Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Current System

If you're here to find a recipe or a story about my mishaps in the kitchen, this isn't the blog post for you to read.  Scroll down, the ones below (and potentially above it, at some point) are.  If you're here to find the truth in my head, this is the one to read.  Here is my reality at this very minute.

"The current system isn't working."

That's what I said last night.  Because it's true.

"Shit's gotta change."

That's what I said.  Because even though I majored in English and am a strict grammar and punctuation nerd, sometimes I speak in slang.

I'll back up now.  I quit smoking August.  I was resolute!  I was going to do this.  August has always been a genuine month of change for me.  It seems that all big things in my life happen in August.  I don't know why.  Change of season, maybe.  Summer to autumn.  I love autumn.  It's my favorite season.

I had all the support and desire and resources I needed.  I put on the nicotine patch and gave it my best.  And I did it.  Time got really slow.  REALLY. SLOW.  I munched on foods for no reason.  I was a bit irritable.  I paced.  I counted more than ever.  I had trouble with basic things - drinking my morning coffee, driving, talking on the phone, writing.  Everything was weird and different and uncomfortable.

But then it wasn't.  Things were becoming normal.  Normal without smoking.  I kind of settled into a healthy life.  In general, I eat healthy foods.  That came back - the munchies were gone.  I noticed I could run a little faster without feeling bad.  My internal counting went back to normal.  I didn't have the need to pace as much.  I was driving like a person, not a smoker.  Talking on the phone became an indoor activity.  My morning coffee was delicious and didn't take as long to drink.

And, best of all, I could write.

Sometime around November, I got uncomfortable.  I can't really explain it.  Life's twists and turns got to me.  I found myself pacing the floor again.  Back and forth, counting the steps I took.  And then the thought to smoke.  I don't know where it came from.  I warded it off.  I didn't want to.  I mean, I've come so far.  It's been so long.

I went for a run.  I didn't feel any better.

I went to the store and bought some candy.  Better.  Not great.

Screw it.  Back to the store for cigarettes.

That first one, I'm not going to lie, felt like standing on top of the world's most beautiful mountain in the sunshine.  Suddenly, nothing mattered.

That's the lie drugs tell you.  And I believed the lie.

I don't need to go into anymore detail, you know what happened next.

It's frightening to think that with all the knowledge in the world about why and how and what can happen, someone can continue behavior in spite of it all.  Denial is amazing.

Over the last few months, I have become a smoker again.  It happened so fast.  Everything is the way it was before I quit.  Except this time, I feel like shit.

First, since my lungs recently experienced what fresh air really is, they are mad at me.  I can feel it.  I don't know if that is real or in my head.  And morning coffee takes so long.  And my diet is kinda crap.  I've been eating foods I know aren't healthy and not caring.  I have no motivation to get up and exercise, when before I really enjoyed it.

All this in just a few months time.

Oh, then there's the negative self-talk that comes with failure. That's fun.

End of story: nicotine is a drug, kids.  A bad, bad, bad, bad, bad drug.

But we already knew that.

So what now?  How do get back to where I was just a few short months ago?  I feel so hopeless.

The current system isn't working and shit's gotta change.

That's where the accountability phone call came in last night.  Friends who support you are a beautiful and priceless thing.  I'm so grateful.

Starting tomorrow, shit's gonna change.  Tonight, I'm throwing away all the candy in my house.  I'm breaking all my remaining cigarettes in half and putting them in the trash can.  Tomorrow morning, I'm going to put on the patch and begin a new day.  And take my workout clothes to work with me so I can go after work and start my running 3-5 times a week again.

If there is a change that needs to be done, I'm the one responsible for making it happen.  No one can do if for me and there's no magic that's going to just make it happen without any effort.  I know that time is going to slow down again.  That's okay.  I know that my morning coffee is going to be uncomfortable and driving is going to be weird.  I might pace.  I might count.  I might not know how to hold a pen in my right hand without a cigarette in my left.

But the end result of it is going to be better.  I know I'm going to feel better and look better and act better.  So here's to tomorrow.  To restarting.  To taking back my life.

Anyone else quitting smoking?  Please share your experiences.  If you already have quit, again, please share your experiences.  We all need encouragement.

This is a graphic that I looked at multiple times a day when I quit last time.  I'm going to look at it over and over again this time, too.  It gives me hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Many Gifts of Trisha Yearwood and Country Cookin'

About six months ago, I came across Trisha Yearwood's show on the Food Network.  I must admit, I was a little nervous and very excited.  I mean, how can someone so talented in such an important genre that is music, with no mention all these years of her cooking prowess, be on the Food Network?  I was excited because I love her.  I've been listening to her music since she debuted when I was in high school.  It's part of my insides, my story, my life.  I was nervous because I didn't want her to let me down.

