Saturday, February 27, 2010

Before It Comes...

...STORMY WEATHER RETURNING THIS WEEKEND...

That's what the headlines said under the Special Weather Statement this morning. *sighs* I'm going walking today before it comes. I've decided I really need to find time to clear out some space in the office for the aerobic rider we have and the treadmill I would like to have for the days I can't get outside. Like those mornings that are still dark at 6:30AM...or those mornings where it's simply too cold...or snowy...or wet. Or those mornings I'm simply too tired or lazy to actually get out of my jammies so I don't scare other early morning risers and cause a local panic that brings the National Guard. That would certainly ruin just about everyone's day--especially mine. Could you imagine how off schedule I'd be then?!?!?!


D asked me the other day how many posts have I written for this blog. I told him that I didn't know offhand. So we both went exploring and saw that I was coming up on my 100th post. I started this blog back in October of last year so I'm rather amazed how far I've come. I didn't think this blog would catch anyone's attention, but that's only because I didn't realize how many wonderful people exist. 


Then out of curiosity, I wanted to see who my first commenters/readers were. It meant going back to the first few days I was blogging but to my delightful surprise, it was An Oklahoma Granny.  Granny takes us on tours around Oklahoma, brags about her grandsons' racing conquests (they are wonderful young men), and blesses us with recipes. She also shares her family, which include her amazing husband, the dogs, and her children.  Granny provides me with puppy fixes by sharing her canine family. She has been a faithful reader of this blog and comments on nearly every post. Thank you for being the first one, Granny!


ChileCats' second reader/commenter was Joan from Teaching Isn't For Wimps. She's multi-talented because besides teaching, she raises her family, manages a pair of famous Corgis, Chloe and Zoe, loves Tater and Mr. Dumbles (they're the felines of the family) and runs the blog, Notes From Oklahoma.  I love the puppy fixes from the Corgi Sisters! Thank you Joan for stopping by my place as much as you do!


Kathy from Four Dog Day drops in for a visit daily. She's a talented lady who not only holds down a full-time job, enjoys her family, and provides puppy fixes through her dogs, she also owns a fascinating shop. On top of that, she and I are on similar lifestyle paths, trying to improve our lives in the best way we know how or that we can do through research. I'll confess that Kathy is really ahead of the game in this, but I love her encouragement. Thank you Kathy for visiting daily!


Cherin of LanyardLady fame graces this blog with her daily presence as well. Cherin stops by for a glass of tea as she passes through Blogdom. She and I can have a quiet moment watching the sun set or get all excited over the latest beads or beaded creation. And believe me--we get excited over beads...like a pair of giggly school girls who have talked to their favorite rock or movie star. Especially over Terri Stone's beads.  Cherin combines practicality with creativity with her lanyards.Thank you, Cherin, for being such a delightful visitor!


Speaking of her beads, Terri is another faithful reader and has been since this blog's inception. She was my very first reader in Blogdom. We began our journey into friendship through her beads. I would "convo" her stories about the cats.  Terri encouraged me to start blogging. (She's encouraging me to start selling my work but that's a completely different story!) So I plunged into Blogdom and began. I would have never started without her encouragement and her support. Terri--thank you from the bottom of my heart!

The other two people in my life who have also been reading this blog since the beginning are my son and my best friend, JoAnn--a former classmate. They have been reading this blog, looking at my pictures and recipes and give me constructive advice. I thank you both with love.  

Each of you have brought me joy and happiness and peace. I thank you all for being such wonderful neighbors and friends. Without your gentle support, loving comments, I might have not continued. So this first bloom of spring is for you! May each of your blogs (and shops) bloom as beautiful as you.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunshine Makes Me Happy

Cherin, also known as The LanyardLady, presented me the Sunshine Award yesterday.  This award is given to "bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others in the blog world." I am truly thankful and humbled by this declaration from my friend. Thank you Cherin! 

If you haven't been to The LanyardLady's blog, you should take a peek. Cherin's style of writing is both witty and funny and she often makes me me laugh. She also makes some really stunning lanyards that are pieces of wearable art!

Call it coincidence if you will, but I was just mentioning to my husband that I needed an award to pass out to those bloggers who brighten my day with their creativity--whether it be with words, crafts, or how they face life. So in the best of traditions...I pass this wonderful award onto:

AAA1 Quality Blog, Ltd.
Nicki's Reef 
Notes from Oklahoma
Tins and Treasures
TLSClayDesigns
Welcome to My World!

I really want to express my gratitude to all you readers. I know many of you read the blog. I'm grateful that you take the time to come visit my place, leave a comment, add to the post with your own experiences, or just sit quietly over there. I thank you all because this wouldn't be as much fun without you. 

