds

1/2 Tbs chia seeds

Zest of 1 medium sized lemon

Stir until the dry mixture is even throughout.

Into a SEPARATE bowl mix the remaining wet ingredients:

1 ½ tbsp  coconut oil melted but slightly cooled

161 large egg white, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

Juice from 1 medium sized lemon

1/2 c Truvia

A little at a time at the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir.

Repeat until all of the dry mixture has been added the batter resembles the texture of cookie dough.

LET THE DOUGH REST FOR TEN MINUTES. THIS IS KEY!

Roll 12 even balls of the dough and drop onto a greased cookie sheet. Flatten with a spatula.

(Cookies will NOT spread further when baked)

Bake at 325 for 10-13 minutes until just slightly golden around the edges.

15

Let cookies cool for 10 minutes.

Optional Glaze:

While the cookies are cooling mix up the glaze by combining

1/4 cup confectioner’s Swerve Sweetener

2  lemon juice

 

 

Once cool, drizzle with the glaze and serve.

Will keep for several days in an airtight container.

 

13

Meal Prep Monday- Easter Egg Edition

Monday, March 28th, 2016

9Sweet mercy do I love a bowl of freshly dyed Easter eggs. All that color makes me 7 shades of happy.

Personally, I wish we dyed our eggs all year long and not just one weekend in the Spring. Why are my eggs not pink and turquoise ALL.THE.TIME.?

Toss in the fact that these little jewels are protein-packed and portable and you’ve got yourself one snazzy little snack.

I will fully admit they are no chocolate bunny, but it is one Easter treat I don’t feel at all guilty eating!

Eggs are an excellent, easy and inexpensive way to sneak a little additional protein into your day.

If you find yourself over-run with hard-boiled holiday goodness below are two delicious recipes to put those little jeweled nuggets to good use.

 

Avocado Egg Salad   (Mayo FREE!)

4

 

Ingredients:

3 hard-boiled eggs

1 medium avocado

1 Tbs minced garlic

1/3 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp Dill weed

1 Tbs yellow mustard

 

I like to eat mine “wrap” style on large leaf lettuce. Butter lettuce is my green of choice but this week I used what i already had on hand.

6

 

Peel the hard boiled eggs and place into a bowl.

 

Add one peeled and sliced ripe avocado.

 

Mash.

 

Once the avocado is sufficiently smoothed evenly throughout, add the minced garlic, onion powder, dill weed, and yellow mustard.

Stir until well mixed.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with grape tomatoes!

Makes 3 lunch servings (If using large eggs and a medium avocado)

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Side Note: For those of you that like to meal-prep and make your lunches ahead, I recommend that you mix the eggs and all other ingredients during your food prep, but do not add the avocado at that time. It tends to turn brown too quickly for my taste. Just slice some avocado and mix in right before you’re ready to eat. Simple and Quick!

 

 

Egg and Tuna Salad

10

Ingredients:

1 can white tuna in water

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 cup grape tomatoes

1/2 a large red onion

3 cups baby spinach

2 Tbs Dijon mustard

1 generous sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro.

 

You can swap the baby spinach for arugula to get a “spicier” flavor, or exchange the tuna for shredded chicken if you don’t happen to be a fan of tuna.

I am TRYING to become a tuna fan because of its easy availability and health benefits, but so far I still prefer chicken. What can i say, it’s a work in progress.

 

11

 

Peel and chop the hard-boiled eggs.

 

Chop red onion.

 

Finely chop cilantro.

 

Toss eggs, spinach, tuna, cilantro, onion and tomato.

Stir in Dijon mustard and add salt and pepper to taste.

This makes 2 good sized lunch serving

 

Here’s to a happy and healthy week!

Meal- Prep Monday 3/21/16

Monday, March 21st, 2016

275Boy departed for the wilds of Spain this week for work… it is a rough life, I know.

 

On the weeks that I fly solo, I often find it easiest to go ahead and sling supper together while I am already in the throws of meal prep on Sundays.

 

This allows me to just Heat-n-Eat every night all week long with nearly zero effort.

 

I like zero effort…especially when i am managing the household on my own and doing the chores that are usually tackled by our four hands instead of just my two.

Here is the menu for this week’s prep:

2Breakfast:

  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Low-carb Blueberry muffins

 

 

Lunch:

  • Cucumber and Tomato Salad
  • Chicken and Spinach Sausage with roasted baby bellas
  • Steamed Asparagus

 

 

Dinner:

  • Cauliflower Rice and Ground Turkey Enchilada Casserole with Avocado

 

While most of the items are self-explanatory, below you will find the recipes for the muffins and the enchilada casserole.

Hope everyone has a happy, healthy week!

 

1Low- Carb Blueberry Muffins

  • Ingredients-
    • 1  and 3/4 C almond flour
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 2 Tbsp Stevia
    • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil
    • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 2 Tbsp water
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 3 large eggs

Mix all dry ingredients. Mix all wet ingredients. Fold together. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 350 for 30-35 until golden. This makes 1 dozen (UNLESS your muffin pan is on the larger side which I find a great many of them to be these days. In that case it will make about 10.) Nutritional break-down per muffin: Calories 147.2 Protein 4.75g Fat 13.1g Carbs 4.4g Fiber 1.8g Net Carbs 2.6g

 

3Cauli-Rice and Turkey Enchilada Casserole

  • Ingredients
    • 2 heads cauliflower
    • 1 lime
    • 1 cup chopped cilantro
    • 1 can chopped green chilis
    • 1 can black beans
    • 1 can corn
    • 2 pounds lean ground turkey
    • Taco seasoning OR Cumin powder
    • 2 small cans organic sugar-free red enchilada sauce
    • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
    • diced avocado

Pulse raw cauliflower in the food processor until it is the size of rice grains. Gently steam until tender. (I like to toss in a little chopped cilantro and lime juice while it is steaming). Set aside.

Brown ground turkey in taco seasoning of your choice. Set aside.

Spread the cauli-rice on the bottom of a greases casserole dish. Layer one can of rinsed black beans on top of cauli-rice. Layer one can of drained corn on top of black beans. Layer chopped green chilies on top of corn. Layer browned ground turkey on top of green chilies. Top entire casserole with red enchilada sauce until well-covered. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes until bubbly. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes until melted. Top with diced avocado and chopped cilantro.

 

FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM: MOLICIOUS

Gotcha

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Exactly one year ago this morning, in the pre-dawn darkness as we rounded the final curve of our morning dog jog, Biggs and I both instantly heard a strange sound coming from the direction of our neighborhood utility shed.  As we crept closer it became obvious quickly that it was definitely the cry of a critter. I quickly doubled back to the house for a flashlight to investigate. It could’ve been a rabid possum for all I knew, but Lord knows I’m just too ridiculous NOT to find out.

Lying flat on the pavement with my cheek pressed to the asphalt I bounced the beam under the shed. About 8 feet back in a pile of pine straw I watched a tiny pink mouth open and bellow a yelp much bigger than anything you could imagine coming from something that small of size. All that noise radiating from one lone black kitten.

I flicked off the light and sat in the dark for a moment wondering what to do. Surely it’s mama was nearby…maybe she’d just gone off in search of some food. While I didn’t want to leave the little urchin alone, I was also very aware that at such a tiny age what it really needed more than anything was it’s actual Mother…and if I moved it, said mama might not be able to locate it.  I fretted for a while and finally decided that my intervening too soon was not the best course of action; much as I loathed the idea of waiting I needed to make sure that I wasn’t breaking up a little family before I proceeded to get involved.

I collected some food and water and put them just beneath the lip of the building so the mother wouldn’t have to go far next time in search for sustenance and could keep a closer watch on her baby…and then with a worried frown, departed for work.

Boy leaves for the office much later than I do, so I made him swear he would swing by the building on his way to work and check on my tiny charge. A couple hours later he did as promised and reported back that the scene was pretty much the same…one baby…no mama.

“If that baby is still alone when I get home from work,” I declared “I’m getting it!”

Boy agreed he would help me do so when the time came.

ALL DAY I stressed about that tiny kitty alone under the shed. I must have texted Boy 8 zillion times wondering aloud where it came from and what on earth was possibly happening to it in that exact moment in time. I was slowly starting to lose my mind with worry.

Around 3 pm I could take it no longer. I begged Boy who works much closer to our home than I do, to run over and check on it. Lord love him, 10 minutes later he left his high rise office agreeing to go crawl around the ground in his dress pants and shiny black loafers just because I asked him to I and realized yet again how much he must love my crazy soul.

Meanwhile, I hopped in my car and started racing that way myself. On the long drive I kept trying to figure out the logistics of actually rescuing the tiny kitty. As previously mentioned, it was a good 8 feet under the building and with only about 3 inches of ground clearance it wasn’t like I could exactly crawl under there myself. I decided to call my firefighter brother who, you know, saves people from burning buildings, because SAME THING, right? Before we could finish concocting our plan that basically involved duct taping the dust pan to the end of a broom handle and using it as a tiny kitty scoop, a call rang in from Boy.

I quickly switched over to hear a breathless Boy shout “I saved it from the crows and put it in my lunch box!”

He was so keyed up he could barely get the words out.

Turns out he had arrived at the utility building to see a small furry bundle in the middle of the parking lot surrounded by the big black-birded stalkers. It seems Tiny Kitty had crawled ALL the way out from under the shed and across the lot on it’s own and the crows were simply waiting on their meal to have the courtesy of getting on with the business of dying.

He shooed the foul offenders off and not knowing what else to do, hoisted Tiny Kitty into his lunch box for the short drive home.

8I started laughing and crying and shouting instructions at him all at the same time.

“You have to keep it warm!” I garbled “They can’t regulate their own body temperature yet at that age!”

Mercifully, this was not the first time I had nursed an abandoned kitten and I had some working knowledge of the game. Believe me, it is not as intuitive as one might think.

I arrived home moments later to find Boy and Biggs sitting squarely in the middle of the living room floor staring intently into a blue canvas food cooler.

Biggs whined softly as I lifted up the dish towel to reveal Tiny Kitty perched atop my aromatherapy bean-bag Hippo Boy had given me for Christmas. It is designed to heat in the microwave and  be used to ease aching muscles, but Tiny Kitty seemed to be under the impression it was clearly made for the direct purpose of keeping him warm.

That evening we bought kitty formula and bottles and so began the journey of feeding a crying infant every two hours ALL DAY AND NIGHT LONG. Amazingly, Tiny Kitty pulled through til morning and even more miraculously, after a thorough examination from our vet was given a clean bill of health and declared to be a baby boy.

For the next 12 weeks, Tiny Kitty rode to work with me and slept in a crate beneath my station coming out every 2 hours for a bottle and potty break.  My entire staff was so enamored they often argued over who “got to feed the baby next”.

3 months, 2 health scares, and more-money-than-we’d-either-like-to-admit-spending later, Boy and I astonished ourselves with how attached we were to the little feline fuzz-ball, when we agreed together to keep him for good.  (We have always considered ourselves more DOG people)

And Tiny Kitty it turns out still had one more surprise up that little kitty sleeve. At 18 weeks we went for our first round of shots and nearly fell over when the vet announced she’d been wrong before and Ti-Ki was in fact, A GIRL.

Ti-Ki is now a healthy, happy 6 pound ball of crazy. She loves to steal her Daddy’s guitar picks and sleep in the crook of my legs at night. She is odd-ball and off-center…but she is ours.

So, today, and every September 30th from here forward, we celebrate the gift of the UNPREDICATABLE… those marvelous moments you could never see coming.

May Life never ceases to take us to places Unexpected…and may Love never fail to bring us HOME.


Blue Jean Baby, L.A. Lady

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

0002One Sunday afternoon Boy and I went to purchase him some new summer shorts because the early 90’s had called and asked for most of his wardrobe back.

I’m of the opinion that men have very little room to complain about in the shopping arena. I get that it might not be your favorite activity of all time but you guys have it quick and breezy i tell you, quick and breezy. You can walk into a store and locate three styles of pants in your size and color in under 20 minutes. Most times you don’t even need to try them on….because in your cosmos a 34 is a 34 is a 34. This does not translate to the world of women’s clothing. A size can vary more wildly than the four trade winds depending on the brand. A certain size shorts at Old Navy might fit fine, but pick up the same size in Calvin Kleins and it doesn’t so much look like you’ve strapped on some cute summer cut-offs as it appears you’ve donned a pair of denim panties. To make it even more challenging, I can personally vacillate between three separate sizes in any given WEEK. Its like my waistline is effected by everything from the phases of the moon to local barometric pressure.  We can actually spend an entire decade searching for the pair of perfect jeans. We will put them on and cast them off 3 times in the fitting room…we will wander out into the store and ask our friends and perfect strangers alike for their opinions…we will stretch them, roll them up, sit in them, stand in them,  lie down in them, and kneel down in them in an attempt to test every fiber of their constitution to see how they will stand up to our lifestyle. And god knows, we will pay  any price for them.

Since we were attempting to give Boy’s fashion plate an upgrade, we opted to try the shorts on this go round to see what styles he liked best. We gathered several pair and headed to the back of the store. I parked myself next to a display of elastic-waisted khaki britches near the entrance to fitting rooms and settled in to wait for him to model the individual options.

A few seconds after he disappeared behind the closed door, a fairly aged gentlemen stuck his head around the corner.

“Peggy!” he hollered craning his neck around, “Peggy!”

We made eye contact and he grinned sheepishly “You’re not Peggy” he stated as he realized I was standing there alone.

“No sir, I am not Peggy” I say smiling back.

He winks mischievously and offers “You could be!”

I dissolve into laughter just about the time the aforementioned Peggy steps into sight. She was short and perfectly groomed and clearly having a Chico’s kinda day. (If you don’t get that joke, you aren’t a target of  current women’s mass marketing campaigns)

“She is entirely too pretty and WAY to young for you, Hal.” she admonishes as she hands him some additional drawers to try on.

“Turn around and let me see the back of those before you take them off” she instructs him.

He does a  shaky pirouette before sticking his fanny out in a full on tail-waggle that I am assuming he meant to be equal parts amusing and provocative.  Peggy smacked him firmly on his fanny feathers and sent him back behind closed doors.

Boy exits and does a similar circular show as i offer my thumbs up on option number 1. I look at Peggy and sigh, “So, is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life, then? Standing outside fitting rooms waiting on some man to act a fool?”

She rolls her silver-blue eyes beneath her heavily lacquered Paula Dean hairdo and chuckles “I’m sorry to say it, but yes. Are you two not married?” I reply that no we are not yet.

“Then you’ve still got lots of time to think about it!” she says on the cusp of a great belly laugh. “I’m just teasin’ ‘” she finally manages to wheeze “most of the time it is pretty great.”

I shook my head in wonder as we walked towards the car realizing it took us less than half an hour to find, fit, and purchase 2 new pairs of shorts and that included the little side trip to pick out a new belt! Its taken me more time to select a suitable package of non-descript white athletic socks before. I mention as much to Boy and he says it doesn’t surprise him in the least.

“How do you guys do it?” i puzzle.

“Simple,” he says, “We know what we are looking for. We go in with clear directives on what we need and we simply get it.”

I got to thinking about it and realized men and women often approach relationships in much the same manner. Boy told me loved me shockingly short into our dating life. I remember thinking “How can you possibly know! ?!You’ve barely tried me on for size!”

I however, have stretched him, rolled him up, and asked friends and total strangers for their opinions of him. I’ve attempted to test every fiber of his constitution to see how he will stand up to my lifestyle.

In the end I don’t suppose it matters how we go about finding the perfect fit. Maybe it takes you half an hour…maybe your search lasts more like a decade. Either way, when you find the one that holds you in, holds you up, and just plain feels good on your skin…the one that makes you look ten years younger and feel 20 pounds lighter…the one that hides all your imperfections in their strengths..is durable and dependable…wont shrink or fade but may eventually wrinkle…they will make all the trying-on and casting off worth going through…and they will be worth every penny.

0001

Precipitation and Politics

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

snow2014Word on the street is this second polar vortex is lookin’ to spit snow on us Southerners again sometime in the next few days. Lord help I hope we weather it better than this last go ’round. I spent six solid hours creepin’  home over a solid sheet of ice along with exactly six million other Atlantans at the exact same time. I actually made it to my house though, which made me one of the lucky ones.  We took a lot heat from everyone above the Mason Dixon for letting 2 little inches paralyze us in to spending the night in grocery store parking lots or the middle of I-75. Truth be told, there were many mitigating factors that made for such a convoluted crisis, but ONCE IT WAS OVER, even we could find the humor in such a crazy mess. Quite frankly, this SNL skit about it made me laugh so hard I nearly wet my britches:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=801515323198345&set=vb.100000196544468&type=2&theater

 

For the most part, I witnessed the real heart-warming, tear-jerking side of humanity during it all. Story after story of people reaching out,  holding up, and taking in. Boy was out of town on business so aside from the 6 hours he spent on the phone with me willing me home safely, he missed most of the drama. But in the storm of social media that followed the chaos, one article in particular caught his eye…and raised his blood pressure.  It seems one of the top campaign staffers for our very own GA Senator wrote some scathing commentary on his Facebook page urging Atlantans to basically “man-up” and stop whining.  Clearly this stupid scout never earned his Southern Hospitality badge.  Boy was so fired up about it, he wrote a post on his own Facebook site he hoped made its way back to the clueless turkey.

 

Here it is in its sarcastic entirety:

 

 

Phil “Atlantans Should Stop Whining” Wilheit Jr,

After reading reports about your Facebook post telling Atlantans to stop ‘whining’ about the traffic gridlock that happened after the snowstorm, I have spent more time than I should admit trying to picture what type of person would post something of that nature. So I thought I’d share with you my speculative biography of you, the author, and you can let me know how close to home any of these hit. I have not looked up anything about you, other than the fact that it was publicized that you run a campaign for an aspiring GOP senate candidate, but I’ll probably check my own predictions with a bit of googling later on.