She's a girl with a voice and a guitar.  That's what I love.

But, can she really cook?  Will she help me find inspiration and a little more of my potential in the kitchen?

It turns out, yes, she can.  And she yes, she has.

A few weeks ago, she said two little words that gave me whiplash: Ribbon Meatloaf.

WHAT is ribbon meatloaf?  Why is it a ribbon?

Then, I thought, "It doesn't matter!  It's meatloaf!  I will make this."

As I watched her make it, my mouth was watering, and everything in me was hungering for this dish.  It seemed so basic, so southern, so charming, I couldn't wait.  And when she pulled it out of the oven, it honestly looked like a fully-bloomed flower!  It was so beautiful.  I was almost sad she didn't invite me to dinner.

I set out on a course of action.  I decided to add some more veggies to it for a little extra color and nutrition, so I bought the frozen veggie soup mix.  I added a little cayenne pepper.  And, I'll admit, I cheated a little.  I bought buttermilk biscuits in a can.  I just didn't want to make them from scratch.  I've learned that shortcuts aren't all bad.  What I learned from this particular experience is that homemade biscuits obviously yield more than a can, because I have a ton of the meatloaf stuffing leftover.  That's okay, I'll buy more biscuits and eat more of this!

I turned Pandora on Trisha Yearwood Radio as I began to prepare.  I thought it was only fitting.

Mine was not as pretty as hers.  It was a little weird-looking flower.  However, it was yummy.  As it baked, the whole house began to smell of bread and meat and comfort.  Home became home, if that makes sense.

Ready to assemble.
I couldn't help but wonder about my musical heroes and their other talents.  I mean, they must all be more than the song on the radio.  We are all more than our best gift.  None of us live in a pigeon-hole.  I am more than a writer.  I am more than my job.  I am more than someone who can cook.

In a time of instant access to everyone and everything, we think we know celebrities on a personal level, when the truth is, like all of us, we only see what they want us to see or what the media portrays.  The truth is always behind closed doors.  As an open society, we are mostly shut and locked from what's real.  It's all perception.  As the food cooked, I pondered these thoughts.  I wish more people would get out and share their other gifts with us.  I am a better person because of music.  I am a better person because of cooking.  And it is wonderful to feel a bond with others in this way.
My weak little ribbon
meatloaf flower.

Trisha Yearwood is giving us a peak into her life outside of who we think she is.  She is granting us access to her southern heritage and upbringing by cooking her life for me and for you.  And that is brave.

Oh the deliciousness!
As the oven timer went off, American Girl, X's and O's was on Pandora.  I couldn't think of a more fitting conclusion to my stream of consciousness.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dying for Bread

As I've mentioned before, I love The Barefoot Contessa.  Ina Garten is really an inspiration to me.  She has a calm confidence in the kitchen.  Her show brings me so much joy to watch and inspires me to do better, and to do more.  When I need an idea on how to make something, the first thing I always Google is "{fill in the blank food} Barefoot Contessa.

Two weeks ago, some friends were hosting Italian Dinner Night.  My only job was to bring garlic bread.  Seriously.  How easy is that?

When you're me, not so easy.  I have to make things complicated.  Over complicated.  I mean, I cook.  I bake.  I will NOT  just go buy frozen garlic bread and throw it in the microwave.  (Even though the only time I've ever made bread, it imploded and nearly burned the house down...)  I googled, "Garlic Bread Barefoot Contessa.  And came up with this.  Easy enough, right?  Right.

Everything was going swell.  I decided to avoid all the washing of my huge food processor and just used my stick blender to grind down the herbs.  It was working like a charm, until it wasn't.  I put my finger in the chamber to clean it.  I've done this a million times.  Literally, the chamber is so shallow, it is necessary to do this if I'm going to use this device.  However, I'm now rethinking this.  I'm rethinking and considering using a knife or a spoon or ANYTHING other than my finger.  Or perhaps, I should just use a full-size food processor.

All of a sudden.  Within a second.  Everything changed.

There was blood.  Lots and lots of blood.  I mean, LOTS. Of. Blood.

And then the pain came.  My left index finger was so covered in blood, I didn't know if it was even attached anymore.  I was pretty sure it wasn't.  And then it hurt more.  And then I couldn't breathe anymore.  And got dizzy.  I thought for sure that a stick blender was going to be my demise.

I laid on the floor of the kitchen crying, called my parents, and bled out.  No matter how tight the paper towel, it wouldn't clot.  And I'm dying.

I pulled myself up after a while, determined to move forward.  I cannot die from bread.  I cannot die from a stick blender.  I sent out a text and one of my friends volunteered to bring garlic bread to dinner.  Thank god.  I had to shower.

In the end, I have about six cuts on the pad of my finger, three on the top side, and the fingernail is pretty much sliced.  It's super painful, and still healing.