So drop by any time and sit for a spell. Don't mind the cat fur--it does come off! And don't mind the cats--they'll observe you from across the room before coming over to make your acquaintance! 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In The Paper...

You all remember Buddy don't you? He's the stray cat (not feral) that Java brought to us last July? He was skinny, road-worn and had a bad tooth. He moved in after Java was killed in a hit-n-run. We got him neutered, vaccinated, and had his bad tooth extracted. Then we discovered the reason he was so skinny...he had stomatitis. That meant he needed antibiotics and probably the rest of his life. 

Yesterday my neighbor needed to walk to her bank, so I went with her. On our lickety-split lightening fast trek down to the bank, she told me that our kitties and our birds were in the paper. When we got her back home, she showed me. 


So here is our famous boy in all his glory.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Give Me Black Beans


I spent this morning catching up on my blog reading and commenting. I hate missing a day. It feels like I'm missing an important part of my morning routine when I can't read and comment. I also caught up on one of my classes--getting some emails answered, some papers graded, and hopping between the schools to check on my students. Ahhhhhh the life of an adjunct professor! It's not for every one! lol

Yesterday, in the interest of my week of late night classes, I started my black beans. However, as life can sometimes do, I did not get to finish them in time for dinner. Luckily, we had some good left overs that fell right in step with needing something quick for dinner. The pan of black beans went into the fridge, only half finished. Today, I was able to finish the meal that will feed us for several days.

Here's the recipe, in case you get a hankering for black bean chile. If you can handle the robust flavor of black beans.
 
1--16 oz. package of dried black beans
2 cups turkey or chicken stock (not the clear broth but the meaty, rich stock)
water
Empty the package into a bowl or casserole dish and pick out the pebbles, deformed beans, or burnt ones. Rinse with cold water and then fill the dish at least 2 inches above the line of beans. Set aside to soak overnight.

In the morning, place the beans in a dutch oven or a big pot and add water until it's 3 inches above the beans. Turn the stove to medium high, cover the pot with a cracked lid. 
You are going to let it boil until the water cooks down by half. Then test the beans. If they are more than half way soft, you can add your stock, but if not...Add water for another 3 inches and cook until the beans are soft and nearly done. Add the stock and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Still keep the lid cracked as shown above. Let it cook for about 1 hour with an occasional stirring. You may have to add a bit of water from time to time. The beans should be ready to eat.


Now for the rest of the ingredients! This is the best part--seriously. Beans are just beans until they have some company! With company, they become more enthusiastic in their flavors and aromas! When you have 7 cats twining about your legs, begging for human food off the aroma alone, you know it's some good food!


1/2 onion, peeled and thinly sliced into strings
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp Spanish style Paprika
Green chile--to taste!


Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add half the butter and when it's melted, add the onion. Stir it once to get it coated and then leave it alone. I'm serious. Walk away. Don't be like me and hover over the skillet, stirring and stirring with an occasional WHACK! on the side to loosen the clingy strings. This would be a good time to peel and mince your garlic. Go do it! Please?!?!? *with eye blinks*


When the onions are starting to carmelize, stir, add the garlic and extra butter and stir a bit more. Walk away and dice up your green chile. By this time your mouth should be watering and your significant other or bottomless pits should be haunting you with "It SMELLS good!" comments and doing eye blinks in hopes of a handout. That's how it goes in my house--husband and felines haunting me.


When that has carmelized like the picture below, add to the pot of beans and stir.
Return the pot to a slow simmer like this...
Add your green chile. Now this according to your taste. Since I know how hot these chiles are--I roasted them last August so I do know--I'm only adding a half a cup or about a good handful. That will be plenty of heat without searing our throat-linings into blister-dom for a week. Some of you may want to tone it down and others may want to bump it up. The heat and flavor--that is.
 Add your spices. Stir and continue to let it slowly simmer. 


At this point, you can decide to keep it vegetarian or you go a step further. This is where leftover meat comes in handy sometimes. I would stick to pork or beef because black beans are rather robust and will simply overpower poultry or fish. We had some left over pork chops that I had marinated in a lemon-maple marinade and added Cajun seasoning upon grilling. It was tasty. It was also perfect for this dish.
I simply cut the chops into small bite-sized pieces and added them to the beans. Let the whole pot simmer for about another hour to blend the spices and the flavors before serving. Be prepared for your family dish up second servings! 


Enjoy!
 

 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Today's The Day!

Today is the day we (I mean the residential felines, D, and I) drew for my 2 year anniversary of NOT smoking! Wooooooohoooooooo! Yay me! I want to thank you all for making this a special day. It hasn't been easy to quit smoking but it's been worth the benefits! 
First, Lacey acted if she wanted to do the honors. But she decided it was beneath her feline talents.
 Then Harley tried to figure out what I meant by "draw a winner."
 But Gabby came close to drawing a winner! I was so proud of her but she didn't quite get the idea that she had to bring a slip of paper up. 
Tilly wanted a chance, but she only saw slips of folded bits of paper. It would have been better if I let her shred the document and choose a winner that way!