Let’s start with the easy part. You are a conservative true-believer; you undoubtedly grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh and his inspired descendants. You love the ‘straight talking, tell it like it is’ style of communication, and whining-liberals-be-damned if they don’t like it. Your news sources are Fox News and whoever the Drudge-figure is today, and you have more than once criticized the “lamestream media” when talking about portrayal of anything that doesn’t come through red-tinted filters.

And the second easy part, you are from a small’ish town outside of Atlanta. You were raised hearing stories of the excess of Atlanta and your image of us as “cosmotini” drinking metrosexuals undoubtedly came from your upbringing where small town values were praised. I’m guessing Albany, maybe Thomasville, although to be honest there are several possible candidates, small ponds full of self-aggrandizing types who see themselves as seriously impressive sized fish.

So now on to your current position as the co-chair of a senate candidate… This tells me that you are not just starting out in organized politics, you were probably in the young republicans in college (more on your collegiate background to follow,) and you might have been involved in placing signs in yards for a few congressional candidates as an unpaid volunteer. But to be in a named position on a senate campaign in the primary stage tells me you are probably in your late twenties or early thirties, and it also tells something else entirely.

Assuming you were quoted accurately in the articles I read, you are not exactly an intellectual giant. I have no doubt you think yourself well above average, and quite possibly in the circles you grew up in in the aforementioned small’ish pond you might have been, and especially if you find yourself swimming in the intellectual shallow water of the right-wing ideological spectrum you could almost be forgiving for thinking yourself so. But trust me, you would find that if you took yourself out of your current sheltered existence, you’d find that you’d have a hard time keeping up with dinner conversation that wasn’t an echoing of what Hannity said last night about Obamacare or Benghazi.

So that brings us to college. If you were my age, I would have put you for sure as a UGA graduate, where you would have found a host of kindred spirits at the KA fraternity and finished in four years with a degree from the Terry Business school (or ‘bidness,’ as I’m sure your granddaddy said.) However, I am betting that with UGA’s admissions standards, you didn’t have a prayer of getting admitted. So I am guessing you went to a secondary school in Georgia, probably Southern or Valdosta State, where you spent four years doing kegstands with your kindred spirits in one of the good-ol-boy fraternities, and probably where you met your wife at a sorority mixer where she proclaimed repeatedly to be “soooo drunk.”

As a true-believing conservative, I bet you love to rail against the “takers” in society, wanting them to pull themselves up from their bootstraps (or whatever the current jargon is in place today.) You think taxes are too high and everyone on welfare is taking advantage of the hard working folks like you and your daddy, and we should just cut them all off from assistance. In fact, I bet you quietly blamed affirmative action and racial quotas for not getting in to UGA in the first place.

And yes, I mentioned your daddy. Because the only way I could see how a medium-bright small’ish towner could end up placed co-chairing a campaign, even for a state rep, is if there are family connections. My guess is your daddy was a big wheel down at the cracker factory in your hometown, to pull a Simpsons quote, and you grew up upper middle class, probably even private high school (although not one known widely for intellectual rigor,) and your current position in the campaign comes from family connections far more than on your own merit and contributions.

So since I’ve gone down the road of speculation quite a bit, this is the point where you tell me I’m wrong. That you succeeded on your own merits, and despite the way you came across in your Facebook post you are actually an intelligent person. Or maybe that I’m totally wrong that you have the Limbaugh/Fox worldview. Because otherwise the irony of pulling your way in to a job from family connections while embracing the modern Ayn Rand-inspired ideology would be something that I’d enjoy pointing out, although I’m assuming that it would go over your head.

I am sure you have been inundated with similar messages, and my guess is that within your social circles you are wearing it like a badge of honor. So I don’t expect a response, but I certainly would love to know how close I got. In the meantime, I can say that you probably have never felt welcome or comfortable inside the perimeter of Atlanta due to the presence of those with darker skin or different sexual orientation, but now you have a very valid reason to feel unwelcome here.

Oh, and as for whining, if you do find yourself in Atlanta with an hour to spare, I’d love to take you to my gym, and we’ll test out the strength of your upper lip. Because if you aren’t packing an extra 25 pounds around the waist, I’ll buy you front-row seats the next time Toby Keith is in town.

Sincerely,

Lee “Atlanta Whiner” Fulford

 

 

Lord help me. I’m a southerner and I think I’ve just outed myself as and agreed to marry A LIBERAL. And we all know people in Georgia are about as prepared to deal with a Lefty as they are 2 inches of snow.

snowfeet

Super Bowl Sadness

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

I spent the majority of my evening last night woefully watching my team eat it at the Super Bowl.

Poor Peyton.

And speaking of eating it, I don’t think there was a major junk food group that I did NOT blitz, punt, and snap my way through. For someone who gave up dairy a few weeks ago, I’d say the mozzarella balls were my biggest fumble.  The Broncos broke my heart but my stomach scramble i blame solely on my own personal unnecessary roughness.

Normally, I could give two shakes about what team wins, but I grew up Tennessee and Tennessee I’ll always be, so of course Manning is my guy….not to mention the fact that he seems a like a big ole heap of sweet in a league full of renegades and reprobates, most of whom can’t afford the brain damage they are giving themselves weekly on the field.

And who doesnt enjoy a good come-back kid? Win or lose, to fight his way back from the bottom to the Big Game is something to be proud of. You’re still tops on our list, #18.

And now back to our regularly scheduled clean eating program. After all, there is a wedding dress to worry about slidin’ into.

New Year New Me

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Farewell 2013, you were magical, mundane and magnificent all at once.  2014, I’m  comin at you head on. Brace yourself.

 

http://fgr.am/f/r0Yh1hZVpE

 

 

Three Strikes to Three Years

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

This is the story of a Boy and a Girl and an evening that fell apart before it even got started.

Boy, in a constant effort to be wickedly charming, calls Girl and says he has a surprise planned with her specifically in mind. Would she be interested? Absolutely, she would.

She is to arrive at the library on Friday evening at 6:30. This is his sentimental way of paying homage to her love for the written word and their mutual geekiness. She’ll be wearing a sundress. He’ll be waiting in New Releases. Its all very cryptically creative and secret.

For once, she marvels to herself that she is ahead of schedule as she arrives at her destination. The parking is lot a yawning chasm of empty spaces. It’s so desolate she half expects to see tumbleweed suddenly blow past.

“Surely, we aren’t the only nerds in a city of millions that would actually spend a Friday evening at the local library.”  Her personal internal dork- alert level suddenly rises a few significant notches.
She crosses the concrete tundra and as she approaches the entrance it looms before her. A giant sign indicating the library had been closed for almost an hour. She chuckles as she pulls out her phone to call him.

“The library is closed.”

“You beat me there? And it’s closed?” he hisses with a hint of dissatisfaction.

“I just arrived and yes it’s closed.”

“I thought it was going to be open, you’re sure it’s closed?”

“Certain. It’s closed.”

“It’s closed. And I’m late.”

For unknown reasons they both start laughing.

Moments later he pulls in beside her. She watches as he unfolds his giant frame from his sleek little car and wonders how someone of his size manages to move so gracefully. Later in the night she will actually recall this thought and laugh that she ever had it in the first place.
In spite of the raging, sweaty Georgia heat he pulls her in tight for a hug. Opening the passenger door she sees the seat is filled with an enormous bouquet of wild flowers. He hands them to her and sheepishly explains his master plan was to be waiting inside holding them and the dozen chocolate cupcakes she has suddenly noticed sitting in the floor.

She takes them both and marvels at the sweet gesture and assures him it was the thought that counted. He sighs and surrenders the battle.

Opening her door, he helps her inside the car, settling the flowers at her feet and seeing that she is secured before he climbs inside himself.

“So the library wasn’t open. Strike one. I still say you’re going to enjoy the other surprises this evening. I know for certain you’ve never been where we are going.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Weaving smoothly through the steady stream of rush hour they wind their way downtown to the area locals call “Little Five”. Long ago this was the literal center of Atlanta, the cultural and creative apex of the city. Today its known more for its kitschy clothing stores, tattoo parlors and a general scene of artistic hippie meets urban grunge. People watching here never dissappoints.

She tells him of the time she once got a Henna tattoo here.

“Was it pretty?” he asks.

“It was supposed to be a flower but for weeks it just looked like i had a bug squished on my foot” she chuckles. It had been a really long time since she’d given any thought to that silly tattoo and even longer since she’d remembered the girl she was when she had it inked on.

Just before Euclid avenue completely gave way into its residential sector he turned the car onto a slightly hidden drive that went from pavement to gravel to bare dirt in a hurry. The old brick building had clearly once been a school of some sort but now displayed a sign claiming it a home for the stage and all things theatrical. It may have been decades since children roamed its halls but it still smelled strangely of gym class and Elmer’s glue.

Had she been here before he wanted to know.
No, indeed she hadn’t.
They stood in the lobby studying the posters of performances gone by, him pointing out ones he’d seen and which he’d most enjoyed. He was quite excited about the one they were fixing to watch. He briefly explained the nature of its plot and as he’d predicted she was completely fascinated. Entitled “True Love Lies”, it was to explore the themes behind the lies, both good and bad, we tell for love.

But in the end the show did not go on. The lead actress was ill and the small cast had no understudy.  “Strike Two”  Boy whispers.

Determined not to let a canceled play ruin their evening they drifted back out into the hot summer night to find the car had a flat tire.

Strike Three.

But they put their heads together. They regrouped. They rallied.

Before the night was over they found themselves sipping cocktails at the natural history museum and swing dancing to a live band set up next to giant dinosaur bones. They watched a documentary on the Brazilian origins of the modern day American Cowboy. They danced some more. This would be the moment where the Girl realized “gracefulness” wasn’t something the Boy possessed in abundance as previously thought.

Afterwards, folded into the fluorescence of an old diner they sat eating omelettes and laughing at what had to go on record as one of the oddest first dates in history. “It may not have gone even remotely as you planned” Girl teased, “but i’ll say this, it defied ALL my expectations.”

Moments later when he kissed her goodnight he smiled and whispered “Given how this evening started, I was completely unsure how it would end”.

But that’s the thing…it was just the beginning.
Three years ago today I went on that weird first date.  It would change my life completely. The journey so far has been equally as crazy. Sometimes our timing is off…sometimes the show doesn’t go on as planned…sometimes things break down and we have to stop and repair them. But we keep our heads together. We regroup. We rally. And along the way there are flowers and cupcakes and lots of ungraceful dancing.

It still defies all my expectations.

Food for Furballs

Monday, April 29th, 2013

I love my critter more than chocolate cake, cute shoes  or pretty much anything else on earth.  While i do occasionally photograph him in what can arguably be called crazy festive get-ups, he mostly spends his days in ultra cushy comfort being lavishly loved on. In short, he has it certifiably MADE.

I am fortunate to have not only everything I need, but everything my little varmint could as well. And i certainly don’t take these blessings for granted. I know full well that many out there in the wide world (maybe even some of you who read this blog) struggle to make ends meet.  And some days it comes down to feeding your dog, or feeding yourself. I recently became aware of a little organization that tries to save folks the heartache of ever being forced to make such a decision. They provide pet owners in the midst of hard times with free pet food to see them through through the rocky spot and thus keeping much-loved mutts at home with their people instead of being surrendered to shelters.

Take a minute to take a peek at the good work they are doing. Donate if you can spare it.  Or fill out an application if you’re in need of assistance.

http://www.petfoodstamps.org/

And long live the creatures that gives us the most comfort…the ones that fill not just our homes, but our hearts.

Purple Cats and Floating Legos

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I spent yesterday afternoon watching over my good friend Heather’s assembly of ankle-biters.

They range in age from Kindergartner down to newborn and on a scale of 1 to crazy they will keep you 7 shades of busy.

Here are the Top 6 Things I learned from 5 hours with 4 children in a 3 story house:

1.You can get away with A LOT if you are cute. For instance, I was talked into hand-washing 47 cents worth of pennies because they were dirty and  “needed a bath”.

2.There is no function or enterprise for a which a tiara is not appropriate attire.  It is ALWAYS in season. Just because you’re only eating yogurt from a plastic bowl at the kitchen table doesn’t mean you should do so without flair.

3.It is silly to believe in the Easter bunny but perfectly acceptable to color a picture of a cat purple or maintain the idea there are dogs that talk.

4.”Chores are to be done without challenge, without excuse and without delay.” (These are actual rules in Heather’s home and were dictated to me by a 3 year old with pigtails and bare feet less than 10 minutes after my arrival just in case i had the notion i was gonna hang around and not earn my keep.)

5. Legos  float when placed in the toilet.

6.Nothing gives you more street cred with a five year old boy than a picture of yourself in front of an ACTUAL Monster Truck.

 

I gotta tell ya folks, I wasn’t even there a quarter of an actual work-day and yet I came home and slept like the dead.

Here’s to all you parents out there. I simply don’t know how you do it.

Thankful i get to be an “Auntie” to such adorable munchkins and currently quite grateful that my only child has four legs and fur.

 

 

 

 

The Green Mile

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Anyone who has ever lived with me knows I prefer to spend the majority of my free time at home in quiet. Let’s face it people, there is often so much going on in my head i feel like the Grand Marshall of the Crazy Parade and additional noise only fuels the freaky floating therein. Generally my manic mouth acts as a pop-off valve of sorts…random singing/humming/talking aloud-to-no-one-in-particular relieves enough of the building internal pressure to regulate the loony. Its a real treat for those around me, I’m certain. One of my many, many charms.

Growing up often the only place I could find such quiet was in the wilds of the Great Outdoors. I’d climb to the top of my favorite tree and listen to the wind blow. Or head up through the woods behind our house where a mile or so in it opened to a large grassy clearing few people knew existed and fewer still ever bothered to visit.

Nowadays it isn’t so easy. Just watch the evening news and you’ll see a hundred reasons why a girl shouldn’t be alone in the wilderness around these parts. I have no desire to become the face of the next flier in the post office of some woman gone missing. So recently, when i learned of  The Poplar Creek Trail which is quite near my home and close to society at large, I tucked it in my back pocket for the next time i needed an escape from the mayhem of my own mind. That time arrived yesterday and so i gathered up Biggs and the two of us set off…

Biggs gets quite excited when you say to him “Wanna take a walk?” He will race to the spot by the door where his harness and leash hang and dance a little jig. To be honest, he does this regardless of what words you use as long as you use the same voice inflection and tone. Boy has tested this several times and often says things like “Wanna go to Mars?” or “Wanna board a pirate ship?” or “Wanna go get a bikini wax?”. Same.reaction.every.time. He has even taken to just spouting off a stream of nonsense words “Honky robot umbrella, Biggs?” And my poor little dim-witted critter cant seem to tell the difference. Lord love him.

We get in the car and he is so amped up trying to take it all in he shakes and stares out the window with hilariously extreme intensity.

 We take our first steps on the trail and my first thought is SWEET MOSES it is COLD.

My four-legged furball seems unfazed and leaps around and barks as if to say “We are in nature! WE ARE IN NATURE! YAY!”

After my muscles heat up i am inclined to agree with him.

Soon the only noise is the crunch of leaves under my feet and the soft jingle of  his dog collar.

We eventually found the infamous Poplar Creek. It was small of size and not much to write home about, but it still managed to whistle a tune capable of blocking out the World’s worries for a moment, and for that I was grateful.

Biggs was more than happy to let me sit and soak in silence while he batted at the fish swimming just below its surface before eventually burrowing in under my coat when he started to get too cold.

We were both a little sad when we reached the peak, but we were energized and ready to return to the gritty city I have come to love.

Sometimes all you need to cure the blues is a little green.

And boy does it make for a good night’s sleep.

“In the Woods I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes
my pulse, forgetting everything.”
~Pablo Neruda

The Blew Man Group

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Opening Screen at Blue Man Group

A couple months ago Boy discovered the legendary Blue Man Group was slated to perform here in town at the Fox theater and he quite nearly lost his mind with excitement. Tickets were purchased. The calender was marked. A countdown began. The man could not contain his glee.

Neither of us had ever seen their show before, and quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I could have lived all my days and passed sweetly into the blessed hereafter just fine with that. But to Boy, this was high on ye old bucket list. So, needless to say, when a couple days before the show he learned his presence was going to be required at a work meeting in another state and would prevent his attending, he was CREST.FALLEN. You’d have thought the sun was setting on the death of all his dreams. Sweet mercy.

As Fate would have it, my cousin Greg was in town for the week on business and happily agreed to go along for the wild blue ride with me in Boy’s stead. Quite frankly, I cant think of anyone on earth I could have picked to go to this shin-dig that was better suited than Greg. Next to Boy, he is the person I know that most dabbles in the world of weird. It’s one of the many reasons I adore him. Somehow knowing the ticket was going to a fellow lover of all things oddball also seemed to give Boy a small measure of comfort.

This was also Greg’s maiden voyage on boat Blue Man. On the cab ride to the theater we pondered aloud just what we thought the show might entail. Turns out, we neither one really had much of a point of reference in regards to what we were about to experience. In the end, I’m not sure it would have mattered much if we had.

The show was 90 minutes of straight.up.STRANGE.

About half way in, Greg leans over and whispers “It feels like we have wandered inside of someone’s mental breakdown” and all i could do was numbly nod in agreement.

For starters, the 3 fellas are of course, painted as blue as a Smurf’s bottom and balder than a pool ball. They do not speak, and dressed like they were simultaneously ready to work in a coal mine and Sweat to the Oldies.  Peculiar appearance for certain from a distance, but when they came down from the stage and got right up in your face it was the stuff of childhood nightmares.

Greg and me. Illegal picture taken pre-show.

