Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I have had this post written for weeks, just waiting for the perfect picture to accompany it. As I read through it again today, I realized that the perfect photographs have been sitting on my desktop since August. I am reminded of these photos today as I anxiously await my grandmother’s recent test results. I sit here on the couch with my stomach in knots not knowing what the next phone call from home will mean. I choke back tears as I cry out to a God who can “…do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
The pictures below are of my grandmother on her wedding day. She is a strong, beautiful, loving, and nurturing woman. It is the time I spent with her on my grandparent’s farm, when I was young, that inspired this post and my dreams for the future. I love you, Grandma!
“You’re just living the dream, aren’t you?” Ever since we moved to L.A. last December, we’ve heard this phrase countless times. And if you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said, “Yes, I’m living the dream and lovin’ it!” Now, don’t get me wrong, I love living down here. You can’t beat the endless summer days, the 8 minute walk to the beach, exploring city sites you only thought you’d ever see on TV, enjoying fabulous foods at some of the best restaurants in California, $2 wine at the grocery store, palm-tree-lined streets, breath-taking mountain views outside your window, and a store that sells the most delicious fruit and vegetables you’ll ever taste all for only 99 cents! It’s absurd, really! Many would say life couldn’t get much better than that. But ever since my “mommy gene” kicked into high gear last month, I’ve been spending my days dreaming of far more than L.A. can offer.
I began dreaming up my perfect grown-up life back in 1996 when I was a mere 12 years old. We were driving down my grandparent’s long gravel driveway for the last time. They had decided to sell their farm and move closer to their children and grandchildren. Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” was playing through the car and I choked back tears as my sister and I attempted to sing the high notes along with Whitney. As we turned from the driveway onto the main road, I made a promise to myself that one day, I would buy that house back and open a Bed & Breakfast with my wonderful husband and beautiful children.
Now, it wouldn’t be any ordinary B&B. Our guests wouldn’t be the usual out-of-towners looking for a quiet country getaway. No, our guests would be family and friends. We would have enough bedrooms in the house and chairs around the table to accommodate everyone we love. We would have gardens full of the Earth’s most delicious vegetables and fruits and orchards filled with apple, cherry, and peach trees. I, along with my mother and sister, would spend the morning in the kitchen baking fresh berry pies and the afternoon preparing a feast that would make every evening meal feel like Thanksgiving. My husband, along with other handy guests, would spend the day in the workshop making rocking chairs for us to relax in on the porch and watch the sunset after dinner. The kids would run laughing through the fields with their cousins playing hide-and-seek and snacking on fruit fresh straight from the branch. And when evening fell, we would scoop our children up on handmade blankets and stare up at the sky in searching of shooting stars.
Which would you choose? Red carpets and flashing cameras or peaceful porches and rocking chairs that sway? The sound of car horns and crashing waves or children’s laughter and crickets chirping in the night air? The star-studded life in L.A. or the family filled life on the farm?
For me, the choice is easy.
Monday, September 28, 2009
At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day, while 75 million children worldwide are not in school. Intel is challenging us to become a part of the solution. Please click the link below and Intel will donate 25 cents for you. Every donation makes a difference, so please click and pass this on.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Fall is just around the corner. Actually, according to my calendar, it began Tuesday without me even realizing it. I love fall! Brilliantly coloured trees lining the streets. Cool, crisp air against your skin. Pumpkins and baskets of gourds on every doorstep. The crunch of dried leaves under foot. The scent of pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, and squash fill the kitchen. How can you not love it?
I am sad when I think of spending fall in L.A. Palm trees remain green. Leaves continue to cling to their branches. It just isn’t the same outside. However, I am determined to make our tiny apartment feel like fall for the next few weeks.
I attempted a new fall recipe this past weekend; Pumpkin Raisin Oatmeal Cookies! Don’t they sound delicious? The original recipe actually called for dried cranberries but since I didn’t have any on hand, I substituted raisins and they turned out fabulously! The cookies are very soft, moist, and chewy with a hint of pumpkin. Trust me; you won’t be disappointed! They are definitely going on my list of recipes to make each year. I hope you enjoy them as much as Greg’s co-workers and I did!