Even Cuddles got into the act. She shuffled some of the strips around for us. 
 I'm really slow some days--like on early morning Mondays before I've had coffee. I finally figured out that the tub I used was probably too much for our kitties and resolved this situation with one of my stainless steel mixing bowls. Two days ago, Ava demanded the right to choose a winner for the giveaway and I hadn't forgotten. But I did have to chase her down and remind her. She decided that there were too many to choose.
 Finally D asked our old and wise man, Merlin to help show the others what to do!
 TaDa! We have a winner--thanks to Merlin! And that winner is Marianne from VioletUnderground! 
 Marianne gets these earrings!
 The excitement was just too much for Merlin. He declined to draw again. Especially since we were so rude to take that slip of paper out of his mouth! So I asked my noble husband and best friend to draw for me. Wooooooooohooooooo! We have a second winner!
Veteran Kindergarten Teacher! She gets the second pair of earrings!
Thank you all for commenting! Congratulations to the winners! Please contact me through the blog email or the Esty convo (fat32) to claim your prizes within 48 hours!
 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First, I slept in this morning and I feel sooooooooooooo much better! I don't sleep in that often but after the week I had, I needed the extra z's. I missed my sunrise but I really enjoyed sleeping in!

Second, to answer some questions that appeared on my blog comments yesterday. Normally, I do cook up enough on the weekends to last through the week. I know my schedule is crazy at times, especially with my teaching 4 nights a week. That schedule demands lots of pre-planning and implementation to keep relatively sane. Part of that planning is making enough food to cover those nights when I can't cook. But this week, we ran short for some reason...

D will usually pitch in and cook up something "safe" as he calls it. Unfortunately it was one of those weeks where he was busy at the lab. This week, by the time he's gotten home, I'm deep into teaching forcing us to send hand signals and body gestures to each other as a means of communication. 


D: Lifts his brows sends a quizzical look: 
Translation: Who needs to be fed?
Me: Pointing here, there, and somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen.
Translation: I fed these bottomless pits, the back porch kitties, and Buddy on the front porch. 
 Me: Lifts the brow, sends quizzical look and chin points in the direction of the front door.
Translation: How did it go today at the lab? 
D: Frowns and shakes his head and gestures vaguely.
Translation: Don't ask...The machine is still giving us problems. I'll tell you later. 

Last night, I could tell I was starting to feel better when I made us stop watching "The Accidental Husband" to make oatmeal-blueberry cookies for my husband. Ok--I confess--they were for me too. Something about feeling better inspires me to bake cookies. I don't know why but when I feel good, I want to bake cookies. Or cook up a storm. And I feel like cooking today--black bean chile for dinner either tonight or tomorrow. I think I'll also go ahead and cook up some chicken as well. I'm running low on chicken broth. Then I can make chicken soup or chicken and dumplings or chicken casserole later.

Which reminds me...We are running out of green chile! I have only three small containers left! How can that be?!?!? We ate it of course. Chile season isn't until July-August so I'm really feeling desperate here. *sighs* I guess this summer, I'll have to roast about 60 lbs of chile so it lasts us through the next season. I already know we aren't going to lower our consumption of green chile--that's like asking us to cut off our right arms. It's not gonna happen--ya' hear? 

I'm rambling. Which means I'm needing another cup of coffee and some exercise. There's another winter storm brewing on the horizon. I see the storm clouds are already rolling in overhead. That's another reason I want to cook. In case the power goes out and we have to drag out the camping stove to heat things up. I want simple meals that can heat up easily. 


What do you do to prepare for another visit of Old Man Winter?


PS: Don't forget! Every time you comment, you get entered into my first blog giveaway. The drawing will be held in the morning! Thank you!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

His Other Wife...

This week has been an exhausting one for me. I'm more tired than normal and I know that it directly ties with my health issues. I've also been working 10 hours a day to keep on the grading and helping students as well as teaching. 

Normally, I rejoice on Fridays because it means I can relax a bit, maybe get some baking or special cooking in, do some household chores that need attending to. If I'm really up to speed, I can spend sometime beading--my favorite crafting passion. Yesterday--I could barely answer my emails, read my favorite blogs and comment on them, and think about housework or cooking. I took two naps which helped me for a couple of hours but didn't make a dent into my exhaustion. 

By the time D came home from work, I was washing the backload of dishes that had accumulated in front of me somehow over the past two days. Have you had those days? You just can't seem to get to the dishes or the laundry or some other necessary chore...and it simply stares at you. 