But it is what constituted their “performance” that left us confused and mildly shaken of soul. There were brightly lit video presentations regarding the topics of modern day indoor plumbing, the basic workings of human sight, and the complexity of DNA. Then they simply stood still on stage and ate Captain Crunch right out of the box for 5 minutes straight, the only sound the noise of their crunching. This gave way to one of them catching a shocking number of marshmallows in his mouth then walking down into the crowd and spitting them soggily into a woman’s purse. There was a scene where they pantomimed an elaborate dinner party the main course of which was a Twinkie. After said Twinkie was finally eaten, it was “vomited”out of a hole in their chest and then “re-eaten”.  Also, keep in mind, that all of this…the eating, the spitting, the videos…was awash in loud rock music performed by the live band situated in the rafters of the stage.

At one point, after an audience participation segment that involved toilet paper raining down from the ceiling while a voice over the loudspeaker listed every slang term in existence for one’s  “backside”, Greg and I returned to our seats to find them (and portions of our clothing) covered in a mysterious clear gel. We looked at it and then each other and wordlessly assented it was best not to think about what it was or how it got there.

There was of course more to the show than the things I have listed, but I honestly would be hard pressed to recount them as at some point my brain took  protective measures and retreated to its safe place.

Exiting the theater I felt like some sort of war victim in the throes of PTSD. Greg can go out farther on a mental limb than most and the look on his face said even he walked away as bewildered and battle blitzed as I did. The pricey tickets should have come with at least a half hour of psycho therapy or at the very least a grief counselor. They’ve dispatched the Red Cross to places less traumatized before.

I don’t know what disappoints Boy more, the fact that he missed it, or the fact that the mere mention of my sitting through it again for his benefit gives me the dry heaves.

I’ve actually lost sleep attempting to understand how on earth this spectacle has been a nearly TWO DECADES long phenomenon. I’m not claiming that i define the word normal. (Shut it, J) I’m well aware that my own personal head-space generates a vast and seemingly endless stream of its own kind of super crazy. The key difference is I’m not putting that mess to music and selling tickets to a staged production of it. Although, apparently perhaps I should.

I’ll say this, every online review i have read seems to glow ridiculously positive. Clearly there is a population out there with whom this resonates….But I for one do NOT welcome our new blue alien overlords.

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” -Hunter S. Thompson

 

I’m Kind of a Biggs Deal

Monday, January 14th, 2013

A few months ago I fell head over heels in love with a new man, people.

He is very short. And quite hairy. And if I’m being honest, not that bright. But lordy, does he make me laugh. And he is gold-medal-good at snuggling. He wears whatever I say he should without complaint, and thinks anything I cook is delicious. He gets excited every single time he sees me, even if I have only been gone for a total of 3 whole minutes.

His name is Biggs. And in my opinion, he may be the greatest dog that’s ever lived.

Much like Boy and me, Biggs and I are an unlikely match that at first, looked like one unholy natural disaster in the making. But come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever fallen in love with anyone that didn’t at first appear to be the likely end of me. (Paging, Dr. Freud!)  Yet I somehow often wonder if that isn’t how ALL the really great love stories start….

French Bulldog

Back in the summer Boy and I were spending the evening with friends when the subject of pets came up. I off-handedly mentioned we were looking into getting a dog. And by WE of course, I meant ME.  And by “looking into”, I meant “had launched a full-scale military-level research campaign on the subject”.  My entire childhood had been filled with all manner of furry friends and for some time I had really been missing that kind of connection. I knew that even splitting the responsibility between Boy ( who often travels for business) and myself (who routinely has ungoldly long work days) it wasn’t gonna be easy. But I was convinced that getting the EXACT right kind of dog was the key. And i’d already picked one out and named him.
My heart was set on a French Bulldog which I would name Napoleon Bonaparte and call Bones for short. Get it? Because they are short…and french….I know I know, I.Am.Hysterical.

Frenchies fall into the category I love most which Boy had taken to referring to as the The Tubby Tards. The fatter and dumber they are, the harder I fall….a flat face and a thick tummy and I leveled.  I could already see his little mooshed-in-mug framed and sitting on the mantle.

“You can have one of my dogs” our at the time, very-pregnant friend Stacy chimes in.

Herschel

“Herschel?” I grin hopefully.

“No, the other one. The one we’ve taken to simply calling dick -dog.” she says.

Having been to their house several times, I knew that Stacy and her husband, Peter, had two dogs….i’d interacted with the both of them. But in truth only one really stuck out in my mind: Herschel. Picture if you will, all the crazy you can see behind the eyes of Tom Cruise packed into a 2-liter bottle covered in fur, that’s Hersch. He is a Boston Terrier which lands him firmly on Team Tubby Tard and he once for no good reason licked my leg for 40 minutes straight. He tends to make an impression. All i could really remember about their other dog was he was small, brown and afraid of the dishwasher.

“Dick dog?” i puzzled aloud.

Stacy then launched into a 30 minute speech on the evils of this particular canine creature. So impassioned was she that I was worried she might kickstart premature labor.

“So, you want him?” she asked as though she hadn’t just spent the last half hour telling me six ways from Sunday how deranged this particular critter was.

A sane person would have said no, but I’m pretty sure we all know I don’t reside in that category. In the end, we decided on a trial run. We would keep the dog-in-question for one week during which time we could get a feel for what it was like to have a furball to bend our schedules around. This would also give Stacy and Peter the opportunity to see how their other dog, Herschel, did with life in the single lane.

Biggs

From the get-go, I was determined this was going to be temporary. It was simply a good way to get reacquainted with pet ownership. I had my dream doggie picked out and ready to go, and this demon dog wasn’t it. I’d simply let the week play out and then they could find him a home better suited to his devilish disposition.

The night i was heading out to pick him up i looked at Boy and declared, “DO NOT let me fall in love with this dog, DO YOU HEAR ME?!”

You’d think that given he was supposedly sent to earth straight from the arms of Satan that this directive wouldn’t be necessary. But let us not forget that when it comes to the four-legged and fur-covered i am WEAK. I actually adored and considered keeping a dog that Boy and i rescued from the streets and temporarily housed last winter that was so NOT housebroken he routinely pooped ON the furniture and ate not one, not two, but THREE separate large pieces of the baseboards in my guest bathroom. Waving me off, Boy promised to try, but also reminded me that in all these years together he has yet been able to talk me into or out of something i didn’t wanna do. Little did he know that as he kissed me goodbye those would be the last minutes that he alone owned my heart completely….in one fifteen minute car ride i would be a goner.

THREE DAYS LATER….

“Are you sure you picked up the right dog?” Boy scratched his head and asked.

Biggs and Me

I looked down at the sweet ball of fur sound asleep in my lap and wondered the same thing. 72 hours and he had done little other than snuggle, sleep, and swagger around the neighborhood on a few walks. We had yet to see a single sign of his much heralded Lucifer-like charm. I’d been texting Peter and Stacy as much and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t have believed me less if I had told them the Moon was really a giant egg laid by aliens that would one day split open and pour forth little green men.

By the end of the week, it was clear that Biggs (we gave him a new name to go with his fresh start) was meant to be ours as much as we were meant to be his and it became impossible to picture any other dog in the world as being any more perfect a fit.

Every morning when he crawls into my bed, slips under the covers and falls asleep on my pillow with his little body glued to my side I am reminded that no matter how much you prepare , no matter how picturesque your plans may be, sometimes you simply just cant pick a love as perfect for yourself as the ones that find you on their very own. And somehow knowing that he is at his unholy worst when paired with anyone other than me, makes me even more certain that destiny can make even the worst of us sinners into something divine.

 

 

H-U-G-L-Y

Monday, November 26th, 2012

I spend a good portion of my daily life dealing with the world’s irascible riff-raff. Think about it, when was the last time you went to see the doctor in a good mood? Even if they aren’t traipsing thru here sick and sufferin’, there is still a general air of uncomfortable aggravation that comes with a check-up.  Sometimes they remind me of the old Aesop’s fable about the lion with a thorn in his paw….all roar and rage until some brave little mouse comes along and plucks out the offensive thistle and relief turns them into a big ole furry mess of thankful.

Most days I sail right down the river of grouch and never get my shoes wet. But every now and then it feels like I’m neck deep in it trying to swim ashore with heavy blocks tied round my ankles. Wednesday was one of those days. One patient in particular seemed whiskey-bent and hell-bound on making everyone in the office miserable. After 15 minutes in the exam room with his bad attitude I was one shade shy of losing my marbles.

Hands on my hips, i wheeled around and gave him my best no-nonsense stare:

Me: Don’t make me hug the ugly outta you, Mister.

Him: Hug the ugly out of me??? (In spite of himself his lips were curling into a sly smile at the corners)

Me: Once when I was about 15, I was complaining to my Gram about some decision that my parents had made that was sure to ruin my life at the time. I don’t even remember what the decision was, so CLEARLY it was monumental. I was mopin’ around all smart-mouthed and out of sorts and Gram looked me straight in the eye and said Sally Jane, I’m ’bout to hug the ugly outta you! Its also of note, that nowhere on my birth certificate am i listed as Sally OR Jane nor is that the name of my Mama or any of her siblings, yet somehow Gram always called me that when I was in trouble. But I digress. Gram folded me into her tiny frame and squeezed me tight until i had no choice but to settle down and start actin’ right. She hugged the ugly right outta me. And I’m about to do the same to you, if you don’t straighten up and fly right, Bucko.

I came stalking toward him arms outstretched like I was about to swallow him whole. He let loose and laughed til his face turned red.

By the time he was ready to go we were practically best friends forever.  Just before he left he squeezed me tight and still chuckling expressed his many thanks.

That night as i crawled into bed, I could hear the echo of Gram’s voice inside my head “I’m gonna hug the ugly outta you, Sally Jane” …

“That’s an awful lot of ugly to hug away” i whispered into the dark.

Sure, most days I look in the mirror and see a good person. I pay my taxes, remember people’s birthdays, give to charities, and tip my mailman at Christmas. But buried underneath, like most everyone else, I have my own pool of twisted, grisly awful.

As my eyes drifted shut I heard Gram’s voice whisper back “Then its a good thing you know some people that know how to open their arms”…

Here’s to the people in your life willin’ to hug the ugly out of you. Only the ones who will hold you tight when you absolutely least deserve it should really get to hold you at all…because its true what they say, the only love worth naming is Unconditional.

Tricky Treat

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Halloween is tricky. (ba dum ching! Thank you, I’ll be here all week)

For starters, there is the constant quest for a costume that showcases both your extensive creative talents but also your best assets. I’m pretty sure that this year, all mine proved was I have enough internal crazy for three separate people. 

And then, there is the challenge of navigating the abundance of candy one finds themselves in the midst of at every single turn.

The following video distills things quite nicely in regards to the rules and regulations of Candy Trading. I highly suggest everyone watch it a time or two before the holiday. If nothing else, the laugh will burn off roughly the caloric equivalent of one Hershey’s miniature. You’re welcome.

Long live holidays that celebrate your sweet tooth teeth and all things silly.

 

<

<

Three of a Kind Makes a Full House

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

I have 2 left feet, about 2 dollars worth of sense ,and 2 brothers.

One of them once filled my bed with kitty litter- One of them once stuck my head in a toilet . Both of them have held me down and tickled me without mercy until I actually wet my britches. One of them taught me to change a tire on a car- One of them taught me to how to change the oil. Both of them have pulled me more than once from the wreckage of some vehicle I’d managed to crash. Though I am by far the smallest and arguably the sweetest of us three, I once hit one of them over the head with a wooden mallet when he was only a few days old and smacked the other one so hard once during a friendly wrestling match that he sported my tiny hand-print on his forehead for the better part of 2 hours.

One of them once ate a half dozen lemons (peel and all) on a dare (it did not end pretty, I tell ya). One of them once convinced me that any vehicle (including my economy car) could be made into a 4wheel drive simply by putting a little black “off road” box underneath it. Both of them taught me how to throw a football and punch someone without breaking a thumb. Though I am the least reckless, and arguably the most sensible of us three, I wager the two of them will leave a far bigger and better mark on this earth than I ever will.

One of them had strings of long term high school sweethearts- One of them dated everything that said yes. Both of them had me anonymously write the majority of their love letters back then. One of them has children- One of them does not. They are both now married to spectacular women that likely had no idea exactly what they were really getting into. Though I am by far the sappiest of us three and arguably the most sentimental, I know without question both of them would step in front of a bus for me without a moment’s hesitation.

One of them lives stateside-One of them does not. Both of them are Firefighters and real life unsung heroes. One of them shares my DNA- One of them does not. Both of them love me without reason, limit or condition. Though I am by far the sassiest, and arguably the silliest of us three, both of them have stared death in the face and lived to tell about it.

It has been over a year since I’ve gotten to hug both of them at the same time. Not a days goes by that i don’t ache to.

I am 2 tons of trouble and about 2 shades shy of full-on crazy…but i have 2 amazing brothers…and that makes all the difference.

“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see.  I sought my God, but my God eluded me.  I sought my brother and I found all three”

Deep Water Dancin’

Friday, July 6th, 2012

One balmy Monday evening not long into our relationship, Boy announced he would be taking me on a surprise outing that coming Saturday. His ONLY instructions? “Don’t wear tennis shoes.” Nothing else. Even when pressed for further detail he remained stubbornly (and I do mean stubbornly) silent.

In the world of girl, this one lone little instruction is entirely too vague.

I call Nikki and we commence discussion of what we could possibly be doing and where on earth we could possibly being going that would require strict footwear instructions and nothing else. We then segway into the obvious questions of then what SHOULD I wear and how will I accessorize? We conference in Gina.  Hours later we have covered every possible fashion option and have formulated a plan. Given the weather forecast and the severe lack of location detail we all vote Sundress-n-Sandals is the best bet. It says “I care about what I’m wearing, but not so much that it looks like I just spent the last three days planning it even though i did.”

Saturday afternoon I arrive at Boy’s house wearing the aformentioned get-up. He looks me over and compliments how lovely I am. Im feeling quite smug until he follows up with “Im just not sure a dress and sandals is going to be the most comfortable for what we are doing today”.

I stare at him blindly contemplating what heavy object is close enough to strike him with first.

“What do you suggest I change into, my spare tire cover? Cause that’s pretty much the only other option in my car.” He is actually amused by my irritation and informs me so. I decide the marble flower vase might be farther from reach, but would make a much more satisfying dent in his noggin than the kitchen chair.

As we wind through the city it becomes increasing obvious I have absolutely no idea where we are headed which seems to only elevate Boy’s enthusiasm for the outing. “It’s nice to be able to actually do something completely surprising for you. You really don’t have a clue where we are going do you!?”

We pull into a shopping center and park in front of a large and obviously closed seafood establishment. I take a moment to ponder if i might have somehow previously overlooked the fact that he is slightly special needs. He cracks up laughing and tugs me through the unlocked front door into the darkened building. I survey my surroundings and decide that, at least if i die, I’ll go out wearing a pretty dress. There are worse things.

We walk towards the cacophony of voices and dim light projected from way in the back. When we reach the ballroom, Boy turns to me giddy with a look of “TA DA!” on his face. “I signed us up for swing dance lessons!” he shouts. I suddenly recall informing him one evening after a glass or two of wine that I would like to learn how to do this. I look down at my delicately sandaled feet and short dress and wonder which will happen first: a twisted ankle or a full-crowd panty flash.

The six hour, all day lesson turned out to be really quite fun. We learned our parts separately and I didn’t bother to hide my cackles as i watched Boy stumble through his portion more than once or twice. At long last we were partnered together to put our new skills to the test. He pulled me in tight and we smiled at each other taking a deep breath as the music began to start.

What followed can only be described as a truly profound disaster. Never in the history of time have two people managed to mangle an art form in such a malicious looking all-out horrendous way. We put the “good lord what are you doing” in “swing dance”. It was a train-wreck of epic proportions.

Even afterwards as we put on music in the kitchen at home and attempted to practice our epileptic, palsied moves we never once mastered anything that could acurately be labeled “dancing”.

After prolific efforts, incessant laughter and more sweating than I care to admit, we finally acknowledged the obvious hopelessness of the situation and called its time of death.

Later on Boy informed me he had diagnosed what he felt to be the root symptom of all our dancing dysfunction….it was of course, ME. More accurately, my total inability to LET HIM LEAD. While I’m also of the opinion it might have something to do with his spastic caucasion  rhythmic gene disorder, I have to admit he is in some small measure right. (I will regret saying that I’m certain)

Its no secret I loathe being told what to do. Ask my Mama. I pretty much came out of the womb wanting to do things ALL BY MYSELF. But I don’t think it was until our trip to Costa Rica that I realized just how much I choke-hold the controls.

Boy and I had decided we would venture out into the big blue Pacific on a little sea kayaking voyage. Neither one of us has ever done so before, but I wasn’t the least bit concerned. I grew up in the rafting/kayaking/boating world along the Ocoee river so how different could it be? I’m no expert paddler, but this wasn’t exactly my first time to the rodeo.

After donning our ever-sexy giant orange inflatables we waddled down to the water’s edge to pick out a boat. My inner monologue told me solo boats would be easier…and by easier I mean less likely to create a situation in which i found myself wanting to drown Boy….but he talked me into a tandem one so we could stick together. If you have ever boated AT ALL, you know right away that this is one scenario that does NOT fall into the two-heads-are-better-than-one game. It is actually substantially easier to paddle alone than with another human being. I know this from experience, but when Boy turned to me and said “Hey, which end is the front?” i suddenly had visions of him bobbing aimlessly 70 miles off shore waiting to be airlifted to safety and opted for the K-2.

We snagged a passing tourist and kindly asked her to snap our photo. She took in our appearance and said “Would you like one before or after you two fall in?”

To be so completely clueless, Boy was adorably excited. “Which seat do you want? Look how pretty the water is! I have absolutely no idea how to steer! I hope my flip flops stay on! Which way are the paddles supposed to face?”

While chuckling at his enthusiasm, I made sure to grab the seat in the back sadly thinking my knowledge of how to steer may be the only advantage we were gonna have all day.

And off we go….