I wasn't hungry when I left the house for dinner.  I was still super nauseous, but I wanted to at least be part of the friendship and fellowship of the evening.  Turns out, that was exactly what the doctor ordered.  I am so fortunate to have friends who are like family, who love me and tease me and care about me no matter what.  My parents were also at the dinner, and that made it all the better.  I ate food - good homemade, real deal Italian food.

The lesson of this day is simply:

All you need is love.

...and a food processor.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Food Network Inspirations and Sloppy Joes

I've become a bit of a Food Network junkie.  It's always on.  Even when I'm not paying attention.
Good Eats.
The Barefoot Contessa.
The Pioneer Woman.
American Diner Revival.
Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives.
Mystery Diners.
Anything with Rachel Ray...


It's been really rainy and quite cold here lately, very un-summer-y.  Which just kind of perpetuates my crockpot cooking.  Don't get me wrong - I am obsessed with the crockpot!  I love making one meal that costs less than ten bucks and eating for nearly a week.  But it really does get old.  I want to cook.  To make something on the stove.  Something from beginning to dish-washing in one kitchen trip.

And then suddenly, the sun came out.  The rain stopped.  And it got H-O-T hot here!  Finally!  The warmth. The sunlight. Oh, I've missed this.  I got outside and laid by the pool for some color yesterday, and the band played right on the lake last night.  There's no denying it!  Summer has officially taken stage!

A couple days ago, Ree Drummond, affectionately known as The Pioneer Woman, featured a show about cooking outdoor foods indoors.  It really felt like summer everywhere - both on the tele and out the window.  I wasn't really interested in cooking what she made on the show, but it did get me interested in summer-y foods.  I don't always think the point of watching the Food Network or reading blogs like this or losing a few hours on Pinterest is so much to make what I see in front of me, but to kick up my senses and fire my imagination.  Find my own voice.

Meat and peppers
I started thinking yesterday about macaroni salad.  I've never made it.  Then, I started thinking about potato salad - again, never made it.  As I looked at recipes, I realized that, without the basic ingredients, attempting either/or of them would be quite costly.  And it would not make a complete meal.  Well, it might - but not for a few days at a time.  I might die - simply of from eating solely macaroni and/or potato salad so often in succession.

Adding Sauce
But then the idea of sloppy joes popped into my head.  My grandma taught me to make sloppy joe sauce when I was a little girl - before the idea of cooking for myself ever existed.  I grew up in a small town where the grocery store only has six isles and one cash register - and closed at 6pm everyday, and closed on Sundays.  So if it's some random hour and you want something or get a craving for something - you have to make it yourself, with what is in your house.
Homemade sauce

So my grandma taught me to make sloppy joes for that reason (and probably because she doesn't believe in Manwich).  She told me that all you need is ketchup, mustard, and anything else you want to put in it.  Over the years, I've made it with many different ingredients.  Everything from spices to hot sauce, to just pepper.  Make some hamburger meat, chop it up, done.  Bun or bread.  Cheese or no cheese.  It really doesn't mater.

All mixed together!
I started a new housesitting gig yesterday, so I went to the grocery on my way here.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and make it with only what they have available to me in their kitchen.  I bought small bottles of ketchup and mustard, peppers, buns, and cheese.  As I was waiting for the cheese to be sliced, I saw the macaroni and potato salads pre-made in the deli.  I bought some.  I couldn't resist!  Sometimes, pre-made is cheaper than making it yourself.  And just as good.

Today, I put it all together.  Spices from the pantry, ketchup, mustard - and a new experiment - balsamic vinegar and some wassabi sauce!  Delicious!  Put together on some Hawaiian Rolls and cheese, right next to the store bought side salads - it made a perfect lunch.  And will make a perfect dinner.  And a few more meals this week.  I couldn't be happier.

By the way...I used muenster cheese, which is amazing.  And horseradish cheddar.  This. Is. Heaven.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Grandma Pope's Pantry

This is going to be a post of pictures.  Back to words later.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I was gifted an amazing and old pantry from one of my clients.  She told me it was her grandmother's - Grandma Pope - and it was over 70 years old.  Rusted, discolored, it had certainly seen better days.  She had no use for it.  I was excited to take on the project.  This blog is a timeline in pictures of its restoration, from unloading it at my parents' house to set up and full in my house.

The gift of this pantry has given me new motivation in many ways!  First, I have never done anything DIY other than cooking.  So the idea to enlist my dad and his amazing skills gave me a sense of accomplishment and pride that we worked on it together.  I actually held and used a power tool!  Also, the history and love I can feel from a gift like this inspires me to cook.  I mean, what's the point of having something this amazing if you aren't going to be a cook!?!?  Along with cooking, comes the need to write again.

This is the true definition of the gift that keeps on giving...


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