It gets freaky how inanimate objects can STARE at you. Right in the eye. Some people can look right back at them and aren't bothered by THE STARE. They can look right at that 10 meal pile-up in both kitchen sinks, with messes on every countertop and not be bothered. In fact, I've witnessed those same people give me a funny look (the kind that says I'm totally nutziod) and ask me, "What dishes?!?!??!" 

Me? I get the heeby-jeebies and realize I'm neglecting them. Then I feel all kinds of guilt that I haven't done my dishes (or laundry or some other chore).  I start feeling my OCD/Anal Retentive Cathryn struggling to break free to come "help" me in my chores. You know the OCD/Anal Retentive parts in some of us that just can't stand to see a mess anywhere? We are the people whom those who can live in comfortable chaos cannot absolutely stand. I know this because several of my friends get really het up if I try to help them tidy up a bit. 

Anyway--I was trying to get the dishes done when D came home.  My husband is a great man who is full of kindness and generosity. He pitched right in to help me finish up the dishes. After we got that chore taken care (along with feeding hordes of hungry felines) I couldn't go on any more. I had to sit down. Rest awhile. Gather up my strength to cook dinner. The longer I sat, the more I just couldn't get the oomph up to go cook even a simple meal. 

Now--if you have been reading my silly little bits and pieces, you might realize that for me--because of my health issues--I have to cook many of meals from scratch. No opening a box or a can or a frozen food item for me.  Since I had eaten all my left overs this week already, the larder was pretty bare. 

That's when I informed my dear husband that he needed to have "his other wife" cook us supper. The "other me" that wasn't exhausted or busy teaching or up to her eyeballs in student needs. We settled on hamburger patties on George (Foreman Grill) and homemade biscuits;  twenty minutes from start to finish. 

What do you do when you're too tired to cook? 


PS: Remember---the giveaway ends tomorrow midnight. Be sure to post a comment to be entered in the drawing!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

They Are Like Children...

My husband and I spend some of our hard-earned cash on toys for the kiddos--just like any other parent does. Yes--I know our "kiddos" are four-legged rather than the typical two-legged type, but nonetheless, they're our kids. And like good parents, we try to get them decent toys to expand their education, burn off excess energy, and socialize them so they fit in with the social standards of today. That's what toys are designed to do. 


So their toy box looks like most toy boxes--jumbled and a mess. There's no rhyme or reason to their toy box. Here's an example.
And here are the kiddos, complaining they are bored and have nothing to do! 


Look at this...Gabby's being sweet to Harley. 
So like any other parent who has bored kiddos on their hands, D tries to find something for them to do. He's quite the clever man when it comes to being creative with duct tape.
So with a couple of the canned catfood flats and some duct tape, he creates a new toy for them.
 You can see Lacey and Tilly checking out the "new toy."
 When Gabby joins in, Tilly gets upset. Like any other kid. Suddenly I hear, "You have the other one--this one's ours!"

Lacey likes the tried and true forms of entertainment.

Cuddles figures out how to play with the new toy and demonstrates how to use it. 

Gabby takes charge and completes the play mission successfully. 

Those toys are OLD Mom!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Leaded or Unleaded?

I've been pretty open about my addictions. You've seen my bead pieces, know I get all excited by acquiring new beads, and even join Internet beading parties or trades. You know beading literally saved me from my illness and many hospitalizations. 

I've been honest about my being an EX smoker--one addiction that nearly had me broken in two in giving it up. (I celebrate 2 years of non-smoking next week and I'm all about that!)  And if you have been around a bit, you know I decided for one of my New Year's goals  was to reduce my intake of sugar. That's actually going fairly well--although the first three weeks of forming this new habit was difficult. 

I wrote last December about our coffee pot experience.  What I didn't mention was my addiction to coffee. Before you even go there--no I'm not giving it up. They will have to pry my coffee cup from my cold dead hands; and even then, I guarantee it will be a fight!

I actually started drinking coffee as a kid. You know those occassional Saturday mornings when your mother would let you have a cup of the bitter brew that was loaded with sugar and milk. In fact, there was very little coffee--it was mostly sugar and milk. Our moms had a good idea that too much caffeine in us would ruin their entire day. 

But I didn't become addicted to the stuff until we moved to Turkey. My father was military and we were able to accompany him to Incirlik Air Force Base back in the early 70s. When we got there, we were on a waiting list for onbase housing, so until our number came up, we lived in downtown Adana in what I thought was the coolest apartment ever. Our Turkish landlord had a habit of having an evening cup of coffee in nice weather, along with either some Turkish Delight or dolma or other traditional Turkish goodies. He drank his coffee in those little tulip cups where the bottom of the cup was full of coffee grounds. The actual cup held maybe three sips of coffee total. 