The entire first ten minutes of the ride I sucked down about 3 gallons of saltwater as Boy’s plastic paddle failed to dig deep enough into the surf to do anything other that scoop water into my face with both impressive force AND speed. Between briny gulps and spastic laughter I finally managed to choke out a plea for him to stop.

Once I was able to see again, I gave Boy a brief lesson on what the “wave train” was and how much easier life would be if we stayed in it and then settled back to match his paddling rhythm. Only thing was, there wasn’t one. After repeated efforts to sinc our strides, I simply gave up and let him hack at it alone. It was far from pretty, but we did eventually round the breakers and make it to the shores of the private beach we’d set out for.

We spent the afternoon hiking through the divinely undeveloped landscape enjoying ourselves immensely while getting thoroughly baked by the equatorial sun. When we’d had our fill, we made it back to the boat to discover the tide surging in.

What followed next is the only thing we’ve ever done together that may have been LESS coordinated and unapologetically more ugly than our attempt to swing dance.

“Hold the boat still so I can get in!” i hollered at Boy. He looked at me as if to say “Do you SEE the giant walls of water coming at us?”

There was hysterical laughter and truly unique gymnastic moves with a fair amount of cursing thrown in. I’m fairly sure anyone taking in the show would’ve declared us both mentally incompetent to be unsupervised in public.It took more time than I will fess up to for us to both just get IN the boat and away from the shore line, depleting the majority of our remaining energy reserves. As we eased out of the brief eddy created by a small rocky jetty, I opened my mouth to tell Boy to just hold still and let me do it. I was exhausted and sporting a large gash on my foot courtesy of the rocky bottom from which we’d just launched and i just wanted to GO. I didn’t want to have to explain anything about wave trains or ferrying or backpaddling or feathering…i just wanted to DO IT MYSELF. But just as the words were about to leave my tongue, Boy turned and smiled at me and said “That was great! It wasn’t easy or graceful that’s for sure but we worked together and we did it!” Just past his grinning face I suddenly took in the glorious sight of long navy sea meeting wide azure sky.

It was at that exact moment that I realized just how much of my life i spend more concerned about blazing my own trail than actually experiencing the path I’m on. I smiled back at him, took a deep breath and did something Ive never done before….I let him lead.

We swiped paddles, took on water and flirted with the concept of capsizing. It was likely the ugliest voyage in maritime history. But when i look back on it, what i remember is the pleasant weightless feeling in my limbs as though everything in existence, my flesh and bones included were suddenly made of water. I see the colors on the horizon swirl and soften into something ethereal like we’d been painted right in with a pastel palette by Monet himself.

We weren’t touching….our feet weren’t even on solid ground…but it was in fact, our first REAL dance. Syncopated though it might have been, it was also nothing short of deep blue beautiful.

 

Baker’s Dozen

Friday, June 1st, 2012

I know you all visit my little patch here on the interwebs for the fascinating look I provide at the critical and hard news of our time, which is why i feel it vital to share the knowledge that TODAY, June 1, is National Doughnut Day. How we dont get the day off from work for this kind of thing is beyond me. Clearly mankind is losing its grasp on the truly important.

Before you healthnuts get all outraged and stage protests, you should know this isnt some fake holiday co-manufactured by Little Debbie and Betty Crocker as a way to heavily endorse snack food consumption and trans-fat intake.  It actually began back in 1938 as a fundrasier for the Salvation Army.  Once upon a time the brave volunteers of the Salvation Army spent time on the battlefields with the sole goal of lifting the spirits of the soliders fighting for their lives and our freedom by offering spiritual aid and comfort….a link to home and family. 

The idea for Donut Day began on the battlefields of France during World War I when Salvation Army workers served coffee and doughnuts to soldiers in the trenches. Rations were poor so the doughnut idea was conceived as a means of bringing the soldiers cheer. Word on the street is they actually fried the donuts in metal helmets but historians claim that cant be entirely confirmed.

It must have been a big hit because so many soldiers planned to open doughnut shops after the war that the military published a book on the subject.  Talk about making an impression.

The war still wages as to who gets credit for inventing that sugary, circular goodness.  The Americans, Canadians, and the Dutch all lay claim to the title. Who really cares how they got here, lets just say a prayer of thanksgiving that they did.

In honor of National  Doughnut Day the following locations will be giving them away:

*Krispy Kreme: All customers recieve a free doughnut. No purchase necessary (Can you hear the angels singing?)

*Dunkin Donuts: Free doughnut with the purchase of a beverage.

*LaMars: All customers receive a free original glazed doughnut. No purchase necessary.

*Shipleys: Free doughnut with purchase. Until Noon.

Get on out there and get your glazed, honey-coated, creme-filled action on. If ever there was a celebration i could get on board with it’s this one. Me and my sweet tooth teeth just might see you in line at the counter.

Park it, Preggers

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

There is a lovely little market close to work that Ive come to frequent fairly regularly. They have the most spectacular produce and once a week or so i pop in and grab some fresh fruit or veggies for lunch. Its not exactly what you’d call inexpensive, but its worth the cost to avoid fast food chains and frozen dinners. I don’t know about you, but i find those square boxes of precisely rationed freezer-friendly entrees to be just about the most depressingly edible products known to man. For starters, it can practically be stored indefinitely which leads me to wonder just what sort of chemicals its been infused with giving it the ability to withstand Time and nuclear holocaust. Secondly, it NEVER resembles the picture on the happy packaging. I’m in constant wonder that the radical difference doesn’t somehow violate the laws of false advertising. Nothing says “I’VE GIVEN UP ON LIFE!” quite like a slightly grey slab of turkey covered in soy gravy with a side of yellowed peas. Sweet Jesus.

 

 

But in my favorite little market where you can buy everything from paella to paprika everything is fantastically fresh and unprocessed. It’s a pretty happening little hang out. In fact, i don’t know that i have ever stopped in and found it not to be swarming with customers. Its mostly a mix of retired geriatric yuppies lookin for things to put thru their Jack LaLanne juicer and Bohemian Beatniks searching for the pesticide free bounty of Mother Earth.  

 

Which is why i find the parking lot situation so intriguing.  The expanse of pavement is pretty impressive so finding a space available even with the crowds has never been a problem. The far spots are a good 50 yards from the front door and most times, that is where i end up having to park. 

 

I dont mind really. I have two well-functioning legs and a half decent set of lungs that never mind taking in a little fresh air. I do after all spend the majority of my day stuck beneath the glow of fluorescent bulbs. But on days when the sky has opened up and let loose a torrent of water that threatens to drown everything in its path, its not exactly a pleasant hike in from the lower 40. The entire front third of the parking lot is almost always completely empty. There are of course, the required 15 or so spots for the handicapped and they are typically filled. But the remaining 80 (and no i am not exaggerating) spaces reserved for Expectant Mothers are as open as the Sahara.

EVERY single row has at least 8 of its first 10 spaces allotted for Expectant Mothers. There are somewhere around a dozen rows in all which means at any given moment nearly a hundred gestating women could find a place to park their grocery getters. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? When was the last time you went in to ANY store that WASNT Babies’R’Us that was populated with almost a 100 pregnant ladies at the same time? Are they holding Lamaze classes back next to the dairy section or something? Are they prepping for a book signing of “What to Expect When You Are Expecting”? Do they think the entire population of the local labor and delivery ward is likely to descend on them at any moment demanding immediate access to organic carrots and seedless raspberries?

By my calculations the store isles couldn’t accommodate that many occupied uteruses if they vacated the building of every other living soul including the staff and the lobster tank.  And to tell you the truth, I don’t ever remember seeing a single Pregger in there on ANY of my many stops. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m quite sensitive to the plight of a woman with child. I have a couple very close friends in that delicate state at this very moment and lord knows, id like to think they are able to find a spot close to the door when they venture out shopping.

But 100 parking spaces? Really? If they ever reached full pregnant parking capacity they would have to hire a full time employee to mop up after all that water breaking. Clean up on Isle Five! If anyone is looking for a good spot to host a La Leche convention, I know where you can find adequate parking. I’m just saying.

 

 

The Hunger Games

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Recently I, along with 3/4 of the known world, was swept away by the maddening frenzy that is The Hunger Games. Unless you’ve been mining rock on the moon or living in a bunker beneath an underground waterfall, I wager you’ve heard of it. Its a post-apocalyptic tale in which 24 adolescents are chosen via sadistic lottery and placed in a televised arena and forced to battle to the death until a lone victor emerges. Brutal doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Boy finished it in 2 sittings and as he passed it to me voiced his apprehension that it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. Generally, I wrinkle my nose at the smell of anything “science fictiony” preferring a steady diet of prose that is pretty or funny or both. But my brother had read it and told me himself it was worth my time. This is pretty much on par with the clouds parting, the book lowering to the ground in a fog of sunlight and glitter, and a voice from heaven making a personal appeal I read the thing because Kent never and i mean NEVER reads books and if it held HIS attention i simply had to find out why.

It was clear right out the gate it was gonna be rough read, but 2 pages in and I was hooked. I was also incidentally STARVING. Food is scarce for the characters and the author’s description of their wasting away for lack of nourishment is so effectively written I simply i wanted to crawl inside the fridge and eat my way out. Its almost as if it is MEANT to be read by the dim light of the bare bulb swinging from the ceiling in your pantry whilst you devour the flesh of an entire rotisserie chicken before sucking the marrow from the carcass.

I spent an entire Saturday morning glued to the couch weeping, gasping, and literally screaming out the names of characters much to Boy’s amusement. By the end, I was emotionally spent and felt a bit like I’d just ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl at Six Flags for 4 hours straight. It didnt help that during the process I’d consumed 3 cups of coffee, a sleeve of crackers and half a loaf of bread.

I slapped the book shut, looked Boy straight in the face and said ” Well, I know one thing for certain, I’d have lasted longer in that arena that you would’ve!”

“Oh really!” he cackles “What on earth makes you think so?”

“Well, for starters, your talents include playing the guitar and juggling without your shirt on neither of which i wager would earn you any sponsors. You’d be dizzy and light-headed in under 3 hours without food and there is no such thing as a tree that grows protein bars. Couple all that with your sense of direction so poor you can get lost in a well-lit shopping mall with a map, a gps and a cell phone and Im pretty sure you’d be the first tribute to kick the bucket” I chuckle.

” Yes, and your prowess with social media would really give you an edge in the area. ‘Can you do the swinging thing with the battle axe again slower please, I blurred my iPhone camera while I was texting …’  And, you’re forgetting that years of tofu, liquid vitamins and assorted health food powders have deadened my taste buds. Charred squirrel and tree bark would be delicacies compared to some of the things i choke down daily, whereas you are the girl who cant stand for certain foods to TOUCH ON HER PLATE. And let’s face it, you lose your mind at the sight of anything of the bug persuasion so I’m pretty sure you’d stroke out at the first sight of genetically engineered killer bees, IF you didn’t die of caffeine withdrawal first.”

 

“BUT” I counter, “I am from the country. I grew up climbing trees and buildin forts, ya city slicker. PLUS, I’m a woman and Ive endured countless cycles of P.M.S. which means I’m aware there is an inner well of molten-hot-rage deep within me and i KNOW HOW TO SUMMON IT FORTH. Or i’d do all my killin’ at dawn because you know good and well the only thing keeping me from a homicidal streak first thing in the morning is a hot shower and a cup of coffee.”

“You also get weepy watching commercials advertising grocery store chains and set the thermostat to bikram every chance you get because you freeze to death if the weather dips below 80 degrees.”

“Well, YOU thunder through the house like a herd of rhinos wearing tap shoes on their hooves and tambourines around their necks. You couldn’t be quiet for 3 seconds straight. You might as well be running around with a neon sign above you that says IM OVER HERE IN THESE BUSHES COME AND GET ME!”

“But, im smart” he injects.

“Yes, while you regularly blow out complete categories in Jeopardy daily, I highly doubt your extensive knowledge of early English monarchs and Potent Potables would help you set a snare or find water” I reply.

In the end we both concede post-apocalyptic survivor/warriors we are not. We’d never have made it in a land of tracker jackers, nightlock berries and career tributes so it’s a good thing that isn’t our reality.

Perhaps the closest I will ever get to a real life Hunger Game is my current campaign to starve the winter weight off my chunky frame for the sake of the impending bathing suit season. And to that i say: MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN MY FAVOR.

The Economics of Love and Chocolate

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
 
 
 
I have a friend who has the most curious habit of speaking as though every conversation he produces is a screenplay. He is so full of detail, he even changes his voice a bit when indicating a different “speaker”….something im pretty sure he isn’t even aware he is doing. Throw in a soliloquy, an aside and a monologue or two and we’re bordering on Shakespeare here, people. He is an unending source of fascinating musings some of which would look darn good cross-stitched on a pillow. I enjoy simply watching him speak. I love the way his eyes crinkle as the tension in the story builds or how his hands seem to be in constant motion. It’s like watching a dancer move across the floor…..im transfixed by the swirling motion of it all……sometimes so much so that his words might instantly filter into my mind, yet take more than a moment to actually register. He is a writer and his love of language is apparent even in his movement…..a living-breathing-speaking work of art.

This particular evening I am exhausted to the point of near crazy. I can see the weariness of the day tugging at the corners of his eyes as well. We are seated on the patio of my favorite local restaurants, and the night smells of the rapid approach of Fall. The air swirling against my bare legs beneath my dress gives me a light chill, but it’s a delicious contrast to the warmth sliding into my belly from the glass of wine in my hand. It had been a difficult day….you know, the kind where you get the itch to sell most of what you own, shove the rest in a locker at the train station and hop the next ride out of the country. Ok, so maybe you don’t know. But, personally, I have those days every so often. I’m not sure what makes me think I will somehow become spontaneously brilliant and less of a mess if I simply make a drastic change in location, but I think it nonetheless. He tells me this insanely funny anecdote about one of his students that while trying to entertain his peers with a rather immature and brain damaged stunt managed to lose control of his bodily functions and shit his britches. The vibrations of laughter thru my chest begin to loosen the tension wound tightly inside and for the first time all day I take a deep breath.

He begins another story pertaining to one of his students and I am content to sit and allow his voice to wash over me. If I focus solely on him, I can momentarily silence all the other worries in my head and just BE. I notice one small curl of dark hair that seems intent on falling down across his forehead and I grin remembering how distressed he’d been when just a few short weeks ago a Nazi hair stylist went all Edward Scissorhands on his noggin and left him looking like a chemo patient. Suddenly he shifts gears. Drastically. Now I’ve grown accustomed to this and it feels natural, but the first few conversations of this kind felt like driving 180 mph down a straight stretch of road with your foot on the floor and having someone suddenly jerk the wheel hard to the left.

“That’s the thing about love ” he says, “Do you know how to tell if it’s authentic?”

I’m always amazed at his ability to round mental corners at the speed of light. He’s practically the only person I know that can go from a discussion on the literary nuances of Moby Dick to a full blown explanation on the inner workings of the greatest of all human emotions all without getting dizzy.

“No, enlighten me, wont you” I mutter.

“It’s Free,” he says.

“Free?”

“Absolutely. Without question. I may not have a lock on the truth, but THIS I know.”

“Care to elaborate, your Holiness?” I quip.

“It’s simple. Real love doesn’t ask for anything in return. It’s simply given away for free. It doesn’t expect a reciprocating gesture or even acknowledgment. It doesn’t coerce or attempt to impress. It doesn’t say well if only you hadn’t failed me in this way or if only you had been better then you would be worthy of me. Nope. It doesn’t care about the flaws.”

“Interesting little interpretation you have there. Sounds similar to this passage in a little book called THE BIBLE.” I say, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “This isnt exactly late breaking news, Sugar.”

“Perhaps. But it’s clear that though you’ve heard this before you don’t always GET IT. Because if you did, you would recognize it when you see it…..or rather, recognize what ISNT Love but claims to be. It irritates me because you are bright. You should get this. I’m confused as to why you are wasting time. But, you’re not alone. I meet very few folks that do.”

I raise my brows and look at him in a squint. I’m torn between fascination and irritation because I don’t particularly like to be analyzed. He grins because he has seen this look before. Often. Suddenly my eyes fill with tears and brim over. Oddly, he is one of the few men I’ve encountered that isn’t the least bit awkward with crying women and he simply leans over and pats my arm.

“I’m sorry; I don’t know where that came from. Ok, that’s a lie. I do know, but I don’t want to talk about it.” I mutter.

“So, how do you feel about New York City in the Fall?” he grins. And just like that he’s on to something new as though the last 10 minutes hadn’t happened.

I crawl into bed that night thinking about that exchange. Why do we as humans find it so hard to wrap our minds around the concept of love without conditions? Why do we have such difficulty recognizing what real love looks like? I mean, I learned early on how to identify CHOCOLATE. Smash it flat into a bar and wrap it in tinfoil…..hallow it out and mold it into the shape of a bunny……or liquefy it and hide it in the middle of a sponge-filled cake and I can STILL identify it. The shape doesn’t matter…..the source doesn’t matter…….the amount doesn’t matter. I know INSTANTLY – Yep, this is chocolate, people. I can smell that margarine-infused, hydrogenated, fake coco-flavored candy crap from a mile away…..I am NOT fooled. One look at that shiny waxy mess and I know it’s not the real deal. Oh, it looks the same, but because I KNOW chocolate, I’m not fooled, Mr. Hershey…..even when its closetoalmostnearly-madewithSplenda-stampedwiththelogo-butstillnotchocolate…..I KNOW. And here is the kicker, I don’t settle for it either. Hmmmm……and that’s just CHOCOLATE.

Ok Ok….so chocolate is tangible…..but let’s face it, it’s also often times almost a transcendental experience just the same. Am I right, ladies? But if I am as educated about and as picky over simply my choice of sugar infused indulgences, shouldnt I care all the more about identifying other things in my life as authentic and worth the investment….

Isn’t it just a kick in the pants that Love-the most PRICELESS of all commodities- is actually only of real VALUE when it is FREE…….and the second you put a price on it, it becomes worthless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all. Cherish the ones you love and never settle for less than you deserve.