Pumpkin Cranberry/Raisin Oatmeal Cookies
• 1 cup Butter, softened
• 1 cup Granulated Sugar
• 1 cup Packed Brown Sugar
• 2 whole Eggs
• 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
• ¼ cup Pumpkin
• 2 cups Flour
• 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
• 1 teaspoon Salt
• 1-½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
• 2 cups Quick Cooking Oats
• 1 cup Dried Cranberries or Raisins
First, grab 1 cup of butter, and stick it in the microwave for about 20 seconds to soften.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar.
Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Slowly beat in the vanilla and pumpkin.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
Beat the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture, half at a time.
Pour in the oats, and then stir them in.
Finally, mix in the cranberries or raisins.
Then, and this is important, cover the dough and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease them). Roll the dough into balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
Sprinkle granulated sugar over the tops of the cookies, and then gently flatten each cookie with a fork.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Have you ever stopped to smell a book? Have you ever found yourself flipping through the pages of a good book, just breathing in the scent? I recently borrowed The Time Traveler’s Wife from a friend of mine. I love this book already and I haven’t even begun to read it.
The pages are a soft, creamy white and feel like silk to the touch. I’m serious. (Mental note: If I ever fulfill my dream of publishing a book, call Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. I HAVE to have this paper.)
This book looks and smells well loved. The front cover curls upward from being held open too long.
The bottom of most of the pages are water stained and wavy from being held against a damp towel on the way home from a day of reading at the beach.
I could sit for hours taking in the smell of this book. It smells like a mixture of sunscreen, baby lotion, and expensive paper. How do I know what expensive paper smells like? Well, I smelled every other book in our apartment and they all smell like cheap newsprint or the chemicals used in making plastic. Bleh!
I have an assignment for all of you. Go now to your bookshelf, choose a book, and take a whiff. Then come back here and leave a comment below letting me know what book you chose and what its pages smell like. Can’t wait to hear from you!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Sarah is a wayward traveler. She is an adventure seeker. She has been all over the world and has seen and experienced more in the last few years than many of us will ever have the opportunity to experience in a lifetime. But yesterday was her first time in L.A. and I had the privilege of showing her around during her 5-hour stop over on her way to New Zealand.
With Sarah, there is never a dull moment. She is one of those friends who makes life interesting. One of those people who reminds you that you only have one life to live so you better make it a good one. She is a risk taker and when you’re with her, she pushes you out of your comfort zone (in a good way) and challenges you to do things you wouldn’t dare do alone. Yesterday, she did exactly that!
We were walking along the marina when all of a sudden we heard barking. This was not the bark of a dog or that of a woman barking orders at her husband. No, this was not an everyday bark. We scanned the rows of boats in search of the source of that awful barking. And then we saw them. Three enormous seals sunbathing on the dock. Can you spot them?
We hurried to the other side of the marina to get a closer look. Unfortunately, a concrete post blocked our view of these massive creatures.
I knew the gates to the marina were locked and entrance into the marina was reserved for boat owners only. So close, I thought. I was ready to turn around and head home when, all of a sudden, Sarah hopped onto a garbage can, jumped over the gate, opened the door, and motioned for me to come in.
Her actions should not have surprised me, but there I stood in shock. I quickly scanned the area to make sure no one had seen her jump the fence and then proceeded to follow her down the ramp toward the seals.
What an incredible sight! In the 9 months we have been here, not once, have we seen seals. Sarah visits for 5 hours and there they are posing for us on the dock. As Sarah watched in awe of their size and movements, I watched in both amazement and fear. What if they mistook my camera for a harpoon and came after us? (Aside: Are harpoons even used to hunt seals?) We had heard from a passing lady that it is seal mating season and that they are dangerous animals. Whether that was true or not is still to be determined, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. I am alive to tell the tale, so yes, to answer your question; we made it out of harms way, but not before I took over 100 photos!
