Visit me at www.compassandcoffeespoons.com!
Visit me at www.compassandcoffeespoons.com!
So, you may have heard me complaining once or twice about Typepad issues, and how I was leaving...well, now that I'm all injured and bored, I have had time to import this blog into both Blogger and Wordpress. I'm deciding which to use as I continue to blog. The tipping point was (for the third time in a row) not being able to upload photos into my posts. Stupid. Annoying. And I'm paying for it. The other services are free. I am not naive enough to think I won't have problems there, but at least they'll be FREE problems! [I was actually just having issues just publishing this...seriously!?] If you have a mo', check them both out: Wordpress and Blogger and let me know what you think!
I finally decided that there is absolutely no excuse for me to not be blogging, given that I am going to be away from work for many, many, many days and have lots of time to kill. You see, I had an unfortunate fall when I was on a work trip in California which has put me out of action for awhile. I wish I had a great story about what happened, like I was running after a purse snatcher and fell, or I was hiking up this steep cliff and fell, but I was walking over a patch of grass between a sidewalk and a parking lot and fell. Focusing on the particulars of my experience is boring, but this has been an educational experience. So, I hope to pass along some of the knowledge to you!
You Can’t Predict (or Control) Everything
When I left my apartment, I was calming my pre-work trip jitters by saying “Christine, it’s only 4 days! Don’t worry about it!” As it turns out, it’s more like 2 months that I’ll be away. I am usually very anxious before traveling and like to have everything clean and orderly, laundry done, dishes washed, and trash removed. Not sure if I did that or not. Not that any of this actually matters in the midst of an emergency, but it just goes to show that you never know what will happen moment to moment in life. All of my plans changed in an instant, with no advance warning. In fact, I recall being angry at myself as I sat on the wet ground waiting for the ambulance, thinking “How could you do this!? And on the last day of the trip!? What about the presentation!?” The truth is—you can’t control everything. Sometimes you need to just surrender to the circumstances. Not “give up,” but realize that sometimes the things life throws at you are there for a reason, and you have to go with the flow.
But Advance Preparation Doesn’t Hurt
When I was hurt on the job, I admit I had no idea what the terms of my health and welfare benefits are at work. I know the day to day healthcare plan costs, but when it comes to disability, leave, worker’s comp, and the like, I was clueless. I thought I was actually pretty well informed, though, more so than I was. I knew I had short term disability, but not what that actually meant. I knew my insurance covered hospitalization, but not what that meant either. It’s a learning curve, but one that is easier to navigate when well. When you are in the midst of the chaos of an accident and subsequent treatment, you aren’t thinking rationally, and the concerns you have are first with getting well, not with paperwork.
I also learned that this is the kind of thing those financial gurus tell you to have a rainy day fund for. It made me feel immeasurably better knowing I could go without a paycheck for awhile and still be OK. That’s not to say I don’t want to get paid sooner rather than later, but when you have a stressful event that takes you away from work, you don’t need to also worry about whether you can pay your bills. Not everyone can sock away money, but for people who can, they should. I should save more.
No Man Is an Island
I remember distinctly as I was sprawled out on the ER bed the moment when the doctor came in and said “Well, you broke your ankle pretty badly,” followed by “You’re likely to have to be out of work for 2 to 3 weeks and can’t live alone.” I was in disbelief. This CAN’T be! I have things to do! Well, an event like this teaches you who and what matters in your life. There are few people in the world who are so indispensible in their jobs and other activities that those things can’t be put on hold. And, no one is truly independent. I consider myself a pretty independent woman, but there are times in life that you need a little help from your friends (or family). I had a lot of help, which was humbling and educational. My brother flew out to bring me to my parents’ house. My parents leapt to action, too, and my mom’s workplace lent her things for me to use, like a walker. I was helped by some good Samaritans, and a slew of wonderful nurses and other medical professionals who treated me gently, helped me with hygiene, and kept me comfortable. Friends helped me with things that needed to be taken care of at home. People at work took over my projects. You get a rare glimpse of who are the rocks of your community and who for all intents and purposes disappear when the going gets tough.
The World Isn’t Made for the Differently-Abled
Until you have lost use of a limb or faculty, it’s not possible to completely understand the challenges faced in a “normal” environment without it. There are obstacles. Aisles are too tight for wheelchairs. Ramps are uneven. And, in general, people are pretty ignorant. Not everyone, obviously, but you’d be amazed. I’ve only been out in a wheelchair once, and people act like you’re in the way. Oh, I’m sorry, am I making you walk a few extra steps with your perfectly good legs? Oh, and the restroom! Once I was actually able to get out of my bed (I’ll spare you the whole “go to the bathroom in the bed” story), I appreciated the handles and seats and design of my hospital room bathroom. I appreciated it even more once I left that secure environment. The airport was fun. Not. I had not yet mastered crutches (still haven’t really), and just getting to the handicapped stall was difficult enough. On my first venture to a restroom, I had my brother wheel me into the “family” bathroom so there was less walking required. Not so lucky on the second. The wheelchair attendant at the Pittsburgh airport wheeled me to the regular restroom while my brother retrieved my bag. I teetered the whole way to the stall, which felt like it was about 10,000 feet away. And when I got home, it was another set of challenges. How do I shower? How do I get into the bathroom? I figured all this out, but it takes a lot of changing up of routines and physical space. It has opened my eyes to the struggles experienced every day by those with physical challenges.