He would invite me join in with him from time to time and have a cup of coffee. My parents didn't realize I was being super-caffeinated at 5PM. Our landlord told me that to be a true coffee drinker, one didn't have creamer or sugar added to the coffee. By the time we moved on base nearly two years later, I was a "true" Turkish coffee drinker. And I was sneaking cups of coffee from my parents--which was noticably weaker--ever since. 

Fast-forward to age 17: My mother finally approved of my having ONE cup of coffee with her in the mornings before school. It was our "grown-up time." She didn't realize I was getting two and three cups before school. 

Skip forward another few years:   I'm drinking a whole pot of coffee--or two per day--was pretty much my standard. All my friends were keeping sodas in their refrigerators, but I had coffee. Yes, I even drank coffee when I was pregnant with my son.  I never made the connection that my consuming pots of coffee during pregnancy would result in hyper child when he came out. I think his supercharged caffeination finally wore off when he was about 13 or 14 years old.

I tried for a couple of years to  switch to tea, but that was always my nighttime beverage. Ok--we're still dealing with caffeine but it was different. Anyone who drinks the stuff can tell you that the caffeineis gentler on the body than caffiene from coffee. I bought that too for awhile.

By the time I was 38 years old, I discovered bean coffee. I fell hard for bean coffee--the smell of freshly ground coffee beans was my absolute special treat. Every semester, I bought two bags of coffee beans. I would sparingly treat myself to bean coffee on those special occasions: I got an A on a paper or test. I got a B on a paper or test. I got a C on a paper or test. For midterms--because I needed that extra boost. After midterms because I got that far. For finals week because I was studying! After finals because I made it through one more semester! Wooooooohooo! Bring on the coffee! How 'bout an extra pot with those freshly ground beans because you--Cathryn--deserve it! Yes! Let's try the strongest brew there is! Go ahead--order the house cup with a shot of espresso for pure pleasure! Drink that bayou or cowboy coffee and delight in its robust flavor! 

D found how I am when he helped me move up to this beautiful place. The next morning I was snarling at him--Go get me a cup of coffee--PLEASE! That was said as an after thought. He insisted on showering and dressing and it would only take him 15 minutes. That was way too long for me.  He discovered that this normally nice woman transformed into the She-Devil without her morning cup or three or six. 

Then I turned 40. Suddenly, I wasn't able to sleep when I consumed a pot of coffee after--oh let's say 6PM. Or 5PM. Laying there all night long feeling your body twitch from caffeine-toxicity is not fun. I had vivid dreams of being stuck in the middle of some no-name city where I couldn't get a cup of coffee. I had nightmares about terrorists who confiscated the world's entire coffee bean supplies and were holding them ransom--and no government or rich person would make the deal. I refused to make the connection of the all-night twitching and the nightmares to that extra pot of coffee. 

REFUSED--do you hear me? I told myself it was stress. I was about to be married for the second time in my life after swearing I would never do marriage again. I told myself I was under pressure to complete my bachelor's degree. I chastized myself for believing I could do the same things in the same amount of time when I was 20---that I could not sleep for two days and all would be right with my world because I was finishing up a major paper. LOL The lies we tell ourselves!

In my last year of graduate school, I realized I couldn't deny it any longer. Coffee was no longer my best friend. I had to face the fact I was addicted to this very legal substance. I had to break my addiction or at least reduce my consumption before it was completely taken away from me. I told myself if I reduced my consumption, there was no reason to believe I couldn't drink 5, 6, 10 cups a day as I grew older. 

Stick with me here--it's about to get wild. 

My first forays into reducing my consumption was not easy for me and a total train wreck for those around me. I decided I couldn't bring coffee to my afternoon classes any more because I couldn't drink coffee after noon each day. Some days when I got to class, there were three cups of coffee waiting for my consumption. My classmates understood I was trying to cut back but I guess I was extremely difficult to be around during my reduction phase. So they bought me coffee. During my internship, my colleagues would bring in a cup or two of special java (espresso--oh how this sings to me!) for me just so they could work with me. They refused to let me deal with the public or answer the phone during this time. D would slip me an extra cup from time to time--just for his peace of mind. I know I was really, really bad. 

After three months, I reduced my intake from 2-3 pots a day down to half a pot--and we had a huge pot back then. Then I decided to reduce it even further. I'm now down to 3 cups a day on average. Occasionally, I'll have that extra cup in the morning. That happens may be once a month. Some days, I'm lucky to get two cups of coffee in the morning. 

When I was hospitalized, the staff thought they were helping me out by giving me decaffienated coffee. That was like coffee-flavored water and I refused to drink  it. That's actual standard practice of anyone going into the hospital with cardiac issues. Did you know they use formaldehyde to decaf the beans?!?!?! No thank you--I'm sticking to the full-leaded coffee! I gave up smoking but I'm NOT giving up my coffee. 