Lynny And The Grown-Up Kind Of Pretty

Friday, January 27th, 2012

I officially met my favorite author last night. I say officially because while yesterday was the first time I ever laid eyes upon her in the real world, I feel as though we were introduced years ago. Call me crazy, but when I become downright cozy with the voices in your head (characters) I feel like we are friends. Odd, I’m aware, but this wouldn’t be the first (or likely the last) time anyone has ever questioned my soundness of mind.

While I have never really had a “type” when it comes to the fellas Ive fallen head-over-heels for over the years, I clearly have one when it comes to the books that steal my heart. Every time I come home from the library with a fresh new pile of printed pages and heap them onto my night stand, Boy chuckles and says “Let me guess, 9 of the 10 of those are about some head-strong Southern female, flawed but redeem-ably so, that finds a way to rise above?” This usually earns him a shank side-eye and a snarky hand gesture.

You know why that’s funny? Cause it’s true.

I love me a good female protagonist. And if she’s marginally broken, bitter and sarcastically biting ALL THE BETTER. And if she just so happens to be SOUTHERN then there’s a good chance I’m gonna love her like the sister I wished and prayed for but never had. And nobody, I mean NOBODY writes those sassy kind of gals like Joshilyn Jackson. If you haven’t heard of her, you must be living swamp-side under a muck-covered rock because she’s what they call THE BIG TIME. I’m talking five-published-award-winning-novels-New-York-Times-Best-Seller kind of famous.

I’ve read practically ever solitary word the woman has ever penned, but it was the first sentence of her first novel that cemented my eternal interest: “There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus.”

You know why that’s funny? Cause it’s true.

To date, “God’s In Alabama” is my hands-down top-of-the-list favorite novel. It has a plot line that will twist you so inside out your navel and your big toe switch places and an ending that will steal the breath right out of your lungs and make your teeth sweat. Yes, it’s THAT GOOD. And while i certainly love the stories she weaves, what I adore the most are the characters of which that fabric is made. All of them: Arlyne, Jim Beverly, Rose Mae Lolly, Aunt Flo, Clarice, Nonnie, Hazel and all the rest….while they were born in her brain they now reside permanently inside my Lil’ ole’  ticker.

So, OBVIOUSLY when I learned I’m-sorry-MISS JACKSON- I-am-for-real was gonna be slingin’ signatures into her newest hardback at a library in a neighboring suburb I was determined to go. Never mind that criss-crossing Atlanta at rush hour on a weekday is akin to have your kidneys removed through your eye sockets or that getting home that late on a school-night typically makes the following workday about as pleasant as a hug from an unwashed carnival worker at high noon in August. I was not to be deterred.

So my trusty side-kicks, Pickle and Nik, saddled up with me and off we rode.  Pickle drove, Nik navigated and I passed out the snacks. What? Of course I packed snacks, what do you think we are, savages? I mean, it was dinner-time and a girl’s gotta eat. Nobody wants to see any one of the three of us with low blood sugar I assure you. It’s unpleasant with a side of violent. But, with the aid of Mapquest and Little Debbie we were able to make it all the way to the wilds of Decatur without bloodshed.

We bought our books and filed in to the auditorium with the rest of the herd and found some seats. I gotta tell you folks, Joshilyn was absolutely BRIL. She talked a little about her particular process of writing and the new novel itself…and all so causally and without pretension that by the close of things I not only felt like I knew her but that she was my new best friend. When i had a moment to chat with her briefly afterwards I found her truly entertaining and delightful and in a state of full blown crazy I informed her that  we were destined to be buddies and I’d already decided to shorten her name and call her Lynny. Without missing a beat, she christened me Lissa. We’re workin on the secret hand-shake.

Her new book officially launches today. Its entitled A Grown Up Kind Of Pretty and if you heathens have any taste at all, you’ll buy a copy. Then again, you’re here reading my drivel so perhaps taste isn’t your forte’. (Shut it, John.)

I already know a tad of what the new book entails as Lynny read a bit of it for us and gave us a little insight as to how the story came to be…and more importantly, the road that writing it actually led her down. It seems at the outset she was determined to make this novel her funny, light-hearted PRETTY one. But somewhere along the way she came to see that this book, like most of them do, had a mind of its own and was determined to be born of the darker side of that which resides inside her. And this is admittedly not the most comfortable part of herself to tap into. Let’s face it, we all have those black waters within us and wading into them ain’t your average picnic. After all, who knows where they might lead you, what you will discover in their depths, if you’ll ever make it home again or for that matter, even if you do that home will still be the same as it was when you left it. “But, you gotta go there” Lynny kept saying.

The evening was a true delight and I fell into bed at the end of it exhausted but wildly inspired. I practically scrubbed my winter-white skin raw this morning in the shower in an effort to wake my brain, but once the fog cleared I remembered the reason I was so tired and still deemed it totally worth it. Brushing my teeth, I wandered into the study and stared at the beautiful apple green cover of my new book. It sat there all shiny and pretty and waiting to be devoured. The cover art truly is delicious and the crazy inside of me wanted to call in sick to work and crawl back in bed with it immediately, but the responsible me that knew patients would be waiting won the war. (Thanks Mama, I guess you did instill a value or two after all, though most days I think you doubt it.)

Lordy but I do wish i could write like Lynny. But last I checked they no longer manufacture magic beans or geese of the golden egg-laying variety. God knows Ive been trying to hatch my own novel now for quite some time but the fetal version seems stuck somewhere just over the crest of the third trimester. Too late for an abortion of any sorts but hardly ready to be set loose to breathe on its own in the real world. It’s been trying to drag me into those dark waters for ages…maybe it’s time I go. SonOfANutCracker. I hear ya, Lynny, I hear ya.

I think about Lynny’s book….all shiny and perfect with nary a crack in its binding yet. And I simply cant wait to plow through the pages. By the end it will likely be bent and written in with stains from my favorite coffee mug overlapping paragraphs, all while favorite pages get highlighted brighter than the sun. All my favorite books look that way. But when i look at them, I don’t see ugly I see LOVED. Sometimes that strikes me sideways because in childhood the things i loved the most like my Care Bears lunch box or my Smurfette sleeping bag were so precious and prized the only way I was comfortable keeping them was pristine. Grown up me is still an obsessive compulsive organizer and keeper-of-all-things neat, but I tend to find things more worn more lovely. Bring on the mismatched, faded, heirloom china and the farmhouse table with a patina that looks more like it endured World War II than the Grandpa that built it. So enthralled am i with this sort of decor that I think Boy fears he will one day return to a home decorated top to bottom in items from the local Salvation Army. I once read a story to him about this house the floors of which were all constructed using lumber that had been recovered from some cargo ship carrying timber that sank to the ocean floor some hundred years ago. Apparently the large hunks of wood weren’t worth all that much in the days before the boat they were on bottomed out under the brine, but after years of soaking in the saltwater they’d turned into something altogether priceless and the finished flooring was nothing short of a work of art.

Driving to work I hummed to the radio as the coffee in my favorite yellow daisy-covered travel mug warmed my cheeks up pink while the sun was busy warming up the sky’s face in lovely shades just the same…and I got to thinking….Maybe that’s what Lenny’s talking about. MAYBE what lies at the depths of those internal dark, ugly oceans is the kind of lumber that builds houses of the rarest and prettiest kind. Immaculate and unblemished is what little girl me found most pleasing….but that my friends, is not the Grown Up Kind Of Pretty….

Maybe it’s time to stop standing on the shore tossing small stones in the wake…maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and dive to the bottom of the murky cold deep. I have no way of knowing what treasure lies buried there if any. I don’t even know how i will get back to the surface or find my way home if I do….For that matter, I don’t even know if home will still be the same as it was when i left it. But I do know that if I want the chance to build the best possible version of what I have to offer the world, I’ve gotta go to the dark places in search of the best materials.

All i know is I wanna leave this world somehow more beautiful than I found it. My contribution may never come in the form of a best seller or an award-winning work like the ones Lynny pens. The best I can hope for is that whatever it is, above all, it shines with a real Grown Up Kind Of Pretty.

Go out and buy Lenny’s new book. Buy all five of them for that matter. You wont be disappointed, I swear. And if you are, you can bet your ass we wont be teaching you the secret handshake.

You know why that’s funny? Cause it’s true.

Lily Fair

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

One evening after after I closed up the clinic I headed over to check on one of my favorite little patients that was currently in a rehab facility recovering from surgery. Mrs. C. has a heart of gold and the greenest thumb Ive ever seen. Her back patio is like a glimpse into what the Garden of Eden must have been like. She spends most of her days puttering around out there in her housecoat and wellies lookin entirely too cute for her own good. I knew she must be missing all her “babies” being cooped up in a hospital room so I decided to swing by and get her a little something. I veered off into the Harry’s Whole Foods in search of some small, low-maintenance potted plant she could sit in her windowsill and “tend” to.

As I was browsing through their “Spring has Sprung” collection I noticed a young man off to my left examining every single bouquet of fresh cut flowers with jittery impatience. He’d pace a few feet and then suddenly his entire face would break out into a grin. So spastic and seemingly unrelated were his movements that for the first few moments I started to wonder if he’d escaped from his field trip on the short bus. After the fourth time he stopped dead still and smiled like a cat that had caught the canary I couldn’t help myself and I chuckled.  Hearing me giggle, he wandered over and asked if he might prevail upon me for some help.

Up close I could tell he was likely a newly-minted 20 -something whose idea of “all dressed up” were the jeans and white linen shirt he was sporting. I found the creases around his collar from what I can only describe as an interesting ironing job to be rather endearing. His name was Carter and he was having trouble picking out flowers for his date.

“I don’t want to get her something lame. I mean, do I go with roses because they are fancy or do i avoid them because they are unoriginal? The carnations seem pretty but I don’t want her to think I am cheap.”  Talking and pacing. Pacing and talking.

He is clearly concerned about getting this right and it melts my heart a little.

“Well, Carter, roses are in many ways a classic, but unless you plan on giving her 50 dozen, they likely wont make the kind of memorable impression you seem to be itching for.”

“I want this to be the best first date in the history of Time.” he says.

“Well, no pressure there” I chuckle “How about you tell me a little about this girl so I can help you make an informed decision.”

His face lights up like a Christmas tree and he launches into a 10 minute  monologue during which I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop once for a breath.  He met her in second grade. They lived next door to each other and rode the school-bus together. She taught him how to tie a slip knot and a square knot and he taught her how to open the old-fashioned screen on her bedroom window with a bobby pin. By junior high he was certain she was the girl he wanted to marry. But while she went straight from cute kid to pretty pre-teen, he found himself lost in a gangly awkward body that didn’t exactly entice the adolescent, female population. Then she moved away and he mourned the fact he’d never once told her how he felt. Fast forward a decade and they both end up at the same university. She’s still beautiful and he of course has finally blossomed into the heart throb he’s always been deep down inside. They’d been flirting for weeks now and he’d finally asked her out. This was his one big chance.

“Sweet Jesus, this feels like the script from a Hannah Montana movie” I mutter, “Any chance you are fixing to break out into song?”

“You’re funny” he says almost surprised, “Are you single?”

“One girl at a time, Cowboy” I laugh, “Focus. One girl at a time.”

He laughs out loud and in his pretty green eyes I see the hearts of all the college co-eds he is going to break over the next few years.

“What’s her name?” I ask shaking my head.

“Lily.” he smiles.

“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?” I chuckle “That makes it easy.”

I wonder over to the section full of loose flowers where customers can create their own bouquets and start to gather several stems.

“These pretty orange ones are Tiger Lilies. And these pink ones here, with the bright red center, these are called Stargazer Lilies. The little white ones that look kind of like bells, those are called Lilies of the Valley. These sunshine yellow ones are called Day Lilies. And these, well these are my absolute favorite, and they’re called Calla Lilies.”

I wrap the the whole bunch in waxy green floral paper and tie it with the ribbon provided. I choose the small ivy-cornered white card and hand him the pen.

“Write this”  I say as I close my eyes and think for a second. “Of all the Lilies to have ever bloomed, yours is the only face that does justice to the word perfection.”

He looks at me wide eyed and smiles “Amazing. Its absolutely perfect and I never would have thought of it on my own. Its exactly the kind of impression I was going for.”

He clasps me in a tight hug and whispers a very sincere THANK YOU before heading toward the bank of check out stands.

Suddenly he whirls back around and yells at me. “Hey, I’m sure you’re pretty good at doctoring or whatever” ,as he gestures at my uniform, “but you should really think about becoming a writer.”

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” Louisa May Alcott


Year Long Learning Curve

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Another year has come and gone and in its wake lie many memories.

I survived my first big city snow-storm and a week trapped alone in my home thanks to a rare January blizzard down south. I zip-lined through the jungle in Costa Rica, and hugged a monkey. I shared a big birthday with my Gram, her rolling in at 90 and myself tripping into year 35.  I jumped out of an airplane at 14,000 feet.  I went to my first ever National Juggling festival. I faux-pro-tested on the streets of our nation’s capitol.

This year i have learned that you really cant make someone love you…..all you can do is be someone who can be loved…..and well, then the rest is up to them. Ive learned that your background and circumstances may have influenced who you are, but YOU are ultimately responsible for who you become. Ive learned that no matter how good a friend someone is, they are going to hurt you every once in a while and you have to forgive them for that. Ive learned that just because two people argue it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other and just because they don’t argue it doesn’t mean they do.  Ive learned that the idea of home really has very little to do with where you actually physically reside. Ive learned it is quite possible to love someone completely LONG before you ever actually meet them ( big hugs to new babies Annie-O and Amelia ).  Ive learned that pursuing happiness by acquiring material things is like trying to jog to the grocery store on a treadmill: its not gonna happen.

Farewell 2011….. while i say good riddance to all the drama you brought like tornadoes, global recession, and nuclear meltdowns……i also say Thank You for some moments so precious they could almost break a heart.

Hell0 2012, Ive got big plans for you.

 

 

Dear Santa

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Do you remember me? I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well, I’m all grown up now and still need help somehow
I’m not a child but my heart still can dream 

So here’s my lifelong wish
My grown up Christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need:

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts

And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end

This is my wish…this is my grown up Christmas list.

Holiday Heaven, Buffet Style

Monday, December 19th, 2011

10 Simple Rules For a Happy Holiday

1.Avoid carrot sticks.  Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2.Drink as much eggnog as you can, and quickly.  It’s rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two.

3.   If something comes with gravy, use it.  That’s the whole point of gravy.  Gravy does not stand alone.  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano.  Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk.  If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5.   Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a Christmas Party is to eat other people’s food for free.  Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.  This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies or pralines in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes.  If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies.  Apple, Cherry, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one cherry. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake?  Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost.  I mean,have some standards, people.

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention.Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

HANDY-Capped

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Boy is many things, but handy is not one of them. I cite as example the story he once told me about his go-round with the concept of home repair just shortly after purchasing his house. It seems his new residence was in need of a storm door and the sink in the master-bath was missing a drain stopper. After a quick trip to the local Home Depot in the span of one morning’s time he managed to lock himself completely into and then completely out of his condo and then plug the plumbing of his bathroom completely. Like I said, handy he is not.

So when he informed me that he’d been doing a little lite internet research and was going to fix the dishwasher that has of late refused to drain completely, I thought “Now this is something I have to witness.”

I arrived on the scene in the kitchen to find him standing before the unit wielding his universal tool of choice, the butter knife. I immediately dissolve into laughter, whip out my iPhone and start live tweeting the crazy I am witnessing.

“I was unaware the online media had been invited to this event” he said with a completely straight face “Im going to need to see your journalist credentials.”

“Sure thing. Ive got ’em here somewhere” I mutter while digging my hand into my pocket. “See, here there are, sir” I laugh as i pull my hand clear and in very unlady-like fashion wave my middle finger in his direction.

“Ahhh, you appear to be with Fox News” he quips. “Please move into the area designated for the press” he smiles wickedly and gestures toward the door of the pantry.

Standing back, I watch as he heaves his hulking torso inside the yawning mouth of rack-emptied dishwasher. He mutters and grunts until he manages to pry the large grate off the bottom of the floor with the help of his trusty “blade”. He pulls back and we both peer inside the cavernous dark and gander at the black gaping hole of the now exposed drain. “That’s where Satan lives, I’m sure of it.” I whisper.

I dont pretend to understand one solitary thing about what happens inside a dishwasher, but as I’ve previously stated on more than one occasion, I imagine it to be something akin to the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. While it makes kitchen life much more convenient, Ive always considered it the most nefarious and villainous of appliances given it has the capacity to both set you afire and drown you at the same time.

Boy cautiously sticks his fingers into the evil black hole of the drain feeling for any resistance or blockages. I shudder and audibly gag, a reaction that both amuses and surprises him. I can stick my hand inside someone’s open thorax and lay hold of their beating heart without a single qualm, or help resect a mile’s worth of impacted bowel and never miss a beat, but get me anywhere near rotting food or stagnant water and I get tunnel vision and the dry heaves.

Feeling nothing of importance in the way, Boy extricates himself from the mouth of the malevolent machine. I watch as he pours a very generous helping of ordinary baking soda over the hole and the floor around it. Once he assessed the coverage and felt it sufficient he motioned me to stand back. With great flourish he then proceeds to pour a healthy hosing of vinegar over the area. He looks at me and grins triumphant as  the entire mishmash begins to bubble and hiss.

“Congratulations, you just made dirty salt water” i say clasping my hands, “I’ll alert the Nobel Prize Committee.”

Once the rudimentary chemical reaction has completed its course, he removes the large pot of water he had boiling on the stove and dumps it atop the whole salty mess. There is a resurgence of bubbling, gurgling fury and I swear I hear Satan’s slithery hiss.