Monday, September 21, 2009
Ever since I made those deliciously decadent chocolate chip explosion cupcakes last weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about other recipes I could revamp by adding that special something. So when I decided to make turkey meatloaf I thought, what would put this meatloaf over the edge. The answer…CHEESE!! I took my usual turkey meatloaf recipe and mixed in small cubes of cheese before transferring the mixture to a loaf pan for baking. I could hear the cheese bubbling away as it baked and the incredible aroma filled our place. My mouth watered as I cut the finished meatloaf revealing the gooey melted cheese inside. I went back to the oven for seconds and it was definitely a hit with my husband. I think I’ll be adding cheese from now on.
The other option I thought of was adding chopped apple along with the cheese. I always add apple to homemade turkey burgers so why not meatloaf? Apples just give that unexpected sweetness which I love! I also know a lot of people add shredded zucchini, carrots, and other vegetables to their meatloaf. This is a great way to add nutrients and get your daily veggies in your diet. Greg suggested I add corn next time. Yum! Try out one or more of those options the next time you make your meatloaf recipe and let me know what you think.
Here is my Easy Cheesy Turkey Apple Meatloaf recipe. Enjoy!
2 pounds ground turkey
1 cup milk
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Seasoning (ie. Garlic Plus)
Cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup ketchup
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. In a bowl, mix the turkey, milk, bread crumbs, garlic, onions, and eggs by hand. Season with salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Fold the cheese cubes and apples into the mixture. Transfer to a loaf pan and top with ketchup.
3. Bake for about 1 hour (or until completely cooked through).
As you can see, it was so delicious that it didn’t even last long enough for a picture!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I am giddy every time the phone rings! I think all of these days alone in our tiny apartment have finally gotten to me. The sound of the phone ringing makes my heart leap. Finally, some contact with the outside world.
On Friday afternoon, the UPS man called to tell me there was a package waiting for me at the front desk. I could have kissed him! I hung up the phone, jumped around the apartment, and actually let out a “wa-hoo” (no joke) before heading downstairs to claim my prize. I was barely through the door before I tore open the packaging to reveal my newest freebie. The thing I love most about being a resident of the United States of America is the free stuff! I can now enter every contest and am eligible for every free sample on the Internet. I used to spend hours online back home (in Canada) searching the web for free samples of hair products, cereal, you name it, and I would find a free sample. (Aside: One year, I even suggested to my family that we fill each other’s stockings with only free samples we found online.) The only problem was that, after all that searching, the samples were only for U.S. residents. Darn it all! I seriously believe that companies should want to send me products no matter where I live because, if I like a product, I cannot keep my big mouth shut about it. Take Sunsilk Anti-Flat Weightless Volumizing Creme, for example.
I found this at the 99c Only Store and couldn’t resist giving it a try. Every girl needs a little more volume to her hair, am I right? This product gave me the little extra volume I desired and smoothed any fly-aways without the sticky or crunchy feel you get with most hair products. Plus, it smells delicious! Sunsilk really delivered on its promise and I began telling the world. My mother is now hooked on this product and has asked me to bring home as many bottles as I can fit in my suitcase the next time I visit. Who knew you could get such a great hair product for only 99 cents? Don’t even get me started on my 99-cent L’Oreal Paris hairspray.
Okay, back to business. I tore open my UPS package to reveal Shapely Secrets. I recently won this product in an online giveaway I had forgotten that I even entered (Thanks, Nichol!). Now look closely.
7 minutes a day! Motionless exercise!! Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? You mean all I have to do is just stand there and I can expect to loose 1 dress size in only 14 days? Sign me up! I’m in!
I have to admit that I am more than skeptical but am willing to give it a try for all of you. Plus, if it works, goodbye gym (not that I’ve been more than once in the last month)! So, starting today and for the next 14 days, I’m going to give this product the old college try! I’ll report back in 2 weeks and let you know if I’ve lost any inches around the waist, hips, thighs, and upper arms (like they claim) and also if there are any noticeable changes in muscle tone. I feel like I’m back in elementary school and have just been assigned a science project. Let the butt clenching begin!