I believe my attitude towards my favorite drink has changed. I can  now get up and deal with all the other things first--feeding twining, meowling felines, checking students' emails, feed hungry birds, wash dishes or start a load of clothes--all before my first cup. I now savor my coffee instead of gulping it down like water. I know all too well that even this simple pleasure can be taken away, so I cherish it daily. I also left myself wiggle room in case I have to reduce my intake a bit more. *grins at you*

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Good Ole' Days

A friend and I were talking a while back how things were different when we were kids. For instance, holidays meant special dishes and desserts that were only prepared for that particular holiday. And as kids, we did not get dessert every night after dinner. It was reserved for special times or to mark a special event. And soda? Soda was also for special occasions, like holidays or camping trips. 

I remember as a child being allowed a can of soda a day, any flavor I wanted, during  holidays such as Christmas or 4th of July. During our camping events, I remember opening the ice-cooler that contained soda cans in pretty colors that were snugged in thousands of ice cubes. I was allowed one per day. Sometimes if things went very well, I was allowed two. I remember my sisters and brother and I sharing sips from each other's cans because we all chose a different flavor of soda and wanted to try as many flavors as possible so we could make a decision which soda to choose the next day.

I remember my mother making both "Blueberry and Cherry Delight" for 4th of July and my father's birthday a month later. It was the dessert of summer because it didn't require baking or heating up the kitchen. Mostly, our dessert--if we had any during the hot late spring and summer months were fruits and fruit salads. We just didn't consider them as dessert so much as regular food.
.  
I recall the days when cakes and cookies and ice cream was for extraordinary occasions. The only time we had a container of ice cream in the freezer was when it either someone's birthday or we were celebrating a special occasion--like company was coming for dinner or relatives from out of town were staying with us. Cookies were an occasional treat and whenever my mom felt like baking  up a batch. Once they were gone that was it until the next batch. 

I also remember going to out to eat at a restaurant or even a fast-food joint was reserved for special occasions instead of being the main source of eating. I remember the first time my beloved gramma took me to Arby's. I must have been about 5 or 6 years old and it was a magical moment in my life. We went to this too modern looking place and had lunch--just she and I. I don't remember why it was just her and I or what the occasion was, but I remember enjoying my time with her and it was marked by lunch at Arby's. 


Both my friend and I noticed that it's different in today's society. That going out to eat at a fast-food joint or a restaurant is considered more of the norm, while staying home and cooking is the occasional special treat/occasion event. That drinking soda is something one can do every day and all day long, rather than save for special occasions. That cookies, cakes, and ice creams are staples in our kitchens for daily consumption. That we were healthier as a society and as a nation when meals were prepared from the beginning rather than from convenience. 

Do you remember the television ads that first listed Hamburger Helper as a nutritious meal that took less time preparing? My mother wasn't the only one who jumped on that bandwagon. I remember when she used to make beef stroganoff from scratch, including thinly slicing the potatoes, mixing the sauce with fresh sour cream. It was one of those meals that was so good, but we couldn't eat any more because we were stuffed. The first time she bought Hamburger Helper it was beef stroganoff and it tasted nasty. We complained and she told us that it was nutritious food, even if it came out of a box. By the time Hamburger Helper came out with Tuna Helper, our tastebuds had been killed off and the pre-packaged foods did taste good. 

It seems like it was a major achievement to be able to serve your family a meal that only took 30 minutes or less to prepare.  Pop open a can or two, tear open a box, slice the top of the package off and presto-chango--you have a meal fit to serve...well...anyone who was hungry. It would not serve our nutrious needs, but it will fill that hungry hole in our middle for a little bit. 

For the last 30 to 40 years, we have been bamboozled into believing that we are entitled to have dessert or soda whenever we want it. We are now finding out that some of those chemicals that they mix to preserve "food" and to make prepackaged foods taste better are actually as addictive and as damaging as methamphetimines.  Thanks to global farming, we can have strawberries in the winter months. And we don't have to grow our own.  We are so removed from our food that we lost our connection to it and how it feeds us.  

I'm supposing that is the sign of progress--that we can have our desserts whenever we want them--even if they replace a meal. But I miss the old days when we marked special occasions with something special, instead of something we do every day. Maybe I'm just getting older?!?!?! 

How about you? Do you miss those days or are you glad you can just reach for what you want, when you want it? Do you have personal rants about our foods? How do you feel about health and food in general? 

PS:  Don't forget about the giveaway! 

 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Trip Into Cessation

If you've been following or reading my blog for any length of time, you know I have some health issues that came to fruition when I became seriously ill nearly two years ago. I've been making lifestyle changes and working at either improving or maintaining my health ever since. You may also know that I'm an ex-smoker. 