Low and Behold, it worked. And Boy was proud with a capitol P. ( Dont tell him, but it is quirky little moments like those in which i find I love him most) It was however, only temporary, and a few short days later we were back to bailing out the blasted thing. “You just have to get some of it up” he cautioned “And then you shut the door and turn the knob to DRY and that will get the rest” he explains. As we scoop the water into the sink we both moan and groan and then dissolve into laughter discussing what terrible pioneers we would have made.

We have decided it’s time to call in the professionals. When you are more acquainted with the cycles of your own kitchen appliance than you are the phases of the moon, its a sure sign its become one more of a real time-suck. In the mean time, if anyone needs some work done that requires a butter knife and a little high school chemistry, I know a guy.

One Thankful Turkey

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

It would take the whole of the Internet to contain a list off all the things for which I have to be thankful, and let’s face it, who has the time or inclination to read all that….well, other than my Mama of course. But in honor of the holiday I would like to pause and acknowledge that I am aware I am one lucky lady.

From my patients that fill my life with a sense of purpose and direction to my coworkers that daily do battle with me against all forms of  sickness and insanity – I wake up daily, grateful for a job I simply love….and quite frankly, was born to do.

While most of them may be crazier than an outhouse rat, my family members remind me that no matter how old or ugly or rotten I become, there will always be a place to come HOME. You’d be surprised what kind of high wires you can cross in life when you know there’s that kind of safety net below.

One of the Universe’s greatest mysteries (and likely the tipping point for the eventual downfall of Mankind) is how i managed to wander straight into the arms of the most wickedly smart, insanely good-looking, ridiculously entertaining group of friends ever to have converged on the globe. We are ethnically, religiously and intellectually diverse and proof that liberals and conservatives can indeed cross the aisle and cohesively cohabitate no matter what political agendas we choose to embrace. Take a good look, Washington, and feel free to learn a lesson or two.  We may never solve any of Life’s truly profound problems, but we solve each other’s when it truly counts and at the end of the day I somehow wonder if that doesn’t make more of a mark on this ‘ole world than we will ever know.

I dont tell him often enough (mostly because I like to keep him humble) but Boy aint altogether half bad.  Some days I imagine he thinks I simply keep him around for good blog material and lets be real people, he does provide some award-winning, thought-provoking literary fabric with which to work. But he also happens write songs for me, wake me up at 3:30 in the morning to go see meteor showers, jumps willingly out of airplanes with me, and cooks dinner more nights a week than June Cleaver. When we are out wandering around in public I find it wildly entertaining to see so many curious on-lookers take in the sight of him and his flawlessly carved physique and then notice curiously short, ordinary looking little me attached to one of his perfect biceps, tilt their heads to the side and marvel at the many laws of attraction we seem to defy. “He thinks I’m SMART and FUNNY!” I used to want to yell. Now instead I simply chuckle and enjoy what I have come to think of as a prime example that God above indeed has a wicked sense of humor. Women stare at him shamelessly and yet he claims he’s never witnessed said looks, but he’s entirely too sweet and and let’s face it, an awful liar. The other night, in mock exasperation I teasingly said “You could have any girl you wanted”. He lowered his lashes and a sly grin spread across his cheeks “I already do” he whispered “I’ve got you.”  There really is something extraordinary about waking up every day knowing that someone in the world loves you in spite of all your many shortcomings and vividly glaring flaws. I’m fairly convinced that if everyone had that in their lives the elusive concept of world peace would just naturally sublimate.

When I began the journey of this blog nearly three years ago, I dont think I could have been prepared for what it would grow to be or the many ways in which it would change me along the way. While the stories, incidents and anecdotes on here are all uniquely mine, it is the words I get in your private emails, dear readers, that are the most radical and moving of all. Im often simply staggered by the honest, brave, and heart-warming things you choose to share with me- a virtual stranger. Who knew that by opening this little window into my world for all to see that I would really be opening my heart to a whole host of new ideas, inspirations…and friends.

I am profoundly thankful for the life with which I have been blessed. My cup runneth over.

May we all learn to take the time DAILY to celebrate that which is truly abundant and meaningful in our lives instead of just once year with a side of gravy.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya turkeys.

 

Real World Corinthians

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Love is patient.  It will dance with you in the kitchen on a rainy Tuesday night even though you refuse to let it lead and step on its toes a million times.  It drives 5 hours one way to attend your family reunion and meet a mountain-full of your crazy relatives ALL AT ONCE. It will sit in the living room sweetly playing guitar without a peep of complaint while you’re changing outfits for the 7th time before leaving the house because you’re in the throws of a Good-lord-why-does-everything-I-own-make-me-look-fat Day.

Love is kind.  It makes you chicken soup and throws away your snotty Kleenex when you’re lying prone on the couch under a mountain of blankets praying for the sweet release of death even though you’ve simply got the flu.  It eats SEVEN crusty-burnt, runny-middled pancakes the first time you ever try your hand at making them but fail to get the hang of it til the 6th one. It lets you sing all you want to the radio….even off-key…and off-beat. It carries in your groceries. It holds your hot-pink purse.

Love  does not envy, Love does not boast, Love is not proud. It wants to be with YOU, not the hot girl at the next table or the airbrushed ones in the magazines. Some weeks it does the dishes more often than you, but it never mentions it. Sometimes it makes more money than you, or pays more of the bills than you, but it always considers you an equal partner with an equal vote. It is not afraid to cry in front of you. It admits when it is wrong. It apologizes.

Love is not rude, Love is not self-seeking, Love is not easily angered, Love keeps no record of wrongs. It holds the umbrella mostly over you while it gets soaking wet.  It simply chuckles when you use its razor yet again to shave your legs thereby rendering it unfit to ever again come anywhere near a human face.  It lets you steal all the covers. It lets you pick the movie. It lets you have the last bite.  It will still hold your hand even when you are suffering the world’s worst documented case of p.m.s. and are so whiny you are beginning to get on your very own last nerve. It doesn’t tell you not to drive its car even though it knows you are known for being an accident magnet.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  It places its hand on your back to guide you through a crowd. It checks your tire pressure. It investigates the strange noises you heard coming from the back yard at 3 am.  It waits to hear you have indeed arrived at your intended destination before it surrenders itself to sleep. It knows the contents of all the over-stuffed emotional bags you drug to its doorstep and does its best to help you unpack them one by one. It cries with you when you reveal your worry about rushing into marriage stems from tragic personal experiences and vows to wait as long as it takes and have enough faith for the both of you in the meantime.

Love never fails. Even when it encounters the storm that is your full-on inner crazy unleashed. LOVE never fails. Even when you shut down and try to shut it out. LOVE NEVER fails. Even when you stare it in the face and dare it to leave because somehow you don’t feel worthy of it. LOVE NEVER FAILS.

 

In this season of thankfulness I would like to take a moment and acknowledge my eternal gratefulness for the love in my life…even when it snores. Or leaves the seat up. Or hugs me when it’s sweaty.

 

Laugh It Off

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Forget the earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunamis ravaging the earth, if you’re lookin’ for a sure sign that the Apocalypse is nigh, here it is: I turned down Krispy Kreme donuts this morning, people. HOT ONES. 

I’m currently giving the new health fad known as the 17 Day Diet a whirl, because I look forward to finding new and exciting ways to torture my own soul, and I figured i can do anything for 17 days, right? This is Day8 and let’s just say the next 2 weeks seems to be stretching before me like the endless sands of the Sahara.

While scanning the interwebs for heathly recipes  the other night, I ran across this little nugget of funny. I read it ages ago, but it is still hysterical and I felt like sharing. Here’s to one of the better calorie-burning experiences…good old fashioned laughin’.

 

Alli Side Effects In Layman’s Terms
by Jeff Kay

Alli is an over-the-counter weight-loss pill which, predictably enough, has proven to be a massive best-seller from the moment it became available. The drug, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, reportedly works by blocking the absorption of excess fats by the body. And folks are waddling, not walking, to their local drug stores for a chance to start on the Alli “program.”As is the case with most drugs, Alli comes with a risk of certain side effects. Or, as they’re known on the company website, treatment effects. A person is reportedly limited to 15 grams of fat per meal, and if they go over (or even if they don’t), there’s a significant chance they’ll find themselves out behind a shopping center somewhere, crying and clutching a wad of horrifyingly soiled undergarments, searching for a place to ditch it. As best as I can tell, anyway…Since a lot of this stuff is couched in language that is technically truthful, but very carefully worded, I’ve taken it upon myself to go through the list of side (treatment) effects and warnings, and translate it all into layman’s terms. I’m no scientist or doctor, and don’t pretend to have any special knowledge. I’m just a person who’s fairly good with words and reading between the lines… The highlighted phrases below are direct quotes from the Alli website, with my translations in between.

 
Undigested fat cannot be absorbed and passes through the body naturally. The excess fat is not harmful. In fact, you may recognize it in the toilet as something that looks like the oil on top of a pizza. Here the drug makers are trying to soothe the nerves of the skeptical fatty, by speaking their language. Pizza is something fatties understand, and a big part of the reason they’re interested in Alli to begin with. Pizza is good, pizza is reassuring… even when it’s flowing from your ass like molten lava. 

The website mentions seeing the undigested fat in a toilet, but that’s clearly a best case scenario. You might also see it on the tops of your shoes, across the hood of a car, or way up the shower curtain, near the loops.  The fat passes out of your body, so you may have bowel changes, known as treatment effects.

Bowel changes. Notice how they phrase that? It means stuff will be happening the likes of which you could never have imagined. It’ll be like a daily Dean Koontz novel inside your underwear.
You may get: gas with oily spotting::You’ll be farting Wesson oil straight through your Dockers…
loose stools::and having violent chipped beef explosions…
more frequent stools that may be hard to control :: all the time, with a sphincter that can no longer be counted as a friend.
Eating a low-fat diet lowers the chance of these bowel changes. Limit fat intake in your meals to an average of 15 grams.
 

The McDonald’s Big Mac has 34 grams of fat, and the Burger King Whopper has 40. Eat either of these while taking Alli, and you’ll very likely be transformed into a diarrhea cannon. 

Learning how to manage treatment effects is an important part of being successful with alli. Here’s how to take control:

Start trimming fat from your diet now, even before you begin taking alli. Then pick a day to begin taking alli, such as a weekend day so you can stay close to home if you experience a treatment effect. Make the timing work for you. If you’re getting ready to travel or attend a social event, hold off on starting with alli until the event is over

 

Blowing liquid feces down a row of bridesmaids, for instance, could be viewed negatively in certain circles. Further, an unexpected bout of the power-squirts while riding “The Bullet” at the county fair might not ingratiate you with your friends. Or anyone on the fairway. Or the folks in the parking lot walking to their cars.

While no one likes experiencing treatment effects, they might help you think twice about eating questionable fat content. If you think of it like that, alli can act like a security guard for your late-night cravings

You see, when you think about it, shitting yourself is actually a positive.

 
You can’t “save fat grams” from lunch and “spend them” at dinner. Spread your daily fat gram allowance of 15 grams on average per meal over the whole dayCheating can lead to embarrassment, tears, and the introduction of a frantically constructed toilet paper crack-wedge in the bathroom of an Applebee’s. It’s simply not worth it.    
 
You may feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work
Until you get the hang of it, you should probably take along a rolling suitcase full of brown clothes everywhere you go, while taking Alli. Luckily, however, turd-colored clothing is in this season; turd is the new vomit.

If co-workers ask about it, there is no shame in telling the truth. You might be surprised how understanding folks can be if you simply say, “I dress like this to conceal the poop that’s constantly soaking through the seat of my pants.”     

 
You may not usually get gassy, but it’s a possibility when you take alli. The bathroom is really the best place to go when that happens
Showboating is not recommended.
 
You can use a food journal to recognize what foods can lead to treatment effects. For example, writing down what you eat may help you learn that marinara sauce is a better option than Alfredo sauce
In addition to a handcart full of extra pants designed to camouflage your anal leakage, it might also be a good idea to carry a schematic and information wheel, so you don’t repeat past mistakes and have a treatment effect halfway up your back.

I hope this information has proven to be valuable. 

iSad

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

It wakes me up in the morning.

It tells me how many calories I have eaten and how much to tip my waiter.

It reminds me of upcoming meetings, to send a birthday card to my cousin, and informs me that I should expect p.m.s. to set in sometime in the next 3 days.

It tells me where to buy the cheapest gas, when i last had the oil changed in my car, and how to get to a patient’s house located somewhere in the wilds of Forsyth county.

It tells me if its cold enough outside to need a jacket and how much money is in my bank account at that exact moment.

It holds the photos of my brother’s goofy face, my godson’s first birthday and my favorite beach vacation trip to another country.

It updates me on the daily shenanigans of the stock market and the wretched-as-of-late state of my retirement fund.

It holds my email, my text messages and voicemails…including my favorite one from my friend Ellis who once called just to tell me and i quote “I’m fat and rolling down the highway!”.

It prompts me to buy milk and toothpaste on my way home, and that my dry cleaning will be ready sometime after 6.

It allows me to hear my Mama’s voice when she is a state a way, and even Boy’s when he is on the other side of the globe working Down Under.

It tells me which way is North, when the next full moon will occur and points out Orion’s Belt and the Big Dipper.

It stores all the names and numbers of the people I love most and emits a signal that will repel mosquitoes.

It plays word games with me when I’m bored and tells me what kind of bird it is that is chirping just outside my window.

It plays my favorite music, radio stations, and TV shows. It carries volumes upon volumes of what i consider the best of the written word allowing me to read anytime, anywhere.

It tweets my strange and random nonsense to untold numbers across the interwebs, and it’s what i am typing this entry on RIGHT NOW.

It is the singular most functional and most entertaining piece of technology I have ever owned.

Thank you, Steve Jobs. I’m only one of the many lives changed by your tenacity, creativity, and unparalleled brilliance. May you rest in peace.

Dont Make Me Hug You

Monday, September 19th, 2011

I spend a good portion of my daily life dealing with the world’s irascible riff-raff. Think about it, when was the last time you went to see the doctor in a good mood? Even if they aren’t traipsing thru here sick and sufferin’, there is still a general air of uncomfortable aggravation that comes with a check-up.  Sometimes they remind me of the old Aesop’s fable about the lion with a thorn in his paw….all roar and rage until some brave little mouse comes along and plucks out the offensive thistle and relief turns them into a big ole furry mess of thankful.

Most days I sail right down the river of grouch and never get my shoes wet. But every now and then it feels like I’m neck deep in it trying to swim ashore with heavy blocks tied round my ankles. Last Wednesday was one of those days. One patient in particular seemed whiskey-bent and hell-bound on making everyone in the office miserable. After 15 minutes in the exam room with his bad attitude I was one shade shy of losing my marbles.

Hands on my hips, i wheeled around and gave him my best no-nonsense stare:

Me: Don’t make me hug the ugly outta you, Mister.

Him: Hug the ugly out of me??? (In spite of himself his lips were curling into a sly smile at the corners)

Me: Once when I was about 15, I was complaining to my Gram about some decision that my parents had made that was sure to ruin my life at the time. I don’t even remember what the decision was, so CLEARLY it was monumental. I was mopin’ around all smart-mouthed and out of sorts and Gram looked me straight in the eye and said Sally Jane, I’m ’bout to hug the ugly outta you! Its also of note, that nowhere on my birth certificate am i listed as Sally OR Jane nor is that the name of my Mama or any of her siblings, yet somehow Gram always called me that when I was in trouble. But I digress. Gram folded me into her tiny frame and squeezed me tight until i had no choice but to settle down and start actin’ right. She hugged the ugly right outta me. And I’m about to do the same to you, if you don’t straighten up and fly right, Bucko.

I came stalking toward him arms outstretched like I was about to swallow him whole. He let loose and laughed til his face turned red.

By the time he was ready to go we were practically best friends forever.  Just before he left he squeezed me tight and still chuckling expressed his many thanks.

That night as i crawled into bed, I could hear the echo of Gram’s voice inside my head “I’m gonna hug the ugly outta you, Sally Jane” …

“That’s an awful lot of ugly to hug away” i whispered into the dark.  

Sure, most days I look in the mirror and see a good person. I pay my taxes, remember people’s birthdays, give to charities, and tip my mailman at Christmas. But buried underneath, like most everyone else, I have my own pool of twisted, grisly awful.

As my eyes drifted shut I heard Gram’s voice whisper back “Then its a good thing you know some people that know how to open their arms”…

Here’s to the people in your life willin’ to hug the ugly out of you. Only the ones who will hold you tight when you absolutely least deserve it should really get to hold you at all…because its true what they say, the only love worth naming is Unconditional.

Pep Talk Precious

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

I  had a visit recently with one of my most favorite people. He stands all of 3 feet tall and smells pleasantly of an interesting mixture of maple syrup, damp wood, and fruit roll ups. The peculiar little man of which i speak, is the grandson of one of my patients. He often tags along with “Pop” on days his mother is busy with work.
He always arrives wearing an adorable lopsided grin and some curious outfit as Pop allows him to exercise his imagination via a unique wardrobe. Some days he opts for a Batman theme others he’s decked out in full-on safari gear. Today it was red rubber rain boots and a fishing hat, capped off with tinfoil wrist bands. I usually conclude each visit with a brief game of some sort which he ALWAYS wins and for which he always gets a lolli-pop.

“What’s it gonna be today, big guy? Thumb wrestle? Rock Paper Scissors?”
He pauses briefly, twitches his nose and squints. “Arm Wrestle!” he declares, and so we set about getting positioned.

He giggles at the sound his homemade “laser blasters” make as they crinkle between our forearms. I pretend the “lasers” are shocking me therefore making my leg twitch. Giggles inflate into full blown laughter revealing evidence of multiple visits from the Tooth Fairy. With furrowed brow, he bites his lower lip and hunkers down.
“Go!” Pop yells!

I squeal and play the part of the disappointed as he pins my hand to the table. He does the victory dance while i retrieve the sugary spoils of war. I drop to my knees for the best part of his visits, the candy/hug exchange.