Friday, September 18, 2009
It was a typical afternoon. I finished watching my Soap (thanks again for getting me addicted, Steph!) and headed to the pool with my trashy celebrity autobiography in hand. My usual spot near leather-skinned yellow shorts guy was taken. Actually, yellow shorts guy has recently retired his faded, nearly see-through yellow bathing suit in favour of an orange one. Good choice, buddy! Anyway, as I was saying, my usual weekday spot was taken so I headed to my weekend chair on the other side of the pool (tough life, I know). As I approached the chair, I noticed a woman sunbathing with a piece of folded paper towel over her lips. What the heck is she doing?, I thought. And then it hit me…I live in L.A., the collagen capital of the world. A few minutes after I got settled with my book, the woman sat up in her chair and began spreading a thick coat of tanning oil on her already very bronzed skin. It was then that my suspicions were confirmed. Staring straight at me was a pair of freshly collagen-injected lips. We’re talking Octomom lips! They looked as if they could jump off her face and attack me at any moment. Luckily, I had my celebrity autobiography to defend me. Those lips had no chance with all the plastic surgery going on in this book! So, I’ll leave you with this little lesson: If you’re planning on getting your lips done, make sure you have plenty of paper towel to protect them from the sun…oh, and you may want to buy a leash for those babies while you’re at it!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The other night, I had a late night chocolate craving and my immediate instinct was to go to my new cookbook and whip up the Chocolate Layer Cake I had bookmarked. I opened the cupboard only to realize that we had no cocoa powder. Then I noticed a box of Devil’s Food Cake Mix I had bought for Greg to make himself cupcakes while I was out of the country this summer. This wasn’t your regular Betty Crocker cake mix. I had bought this mix at the 99c Only Store and I had never heard of the brand so I was a little skeptical. I have been pleasantly surprised by most of my dollar food finds so I thought, how bad could it be?
I followed the package directions and then gave it a little taste. It definitely tasted like a box cake. Even Betty’s cake batter tastes better. (Aside: Remind me to share my incredibly delicious and super simple Chocolate Fudge Cookie recipe that uses a Betty Crocker cake mix.) So anyway, I immediately thought, what can I do to make these cupcakes better? Answer: milk chocolate chips. If you’ve never tried this, consider it the next time you reach for a boxed mix. Add 1 cup of milk chocolate chips (or whatever chocolate chips or chunks you have on hand). Bake. Top with vanilla buttercream, cream cheese, or chocolate frosting and voila! Dollar store decadence! Nothing beats biting into a warm, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip explosion cupcake. And not only does it improve the taste of a cake mix, adding chocolate chips also stretches the batter so you’ll end up with 1/3 more cupcakes than you expected. What a delicious way to stretch a buck!
Monday, September 14, 2009
About 2 weeks ago, around the time Michael Jackson was buried, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was in the crowd on the day of his burial. I, along with my husband, Brian and Kevin from the Backstreet Boys, and a crowd of MJ fans, stood around his open casket. As the procession moved down the street, I noticed that he looked different than when we first got there. I whispered to Greg, “He looks alive.” But he couldn’t be. He’d been dead for 2 months. Then the music started playing. Michael Jackson rose from his casket and started singing the Backstreet Boys song, “Larger Than Life.” The crowd went wild but I stepped back in fear. I don’t like the thought of dead people coming to life in front of me. When the song finished, Michael announced his comeback tour. His death had been faked for publicity and everyone, except for me, seemed to think that it was brilliant. I woke up in a panic thinking he was in our bedroom. I’m still not sure why I was so afraid of him (aside from the dead man walking part) but ever since that dream I get nervous when I hear his name.
My stomach was in knots last night as I watched the VMA’s (Video Music Awards) opening tribute to Michael Jackson. The dancers came on stage as Michael’s Thriller music video played on the screen behind them. (Aside: Thriller has made me nervous every since I first saw it on TV one Halloween night.) I just had this gut feeling that MJ would burst out of the giant screen and announce his comeback. I watched in anticipation and terror. I had to keep reminding myself that if his death was all a part of some elaborate scheme, he would have given it up by now and would be performing to sold out audiences all over the world.
I don’t want to leave this post with negative thoughts about the great Michael Jackson. Instead, I want to remember the songs I loved most growing up. First, Heal the World. He was really on to something with that song. The world really does need healing and with this song and his charitable organization, Heal the World Foundation, he did his part to bring awareness and help improve the lives of children around the world. Secondly, Will You Be There. Who doesn’t love the Free Willy song? I know the owner of this car definitely does.