Yeah, yeah--Bad Cathryn! Bad! I know this. But I'm concentrating on the EX part of that relationship or label. And I guess smoking, like any other addiction, is a relationship. I smoked for over 20 years, going through two or three packs a day. I remember starting out smoking and barely going through a pack a week. But as time went on, I smoked more and more.  I had been "working on" quitting for about three years before I actually did. I had quit smoking about a dozen times already, only to seemingly "fail" and take it back up again. The longest I had actually quit smoking before was six months and I don't know why I started up again. The next to the last time I tried quitting this habit I jones so hard (that's addict-speak)  that all I thought about was smoking. I thought about nothing but cigarettes, lighting one up, inhaling that lovely (I'm in addict mode ok?!?!?!) smoke and breathing in those toxic fumes like breathing in my mother's homemade cookie aromas. I would dream about smoking. Each day was pure torture. I couldn't be around people who smoked and I could NOT be around people who smoked. I obsessed about smoking to the point where I was failing my classes in my last semester before getting into my undergraduate program because I couldn't focus on what needed to be done. So I started up again and told myself that I simply wasn't ready to give up my addiction.

I found out later, according to several drug and alcohol treatment counselors, that giving up smoking is sometimes harder than giving up heroin. That was not comforting at all. I never believed myself to be an addict of tobacco or having the same problems of a heroin addict.  I was NOT an addict. I could quit any time. Denial can be a useful tool at times. 

When I decided I needed to quit, I did my usual mode of researching into the best way to quit. I didn't want to rely on drugs or patches or gums. I had tried those before and they didn't work for me. I read some research that said for smokers to quit successfully, they had to break the smoking habit. Withdrawal was hard enough if the habits weren't changed first. So I started breaking the habits of where and when I lit up my cigarettes. Alright--my conscious is bugging me. I played with breaking the habits of where and when I smoked. For three years. 

Then came pnuemonia. Yep--that illness that keeps air out of your lungs. Mine was pretty acute and I couldn't breathe. It's amazing what you will sacrifice in order to be able to breathe. I realized that this is what I could face later in life if I didn't make a serious effort into quitting this habit. Not being able to breathe hit me hard and suddenly, being able to breathe became a much more prodigious habit than smoking. So I quit in the middle of pneumonia. And a week later, ended up in the hospital for the first time. 

Quitting back then still wasn't easy. Each month I tried to celebrate my cessation. The first month, I didn't want to go anywhere in the car because seeing other people smoking in their cars made me want to leap out of a moving vehicle just to grab their cigarette. I couldn't watch movies where people smoked because I counted the cigarettes being smoked. Huh? What do you mean we saw this last year, Honey? I don't remember it...Oh I see now. There were people smoking and I was obsessing over how many cigarettes were being consumed--of course I don't remember the plot! No, I didn't realize that my favorite actor was part of this movie. I was an addict back then, remember?


I used to dream about trying to smoke. In my dreams, I would find a fresh pack of cigarettes but not a lighter or a match or a stove or any kind of naked flame or flint or a magnifying glass or if I found a magnifying glass, it was at night. And in my dreams of trying to get this pack of cigarettes smoked, my best girlfriend would show up. She would give me that look--the kind that made any adult squirm like a bug on a pin--and tell me,  "If you smoke that, you have to start over from day one. You can't just go 7 months and 4 days without smoking to light up once and be able to claim being smoke-free 7 months and 5 days tomorrow. You have to start over from ZERO."  And in my dreams, I knew she was right. I wasn't allowed to smoke even in my dreams. 


I can tell you the craving and the urge and the desires to smoke became less and less, but it didn't happen right away. It took me well over a year before the craving, urge, and desire to have one cigarette faded. From time to time, I'm even tempted in my dreams to have one cigarette--with my dreamself telling me it's not real if it happened in a dream and it's ok to smoke in the dream because it's not real and that it doesn't count against me. I turn around in my dreams only to see my girlfriend giving my dreamself that look and I walk away from temptation. 


Today, I realized that my two year cessation anniversary is coming up in less than 10 days. I realized that I'm healthier for giving up that addiction--although many would claim I traded one addiction for another (my beading). Nonetheless, on February 22nd, it will mark two whole years since I've had a cigarette in both real life and my dreams. And I feel like celebrating!


To celebrate, I'm hosting my first blog giveaway. I'm going to make it easier for you all to share in the celebration than it was for me to give up the smoking habit:


All you have to do is post a comment to my blog between now (today's post) and on Sunday, February 21st, Midnight Mountain Standard Time. For every comment you make on my blog posts, you get entered into the drawing that will be held next Monday, February 22nd. You will need to leave me a way to contact you if you win the prize, either an email address or a blog address. That's it. No requirements to start following me or no go-here-do-this-twitter me-blog about me...Simple is sometimes the best. So just comment on my blog between now and Sunday, February 21st to be entered into the drawing for the prize.