He swaggers off with Pop with a smile and wave, promising to return soon. Suddenly, he lets go of Pop’s hand and bolts back across the parking lot towards me. Out of breath, he crooks his finger signaling me to lean in.
“You’re stronger than you think,” he whispers. And then in a flurry of red rubber and aluminium he’s gone.

As I turned towards the door, the gravity of his words filter in. And ya know what? He’s right.

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are stronger at the broken places.”…….. Ernest Hemingway

Spend It Like You Mean It

Friday, August 19th, 2011

I saw a sign on the way to work one morning that certainly testified to the crazy times in which we are currently living. “Two GOLD teeth for Sale: $200” is what it said and i swear i nearly hit the telephone pole on which it was posted i was so taken aback by the ad. Clearly the economy is in the crapper when folks are out selling the caps right off their chompers for a little grocery money….I’m just sayin.

In all this madness its understandable that folks are looking for someone to blame for the current economic downfall. The Left blames Bush and the Right blames Clinton and meanwhile the current administration is spending money like there’s no tomorrow.  It is an absolute ridiculous mess. Its just about all anyone can talk about these days and rightly so…..its filtered down to the place where the average everyday citizen is effected…..because lord knows, most of us don’t get involved politically unless it hits home. I sometimes wonder just how many of the people standing around tooting their horn about policy change, debt ceilings, and spending cuts actually took the time to even vote in any of the previous presidential elections. But these days, no one is spared it seems, and so NOW of course, we have plenty to say about the matter.

I’m confronted daily with no less than 32 new emails regarding petitions someone thinks I should sign or which news anchors need to be burnt at the stake for the insistent bending of the truth. I’m runnin around throwing out phrases like “allocational efficiency” and “acquisition cost” with the ease of a Wall Street hedge fund manager and I actually know what they mean. Financial jargon has infiltrated the life of even the common man. Death may indeed be “the great equalizer” but MONEY is “the great motivator”.

The thing is, even during such a tumultuous time I’m thankful to be an American. I am one of the fortunate faction that has never once known what it was like to go hungry or homeless or experience anything remotely akin to true desperation. I daresay the majority of you reading this likely haven’t either. We have been blessed to come of age in a cushioned world….one in which not only do we not worry about the basic necessities of life we simply cant comprehend a world in which they would be difficult to obtain. Our quality of existence is above average….and because these basic necessities are so easily afforded we sometimes lose perspective. Not only do we often fail in being appropriately thankful, we have developed a warped sense of entitlement and expectancy. We have become accustomed to the addictive high of gratification…particularly of the instant kind.

Id like to state for the record that I’m not even remotely a credible economist. I’m basically a high functioning juvenile when it comes to things such as high finance and market stabilization.  But even to an economic simpleton such as myself it appears pretty clear that we are finding out the hard way that mortgaging our future to finance today’s contentment is not the most intelligent of avenues.

What’s fascinating is we carry over this ridiculous thinking into even the emotional aspects of our lives sometimes.   I often see people commit to relationships that have absolutely no viable hope of prosperity. Why? Because we want it ALL…..which isnt honestly a bad thing to aim for…. but we want it NOW and therein lies the problem. 

A long time ago I knew a woman who was dating a musician. He lived for late nights and live gigs and long weeks out on the road. She however was a classic nine to fiver that craved pattern and routine such as dinner nightly at 6 pm and gardening and movies on the weekend. They were slated to be married soon and already it was obvious that their differing lifestyles were going to be a challenge. When i questioned her about the long terms effect she thought this might have she simply looked at me as though id asked her what color eggs did she think chickens might lay if they lived on Jupiter or Mars.  She hadn’t even given it a thought. She was too busy flashing that diamond around and reveling in her so-long-single status…..And her betrothed was so bewitched by her beauty he couldn’t see past the honeymoon. Though individually they were both seriously fantastic people, they simply couldn’t be bothered with the time consuming task of discovering who they were individually and what truly made them happy…..let alone what ramifications their union might have on their future quality of life. And yet they actually both seemed shocked when reality set in some years later breeding resentment and tension so strong that life became a waking nightmare. They’d both been so hypnotized by “White Picket Fence” syndrome they failed to calculate the obvious…and wound up leveraging all their emotional assets on a venture that left them both bankrupt of soul.

I am aware that Love is often a breaker of rules, but i am also a firm believer that within the madness some reason lies. I have no problem admitting i am a 34 year old woman that still believes in “Happily Ever After” even though i have kissed more than my fair share of frogs. Its not the fantastical delusion of yesteryear where some Prince rides in on a white steed and whisks me off into the purpley sunset…..but i believe in magic just the same. The kind where in spite of their imperfections and regardless of your shortcomings, you can still wake up next to each other each morning loving one another even more than you did the day before.

I believe the current crisis facing our nation has many lessons to teach us. Above all it should be an obvious reminder to remain thankful for the important things which we do have. As we say goodbye to the days of obscene dividends and excessive gains perhaps we will come to see that responsible, thoughtful investments are far more gratifying than the instant variety behind which there is little stability.  As we are forced to learn to spend our money with more wisdom and and intention, perhaps we will learn to spend our hearts more wisely just the same.

Double Dog Dare Ya

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

I grew up on the outskirts of a small town; I’m talkin IN THE COUNTRY, people. There were no cul-de-sacs or neighborhoods….most of the roads weren’t even paved for that matter. For the first decade or so of my life the government didn’t even grant us a street address…..our mailbox was simply labeled “rural route 5 Box 65A”. It was acres of pasture and miles of fence line…..creeks, and barns and bales of hay. Horses and cows and all manner of farm animals. And everyone owned a dog.

Obviously, many of them were well-loved, well-cared for respected members of the family, but they weren’t just pets. They kept the coyotes away and alerted you to snakes lurking hidden in the grass nearby. They chased rodents from the hayloft, kept the coons and the possums out of the compost heap and warned us the second any unexpected human presence crossed onto the property line. Not to mention the furry shoulders they let ya cry on when all in life seemed out of sorts. In short, the four-legged furballs did what the rest of us did….they earned their keep.

I simply can’t recall a single moment of my childhood when i didn’t have a dog. There was always a litter of puppies around to play with. Fat and pink bellied with ears too big for their bodies, they were warm and wiggly and FUN. But even we knew they were puppies with a purpose and that one day when the time was right they would be sold off to locals in need of a new hunting buddy or cow herder.

My Gramps was a hunter himself and favored Hounds and Beagles and we owned our fair share of those breeds. We went on a crazy streak there for a while naming six of them in a row “Ralph”. I should note this was my Daddio’s idea and one he found very humorous for some odd reason. The name was finally put to rest when my brother got a Redbone hound puppy one year for his birthday and insisted on naming him LUKE BO DUKE after his biggest heroes on the Dukes of Hazard. Daddio’s favorite to this day was a Spitz named Fluffy. She had a snow white coat and cobalt eyes and I’m not convinced the wild was ever entirely bred out of her. Every single night of her life she made slow circles around the house pausing for an half hour or so on the front porch and then again on the back to sit and survey the landscape. Her ever watchful eyes keen and active until dawn when she’d sidle off to the shade and doze for a few hours.

None of them ever wore a collar. They had no idea what a leash was and would likely have chewed themselves free in under a minute had we ever thought to tie one on them. They slept on the porch or in the barn and were free to roam wherever they pleased.

Everyone knew which dog belonged to whom and they were all welcome on their farms so long as they were friendly and didn’t cause trouble. The folks down the street had a black and white spotted mutt named Pepper with one green eye and one blue that sometimes strolled down to our place in the afternoons for a drink of water from the creek and a scratch behind the ears. There was Talon the German shepherd who belonged to the folks to our left and for all his enormous size was scared of his own shadow.

We may not have had a Homeowner’s Association, tennis courts or a neighborhood pool….it may have taken a half hour walk to get from one of our front doors to the front porch of another’s, but we were a community nonetheless. And our four pawed friends were a vital part of it.

There really was only one main road in the middle of all that countryside and with the exception of the occasional passing tractor it was mostly empty save the few cars owned by my family or someone that lived nearby. You could literally stand in the middle of it for an hour and your odds of getting hit by some kind of vehicle would be about as good as winning the lottery three straight days in a row. Mama never had to worry about us being abducted or run down by a wild driver. It was for this reason that when a car DID come rolling by the dogs would go CRAZY. I suppose they considered this some form of madness meant solely for their entertainment. They would bark and run and carry on like clowns at a circus. They’d chase the darn things till they were clean out of site and then double back and run circles in the yard for 10 minutes. It was hilarious. When my Daddio would watch one of these scenes unfold he would always wonder out loud: “Just what do they think they would they do with that hunk of metal if they DID catch it?”

Sadly now, many of those old farms have been sold off and subdivided. The dirt roads have all been paved and there actually ARE cul-de-sacs and neighborhoods. All the doggies now reside in fenced in yards or indoors all together. That main road is now so busy you practically take your life in your hands each time you try to just cross the thing to check the mail.

Somedays this seems like such a metaphor for my adult life. I grew up and things got all busy, and fast, and dangerous. Its certainly is exciting but many a day I feel like a dog going break neck speeds trying to catch something giant and shiny that outruns me at every turn. Some days I sure do miss the times when I could stand still in the middle of it all for an hour and feel nothing but totally safe.

Oh, and Daddio, I think we finally have the answer to just what a dog would do if it ever caught the elusive car it loved to chase. And wonder of wonders, while this was on national news, it took place just 20 miles south of Rural Route 5 Box 65A)

Crank It Down, Please

Friday, July 15th, 2011
The grim economy and social unrest in our country these days is effecting more and more of us each day. If Gallop had a national Cranky Pants Poll, I’d say we as a nation would currently measure off the charts.
Granted, many of us are facing a great deal more unpleasantness than we are used to and sweet Jesus is it ever beginning to show.
If you want a solid indicator of just how far we’ve fallen, listen to the way people SPEAK to one another these days. Many of us are even irasciable and abrasive with the ones we claim to love the most:
 
 
 
“Go on, punch it, before somebody else grabs it!  What are you waiting for — a blessing from the Pope?  I swear, if you had even one ounce of initiative, you wouldn’t still be assistant manager at 42, you’d be a podiatrist like your brother… the man I could have married, I’d like to remind you!”
On the way to one morning I stopped for gas only to witness an altercation between three grown men escalate from muttered insults to full on wrastlin’ right there in the Quick Trip. It seems Redneck Roy was quite disturbed by the fact that Puerto Rican Pete had taken the last hot breakfast sandwich. Personally, i find anything shielded by a sneeze guard and lying prone beneath that evil red eye of a warmer to be one of those things in life worth AVOIDING. But not Redneck Roy….he was rather miffed.
He turned to Business Suit Barry standing next to him and said somethng very assinine and derogatory about Puerto Rican Pete’s country of origin. Business Suit Barry however was NOT amused and in no uncertain terms told Redneck Roy where to stick it.
Then in a strange twist Puerto RIcan Pete turns on Business Suit Barry screaming wildly that just because he is unemployed doesn’t mean he needs some uptight paper pusher fighting his battles and that as a matter of fact he and his parents were born and raised in the United States.
Clearly Business Suit Barry was shocked to find himself under fire from Puerto Rican Pete, so what does he do??? He decks Redneck Roy right in the kisser. And it just went from bad to worse. All three of them were throwing punches and slinging insults. It was utter pandemonium right there next to the beef jerky. Grown men acting like complete juveniles.
Now while I haven’t gone as far as to hit a total stranger in line at the convenience store i have felt abnormally guilty that Ive complained and spoken aloud so many sour thoughts recently.  (Yes, Oprah, I have violated the sacred code of The Secret!)
Life certainly has thrown some challenges my way as of late, but at the end of the day running around spewing negative sentiments about it is just about as productive as beating the fool out of folks at the filling station.
Thank you Morning Morons for reminding me to focus on the positive and the ways in which im blessed.

Ticket to Ride

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

One of my first, most vivid, initial impressions of Boy involved watching him extricate his large, hulking frame from the confines of what seemed like an impossibly tiny sports car.  He did so with an effortless finesse that was surprising if not a little impressive. But later that same evening I also witnessed him dance for the first time and quickly learned not everything the man does is entirely graceful (Don’t tell him, but I actually find that wildly endearing.)

While Boy is every bit as much a cityslicker as I am a country girl, I was still somewhat surprised by his choice in personal transportation.  Im not entirely sure why, but I’d always pictured him in something much more practical and pragmatic…not to mention with more leg room than a matchbox. But man, does he love that little car. Which of course means I felt compelled to ridicule it.

“Hey Boy, Barbie called. She said Ken needs his car back.”

“Hey Boy, don’t forget to tie a sweater around your neck. The last thing you want is to look silly tooling around the Hamptons this weekend.”

“Boy, pop the trunk will ya? I wanna put my luggage in there…and by luggage I mean a hairbrush and a handful of loose change. What do you mean it wont all fit?”

Believe me folks, he can dish it out almost as good as he can take it and frequently refers to my American-made, 4-cylindered commuter as the Maid Mobile. (We are nothing if not supportive and sweet to one another)

At the end of August as he was preparing to leave for the wilds of Australia, he tossed me the keys to his little foreign friend and said “You really should drive my car some while I’m gone. September alone is a good reason to own a convertible.”

Laughingly I tucked the keys into the kitchen drawer next to the extra batteries and 13 pens that don’t write informing him the most I was likely to ever do was move it a couple times a week across the parking lot so it didn’t look like no one was home. Given I was in a couple of major, traumatizing car accidents years ago, I tend to think of driving as something to “get through” more often than something to enjoy.  So for an entire month the only thing I did was trade out parking spaces.

A few weeks ago when my friend Ellis discovered that I’d yet to drive it he nearly had my hide:

Ellis: He left you the keys to his convertible BMW?

Me: Yes

Ellis: And gave you permission, NAY, TOLD YOU to drive it?

Me: Yes. More than once.

Ellis: And you are capable of driving a stick shift?

Me: Yes

Ellis: And you have not once taken this thing for a spin?

Me: No

Ellis: You shame me.

Yesterday as I slid behind the wheel of the little rag-top preparing to scoot it over 5 feet for it’s little routine mid-week parking lot move,  it dawned on me that  September was almost over and Boy would be back in less than a week. All I could hear in my head was Ellis screaming “If you don’t drive that thing Mo, you will have failed me. DO IT.”

Maybe just a couple laps around the neighborhood.

I hit the switch and sighed a little as the top rolled back and the breeze tickled strands of my hair loose from my workday pony tail. For about 10 minutes I wound through the backstreets never once shifting past 2nd gear and internally arguing with myself. I finally concluded that at that particular time of day there would be little traffic and it was slated to be a totally gorgeous day so WHY NOT. I swung back by Boy’s place, grabbed my gear, locked my car and took off.

After about 10 minutes of red lights and stops signs I reached the open highway. What happened next was completely unexpected. Building momentum I slid from gear to gear smoothly and effortlessly and right as I reached 4th, that flirty little car of Boy’s skipped right past the formalities and went straight to 3rd base with me, pinning my spine pleasantly to the seat with a rolling wave of vibrations and sucking the breath right out of my lungs. It felt exactly like the first time a sweetheart ever pinned me to a wall and kissed me senseless: delicious. Turns out sun on your shoulders, wind in your face and serious horsepower at your fingertips is a pretty darn heady combination.  Fifteen miles and two right turns later and I was in a full blown love affair.

We both know it isn’t meant to last…the really big loves seldom do.  But truthfully, I think  maybe knowing it is elusive and transient only makes it all the more exquisite.

**Interesting Footnote** Yesterday evening I got a curious message from Boy asking if i was in fact driving his car. It appears his neighbor knew he was out of the country and became concerned when she saw someone take off in it and decided to email him and alert him of its disappearance. How this woman never once seemed to notice me move it twice a week but suddenly happened to be staring out the window right as i was driving off is beyond me. She was so worried in fact, she was quite close to calling the police and declaring it stolen. Once Boy confirmed I was indeed the woman she’d seen behind the wheel, he explained to her everything was fine and not to worry. Who knew my little joy ride yesterday actually almost got me arrested. Seems all the truly fun things in this world are all somehow destined to make you an outlaw.

Right on Target

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

It is no secret that i am easily moved to tears.  If i find it beautiful, heartbreaking or moving in ANY way, my emotions tend to liquefy and spill over.  I used to worry this meant i might be a tad on the crazy side…..but i no longer care if it deems me a bit odd. The truth is, id rather number among those who feel deeply than those who feel little at all. The folks in my inner circle have come to expect my zany waterworks displays and count it as something that just makes me, well, ME. But bless her heart, the poor little cashier at my local Super Target was NOT prepared for my mania.

Ive never understood why large retail stores bother to have 411 checkout stations when at any given moment you will only find 2 of them manned by personnel. I cant help but wonder if it is some sort of mind game and somewhere behind one-way glass are a bunch of men in lab coats glaring at me as i walk the distance of two football stadiums searching for someone to take my money.

Lab Coat #1: “Look at this one. See how she struggles with that buggy with a bad wheel? It keeps jamming up and refusing to roll and yet she slogs on regardless, when clearly she is exhausted.”

Lab coat #2: “Watch her reaction as i flip on the light above register 42 just ahead of her and then immediately flip it off as soon as she turns in and prepares to unload her purchases!”

Lab Coat #1: “Fascinating! You can see the veins in her temples throbbing with tremendous force, yet still she refuses to quit!”

Its true, i picture them back there trying their hardest to see just what it will take to push me over the edge. And some days they have no idea how close i am to climbing atop one of the turnstiles and beating my chest Tarzan style and screaming profanities like a sailor on a four day bender. And yet i continue to wander the vast tundra searching for that one beacon of hope…..that beautiful oasis in the dessert….that one light in the darkness…..where i can CHECK THE HELL OUT.

 I am standing six carts deep listening to the beep beep beep of the scanner and aimlessly reading that rag of a magazine, People. Don’t lie. You know you love to hate it as much as i do. I mean seriously, who DOESNT want to know what JLo’s twins first words were? Or what Cameron Diaz may or may not have eaten for breakfast on vacation in Tahiti? Its riveting.

A man and his daughter fall in line behind me and settle in to wait. I turn, smile, and say hello and she grins at me all gap toothed and full on adorable. She’s somewhere around 5 or 6 and clearly still in the “princess phase”. I chuckle at her outfit……a soon to be too small Cinderella nightgown pulled on over a pair of embroidered jeans and a hello kitty purse. She’d capped it all off with sparkly pink mary janes and enough plastic jewelry to give Mr T. a run for his money. It was downright precious.

She flittered about humming and chattering and tapping her shoes on the tiled floor.

“Daddy, today at school Charlie said that we have butt cheeks because we cant just sit on our bare bones. Is that true?”  she inquires.

I grin as i listen to her father attempt a better explanation to the perplexing question of just why we have “butt cheeks”.

“Daddy, at lunch Sarah told the teacher that something was making her teeth cough. Mrs. Harris said it was called the hit-cups and that she caught them from drinking her juice too fast. Is that true?”

Dad fights a smile himself as he loosens the knot in his tie and unfastens the buttons in his collar. I smile and listen as a weary yet patient father once again tries to clarify the mysteries of the Kindergarten universe.

Little Miss Inquisitive Princess suddenly falls silent and momentarily still.

“Daddy,” she says her voice quivering just a bit ” Eli told me today that i couldn’t play on his team because girls cant play baseball and especially not girls like me because my feet are too big. Is that true?”

And i couldnt help it…..I cried right along with her as her sweet, sweet daddy dropped to his knees and pulled her in tight against his chest.

“That is absolutely NOT true, baby. If you set your mind to it, you can do ANYTHING you want. You know how grandma is a lawyer and she talks to a big judge and stuff? Well, once upon a time, some silly little boy told grandma girls couldn’t be lawyers but she didn’t let that stop her. And you know how Aunt Karen wears that funny robe and sits up on the stage when we go to church on Sunday? Well, one time another silly boy told her she couldn’t be a minister because girls couldn’t become ministers and she didn’t let that stop her either. And you know, once upon a time a silly boy doctor told your mommy she couldn’t have babies. But she wanted you so bad that she didn’t let that stop her either. And here you are. YOU, baby, are living proof that a girl can do ANYTHING in this world that she sets her mind to.”

He dried the tears from her cheeks and her sniveling began to cease.

“So,” he said, kissing her red little nose “just what did you say to silly Eli when he told you girls couldn’t be on his team?”

“I told him he better be quiet or my big feet were going to kick his butt cheeks off so he had to sit on his bare bones!” she giggled.

I couldn’t help but laugh as i thought to myself “Now THAT little munchkin is a KEEPER.”

“Im sorry” I said looking at the poor cashier who was clearly wondering if i was on the verge of some kind of mental break down. I quickly tried to stem the flow of tears spilling down my face. She scanned the contents of my cart in record time and was practically willing me out the door. Thank god it was simply silent tears because if i had phased into my full-on “ugly cry” she might have had a break down herself.

I drove home feeling sorry for the poor little Target employee that had the unfortunate experience of dealing with my weepy self……but more than that, i felt a greater sense of sorrow for those of us in this life (myself included) that sometimes let the silly little Eli’s in our worlds get the better of us. Maybe the grown up me just needed a little reminding that anything’s possible…..and those who dare you to think otherwise need their butt cheeks kicked off.

A Beautiful Bridge To Everywhere

Friday, June 17th, 2011

In my Father’s face I see two very distinct roads.

The first road leads directly back to my past and all Ive ever been. 

From my very beginning his mark on me is clear. He is my olive skin, my mahogany hair, and my eyes the clear amber color of good whiskey. His genetic contribution and his alone would ultimately define that which I am at the very heart of me….because right from the start, it declared me: WOMAN. The feel of his whiskers on my cheeks conjures memories of all the headaches, heartbreaks, and skinned knees he did his best to kiss better. His firm grasp a steady reminder of all the lessons learned the hard way about respecting my God, my country, my fellow man, and myself. He is my first steps, my first missing tooth, my first day of school and my first time driving a car. He will be the first to tell you he is not perfect. I will be the first to tell you it does not matter. He is the first man I’ve loved without reason or condition. He was the first man to break my heart. He was the first man I truly learned how to forgive.

The second road leads to my future and all I will ever become.

I can envision my life as this wildly fantastic success because he speaks of it as if it already is. He is all my books published, my dream home by the water, and all my travel plans realized and thoroughly enjoyed.  I could see finding a partner that I love beyond all reason that truly gets who I am and what I need because my father spoke of him as though he were real and stood simply waiting on me to turn the corner.  He is my long white trip down the aisle, my 50th wedding anniversary, my retirement rocking chair on the porch facing the sunset. He will be the first to tell you I am perfect. I will be the first to tell you his love almost makes me feel so.

He is forever my Daddio. I am eternally his Babylegs.

My father is to me a bridge. He bends himself willingly over my life, a solid connector from everywhere Ive ever been to everywhere I will ever go. For him I hope to always be a home for all the things he ever dared to dream and proof not only that HE LIVED, but that HIS LIFE REALLY DID MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddio. I love you more than you will ever know.

Song of the South

Monday, June 6th, 2011

So it appears there is some confusion out there among the masses regarding “redneck” vs. “southern”. I feel compelled to clarify things for those who lack education on such matters as there is no need to further perpetuate the misconceptions.

Southerners are classified as folks who reside in the lower quadrant of the continental United States………from Texas east and below Kentucky and West Virginia.  Think verandas, magnolias and Gone With The Wind. Its Bealle St. and barbecue and the Grand Ole Opry……Georgia peaches, Tennessee whisky and Texas rodeos…..Its N’awlins and Nashville and the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  We drink iced sweet tea, co-cola, and mint juleps. We farm peanuts, horses and tobacco. We love Jesus and our mamas and football.  We are Billy Graham, Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline. Its a state of mind and a way of life that are centered around LOCATION.

Redneck is by definition a “glorious lack of  sophistication”. It includes the rural poor to the working class of rural extraction. Think bootleg moonshine, run down trailer parks and Hee-Haw…..mullets, and meth labs and Jerry Springer. As a general rule they enjoy cheap bear, lawlessness and Spam. But the point I’d most like to make is that they are NOT confined or defined simply by geographic location. While we have a healthy population here in the land of Dixie, they are EVERYWHERE.  North, South, East and West, they abide…..even Yankees and West Coasters have their fair share. Lots of folks make the mistake of assuming if one is Southern, one is also a redneck…..and while it IS possible to be both, its also possible to be simply one OR the other.

 As for me……if pressed, Id say, Im just Southern.But i have gotten quite a kick out of the fact that in the years since i moved down here to the big city, I have actually engaged in more redneck activity than all the rest of my small town years combined. Ive now been to a dirt track demolition derby, a monster truck rally and shockingly one Sunday, i found myself headed towards a Nascar race……I’m my opinion, there couldn’t be a better litmus test…..I figured once and for all that experience would soon tell whether i was more hicktown hillbilly or steel magnolia.

Ive never been a racing fan…..in fact, id just about rather have three root canals and a good beating than sit thru watching one on tv. I was of the opinion it was the most terminally boring sport in existence.  But, somehow a group of us got wrangled into going (read: free tickets) and while i am certainly still NOT a fan, i wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything.

I’m aware that just because you foster a love for Jimmy Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr doesnt guarantee you are a redneck but it sure as shootin gives you a head start. I had never in all my days seen so many mullets and Rebel flags in one centralized location……and i once attended an amateur “wrastlin” match at a VFW folks, so that is saying something. Atlanta Motor Speedway was full of pretty much everything you could imagine except good judgement. I felt like i was in a three hour live taping of an episode of Cops

We pulled on to the scene fairly early, yet it was obvious most folks had arrived long before. The make-shift tailgate area was full of fascinating modified modes of transportation……the old school buses converted into make shift “RV’s” were my favorite….especially one that was sporting a wooden porch of sorts atop the back end that was accessed by a spiral staircase made of rusting metal.

We slathered on the sunscreen and waded thru the masses towards the stadium’s entrance. As we walked along, we were greeted by folks from every angle. I’ll say this about Nascar fans, they are a jovial and extremely friendly bunch. I was fascinated by not only the widespread number of states represented but the vastness of the dialects as well. Personally, i prefer the slow drawl of the Carolinas to the twang of lower Alabama, but all in all, the chorus of accents made an interesting soundtrack all its own.

It was decided that we would wrangle us up some lunch over by the midway and then head towards the stands to be seated. The food was delightfully unhealthy and delicious…..if it could be deep fried, it was on the menu…..you could practically hear folk’s arteries clogging around you.

After walking a quarter length of the track and ogling all the awesomely bad fashion choices of the day we found our seats and settled in. Though id been warned of the intensity of the noise, i was still far from prepared at the racket that greeted me at the announcement of “Gentlemen, start your engines!” The crowd went absolutely wild with excitement to the point of near frenzy. The drivers followed the pace car for a few laps and the suddenly it was ON. As they accelerated to top speed the ground beneath my feet began to hum……..the vibrations funneled up thru my body and settled in my abdomen like a giant swarm of honey bees…..it was truly a new sensation.

I’ll be the first to admit, you simply can not appreciate the speed at which the cars are moving unless you witness it first hand. Quite frankly i don’t know how fans keep track of their favorites because they pass in such a blurr you can scarcely identify the vehicles one from another.

Very shortly, the roar of the engines became overwhelming, and fearing long term hearing loss i stuffed my ear plugs in…….suddenly the world went soft. Though not totally silent, the noise around me was suddenly so muted i could hear myself breathing. It was the strangest phenomenon. There i was part of this living breathing organism of the crowd….. yet i felt completely isolated on the island of my thoughts. This is strangely how i feel i live most of my existence……part of the planet yet simultaneously so removed from it.  I am see-able, touchable and taste-able, but ONLY I really know the sound of my own heartbeat…ONLY I really hear the regular pattern of my own breathing. Some days I appear such a part of the crowd around me, folks would be shocked to know just how much of me is actually rather absent…..far away in a little world full of personal secrets where i am the only citizen.  I often wonder if i am the only one that behaves this way….. or is the population more full of souls only half in attendance than most of us ever imagined? I started to chuckle quietly to myself for pondering such weighty matters in the middle of an all out hickfest, and wondered if perhaps we were inhaling more exhaust fumes than we thought.

250 laps later, after the hillbilly two rows in front of us was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, we decided to shuffle our sunburned bodies back towards the car. We snaked out of the parking lot following the long processional of vehicles back towards the city and i mentally checked NASCAR! off my list of things to experience……and i stand firmly behind the sentiment that I’m SIMPLY SOUTHERN…..and i cant believe i ever questioned such.

If It Doesnt Fit, You Must Acquit

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Last Sunday afternoon Boy and I went to purchase him some new summer shorts because the early 90’s had called and asked for most of his wardrobe back.

Im of the opinion that men have very little room to complain about in the shopping arena. I get that it might not be your favorite activity of all time but you guys have it quick and breezy i tell you, quick and breezy. You can walk into a store and locate three styles of pants in your size and color in under 20 minutes. Most times you dont even need to try them on….because in your cosmos a 34 is a 34 is a 34. This does not translate to the world of women’s clothing. A size can vary more wildly than the four trade winds depending on the brand. A certain size shorts at Old Navy might fit fine, but pick up the same size in Calvin Kleins and it doesnt so much look like youve strapped on some cute summer cut-offs as it appears you’ve donned a pair of denim panties. To make it even more challenging, I can personally vascilate between three seperate sizes in any given WEEK. Its like my waistline is effected by everything from the phases of the moon to local barometric pressure.  We can actually spend an entire decade searching for the pair of perfect jeans. We will put them on and cast them off 3 times in the fitting room…we will wander out into the store and ask our friends and perfect strangers alike for their opinions…we will stretch them, roll them up, sit in them, stand in them,  lie down in them, and kneel down in them in an attempt to test every fiber of their constitution to see how they will stand up to our lifestyle. And god knows, we will pay  any price for them.

Since we were attempting to give Boy’s fashion plate an upgrade, we opted to try the shorts on this go round to see what styles he liked best. We gathered several pair and headed to the back of the store. I parked myself next to a display of elastic-waisted khaki britches near the entrance to fitting rooms and settled in to wait for him to model the individual options.

A few seconds after he disappeared behind the closed door, a fairly aged gentlemen stuck his head around the corner.

“Peggy!” he hollered craning his neck around, “Peggy!”

We made eye contact and he grinned sheepishly “You’re not Peggy” he stated as he realized I was standing there alone.

“No sir, I am not Peggy” I say smiling back.

He winks mischeviously and offers “You could be!”

I dissolve into laughter just about the time the aforementioned Peggy steps into sight. She was short and perfectly groomed and clearly having a Chico’s kinda day. (If you dont get that joke, you arent a target of  current women’s mass marketing campaigns)

“She is entirely too pretty and WAY to young for you, Hal.” she admonishes as she hands him some additional drawers to try on.

“Turn around and let me see the back of those before you take them off” she instructs him.

He does a  shakey pirouette before sticking his fanny out in a full on tail-waggle that I am assuming he meant to be equal parts amusing and provocative.  Peggy smacked him firmly on his fanny feathers and sent him back behind closed doors.

Boy exits and does a similar circular show as i offer my thumbs up on option number 1. I look at Peggy and sigh, “So, is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life, then? Standing outside fitting rooms waiting on some man to act a fool?”

She rolls her silver-blue eyes beneath her heavily laquered Paula Dean hairdo and chuckles “Im sorry to say it, but yes. Are you two not married?” I reply that no we are not.

“Then you’ve still got lots of time to think about it!” she says on the cusp of a great belly laugh. “Im just teasin'” she finally manages to wheeze “most of the time it is pretty great.”

I shook my head in wonder as we walked towards the car realizing it took us less than half an hour to find, fit, and purchase 2 new pairs of shorts and that included the little side trip to pick out a new belt! Its taken me more time to select a suitable package of non-descript white athletic socks before. I mention as much to Boy and he says it doesnt surprise him in the least.

“How do you guys do it?” i puzzle.

“Simple,” he says, “We know what we are looking for. We go in with clear directives on what we need and we simply get it.”

I got to thinking about it and realized men and women often approach relationships in much the same manner. Boy told me loved me shockingly short into our dating life. I remember thinking “How can you possibly know! ?!You’ve barely tried me on for size!”

I however, have stretched him, rolled him up, and asked friends and total strangers for their opinions of him. Ive attempted to test every fiber of his constitution to see how he will stand up to my lifestyle.

In the end I don’t suppose it matters how we go about finding the perfect fit. Maybe it takes you half an hour…maybe your search lasts more like a decade. Either way, when you find the one that holds you in, holds you up, and just plain feels good on your skin…the one that makes you look ten years younger and feel 20 pounds lighter…the one that hides all your imperfections in their strengths..is durable and dependable…wont shrink or fade but may eventually wrinkle…they will make all the trying-on and casting off worth going through…and they will be worth every penny.

Deep and Wide

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

As a child I spent a great deal of time with my Gram……especially in the years following the death of my Gramps. I can hardly remember a day when she wasn’t at our house or we at hers.  This, of course, meant she was around on more than one occasion during family conflict.  It wasn’t as though we were constantly locked in battle, but like all families there were moments of tension from time to time. During said moments,  we began to notice Gram had the most curious little habit. She would quietly and mostly to herself begin to sing the little children’s song “Deep and Wide”.  I originally learned this bitty ditty in Sunday School, but truth be told I’m not sure just what religious concept it is supposed to be teaching. The lyrics are as follows:

Deep and Wide

Deep and Wide

There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide.

Deep and Wide

Deep and Wide

There”s a fountain flowing deep and wide

And that’s it……the next verse simply reverses the order:

Wide and Deep

Wide and Deep

There’s a fountain flowing wide and deep

……and so on…….you get the picture.

Gram would just sing this little number over and over until the drama was all played out.  We teased her about it often and soon it became a  social barometer of sorts. We knew SOMEONE was acting out of turn or getting needlessly cranky if Gram began to warble “Deep and Wide”.  One of us would always end up chuckling at Gram and her goofiness and the mood would lift almost immediately.

 One afternoon at work, i stood reading over a patient’s lab results before entering the exam room to discuss the outcome.  A colleague of mine  leans over and whispers, “That bad, huh?”

“What?” i question.

“Her labs. They must show the meds aren’t working, right?” he answers.

“Yes, but how did you know that, Smarty Pants?” I return.

“Because you’re humming that curious little tune. The one you ALWAYS hum when the news is not what you would like for it to be.” he says.

“Tune? What tune? I hum?” i ask puzzled.

“Yes,” he smiles “Very quietly but its always the same.”

As soon as he begins to hum the melody a small grin creases my face. I recognize it instantly. “Deep and Wide”.

“I really hum THAT? often?” i ask.

“Only when you are tense or have uncomfortable news to deliver, but then, yes, you hum it every time. We all noticed it ages ago and find it rather endearing. We’ve been dieing to know what the song was.”

I look over at one of the medical assistants as she giggles and nods her head in agreement.  Suddenly i notice the entire staff is rapt with attention and i feel my face flush pink.

“Its called Deep and Wide” i mutter, “My Gram used to sing it all the time. I had no idea i hummed it at work AT ALL, let alone on a regular basis.”

“What does it mean?”  they all ask at once.

“Nothing really. Just a silly kid’s song my Gram used to sing when i was little.” I  chuckle.

 Later i got to thinking about it and it DOES mean something. It means my Gram, even though she is hundreds of miles away and many days not even in her right mind, is still here with me during all the icky, uncomfortable times life throws my way. And that even when that dreaded day arrives when she leaves this world for the next, she’ll remain here in my head singing me thru the rough spots of life. I hear ya, Gram……Deep and Wide.