Oh the prize! I almost forgot! 

 
I'll draw one name out of the hat/jar for this pair of earrings...
 and then I'll draw another name for this pair of earrings.

PS: If the winners do not respond within 48 hours of the drawing, I'll redraw new winners.



Friday, February 12, 2010

Harbingers

Whew! Between my classes and traveling to the different Bead Soup Parties, I'm feeling a bit worn out.The Party is full of very creative and very artistic talents and I've enjoyed my time with every one. My beading partner Elizabeth did a fanstastic job on the beads I sent her--I'm both humbled and in awe of her talent! I'm very much looking forward to the next party!

I know most of us are really getting tired of pictures like these:
 Snow falling and winter storms,
Freezing fogs and...
Ice...

But yesterday I saw this....
Daffodil shoots
 
Tulips!

Spring is on its way!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bead Party!

 It's here! Today's the day! It's the day of the unveiling for the Bead Party thrown by our hostess, Lori Anderson. I'm so excited! Look for other wonderful designers on Lori's page!

My bead partner is Elizabeth of Turquoise SkyAwhile back, she sent me these amazing beads. I just loved them! How can any beader NOT love getting new beads? It was such a fantastic mixture of everything--gemstones, lampwork glass, crystals, seed beads, spacers, and glass beads.  And I did what I usually do when I receive new beads...I played with them. That's right. I PLAYED with those beads. I can't help myself. 

After awhile, I started stringing beads together, taking them apart, trying them in new combinations.  I laid out different combinations, added more beads, subtracted beads, used chain and cording and ribbon to see how every thing looked. I was beginning to realize that I was having too much fun playing with my new beads that I was running out of time. So I put together a combination that I really, really liked...at first. And took it a part. Again. That's the beauty of putting together your own jewelry--you can always change the design later. It doesn't matter the reason you want to change it--it just matters that you CAN DO IT!

Finally, I realized that my time to play with beads were growing short and I had to be ready for this special day. I got down to business. And I discovered to my horror that one or more of the Rascals ran off with the ziplock bags containing some of the beads I needed! I still haven't found them but that doesn't mean they won't be found. Nonetheless, I had the important parts for the Party.

According to the Party rules, we had to use the clasp and the focal. 
 
 So here's the clasp. Isn't it gorgeous? I loved its heavy metal look that reminded me of chainmail.
 
 
 The spacer beads. The top one is black glass but shiny! That's Tilly's and Lacey's faces in the distortion. They were helping me photograph the bead. The second picture is onyx nuggets and the frosted cobalt blue rounded bicone spacer. 
 Look at this dreamy lampwork cylinder bead. This wonderful collection had three focals! I got excited just by that alone. I loved the what appeared as feathers, similiar to peacock tail feathers.

While I was putting this ensemble together, I happened to be listening to Bonnie Raitt and John Mellencamp first and then some *uh hum...coughs* heavy metal bands afterwards. I think the music influenced my design. Just a little bit. 

 
 I present you with Lady Sings The Blues Meets Heavy Metal. 

A thank you goes to Elizabeth for such fabulous beads!Another thank you goes to Lori Anderson for this wonderful invitation to a really superb and fantastic party!

I'm So Excited!



The Bead Soup Party is tomorrow! I'm so excited that I just can't hide it! 

*Ahem*  Sorry for the Pointer Sisters recap there....*Breaks out the Neutron Dance* *coughs*

I'm really excited! I can't wait to see what my beading partner, Elizabeth of Turquoise Sky made with the beads I sent her! If you are curious as to what I sent her, just click here and it will take you right to her blog.  She took a neat photograph of all the beads I sent her! It's a better job than what I did with the beads she sent me...but I also had the Little Rascals watching my moves so they can run off with a packet of beads--which they did! 

Anyway--I'm really, really excited! I want to show you what I created from Elizabeth's beads and I want to see what she made from mine...AND I want to see the other 80+ bead designers and what they did with their bead swaps! 

Stay tuned! 

*Does the Neutron Dance*  



 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Celebrating!

Today is a special celebration day! Besides the fact that the New Orleans Saints are in the Super Bowl for the first time, Terri Stone reached her 1000th Etsy sale!!! Amazingly enough, she had a tie! So those winners will be getting one of the sets pictured below--made with Terri's fabulous beads!
 
Set #1
   
Set # 2 

 Congratulations to the winners! Congratulations Terri!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Storm

  
 8AM February 3, 2010  
 
9AM February 3, 2010
   
10AM February 3, 2010 
  
11AM February 3, 2010 
 
 
 
5PM February 3, 2010
  
7AM February 4, 2010 

We're supposed to get hit with another storm this weekend. May be it will be a lot milder than this one. 
Stay safe, stay warm, stay toasty!