Daytime TV, Fun Every Once in a While, is Actually Quite Bad
That’s self explanatory. J And while we’re at it, most TV is bad.
Pilates is Fantastic
Those attending to me in the hospital were astounded by how readily, even with my foot hanging on by a thread and in pain, I could transfer myself from ground to stretcher to bed to gurney to bed, etc. Pilates! My pilates classes really strengthened my core, allowing me to elevate my legs and upper body and isolate movements. I am trying to continue doing what I can while in bed. After all, Joseph Pilates started his “contrology” exercises to rehabilitate patients in World War II.
I am Lucky
I am fortunate first and foremost to not have done something worse to myself. I’m lucky to have been born with fully functioning limbs. We all focus so much on what we don’t like with our bodies. How about it gets us around every day? I’m also lucky to have a supportive family and wonderful, giving friends. I’m lucky to have healthcare insurance and a job. I’m lucky to have been brought to the hospital where I was treated by a great orthopedic surgeon and great nurses and aides and therapists. I am thankful that there are people like the Marines on the base I was at in California when this all happened who are facing war in my place; while I writhed in pain from the broken ankle, I knew there were comrades of the guys near me who were suffering worse. I’m lucky.
I am sure I’ll come up with other insights to share…as well as hopefully other fun posts. I’m not doing a heck of a lot, but I still hope to have some experiences to share on the blog!
If anyone has come here at all in the past several months, I owe you an apology. I have no excuse! Please come back...I promise to be better. It's just that sometimes it's unfulfilling. And, did I ever mention I'm crazy? I go through phases. I'll blame hormones, but that isn't it. I just kind of decide to dedicate myself to one thing one day and another the next. Well, you know, I like writing and don't do enough of it (unless you count work which doesn't count as far as I'm concerned). So, I'm sorry. I will try to have special adventures and write about them just for you. Love, Christine
The more things change, the more they stay the same. My paper journals are full of entries that start "I know I said I'd write here more often..." Well, enter technology to give me more things that I don't address. Do you ever find that you ignore the things you actually care about for loads of things you have to do?
Well, I didn't intend to wax philosophically; I intended to talk about food. I recently discovered this dish, which is kind of one of those things you'd expect to see on the back of a Pillsbury box, but it's comforting and filling and fun. It's Tamale Pie.
The first time I made Tamale Pie was in the oven, from a recipe I found in the wonderful cookbook, The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever. But, then I bought a Crock Pot, and was possessed with finding a way to make everything in it. As it turns out, this recipe showed me how (results in the photo above--yummy looking, yes?).
A made a few minor changes in my interpretation of the recipe. I skipped the garlic powder because I wasn't sure how garlicky the Frontera Green Chile enchilada sauce would be. I didn't miss it. I also threw in some fresh corn, used Mexican shredded cheese instead of plain cheddar, and used black beans instead of kidney beans. I also shortened the cooking time to 2 hours on high instead of 5.5 on low. Cooking in the Crock Pot doesn't make this recipe particularly easier, since you still have to brown the beef, but it's great in the summertime when you would like to keep the kitchen as cool as possible.
I have also made this with canned diced tomatoes in the meat mixture. I've also made it without enchilada sauce, putting in taco seasonings instead. Or, how about some diced bell peppers? Or diced chiles either in the meat or in the cornbread? Or turkey instead of beef? Do whatever you want! The point is a savory meat filling with a nice cornbread crust! You dig?
The cornbread mix I used was corn muffins from Jiffy. It was a bit sweet and cakey, understandably, so I would probably find the one I used last time (which, conveniently, I can't actually remember the name of or where I bought it...). Whatever. It was still delicious, and I didn't have to heat up my house and make my a/c work any harder than it had to on this 95 degree day.
I love weekend breakfast/brunch. If I had to pick one meal to eat for the rest of my life, it would be breakfast. This is, of course, due to my being a carb addict. So many breakfast foods are carby, sugary goodness. The problem with this (yes, I said problem) is that your blood sugar crashes after eating a heavy pancake breakfast and you're a bump on a log for the rest of the day. Unless you have nothing to do, this is a problem.
Oatmeal pancakes to the rescue! I first discovered this recipe when I tried the South Beach Diet (which works great, but for me, is too difficult to sustain--the carb thing). These pancakes use oatmeal which has a low glycemic index and cottage cheese along with egg whites to create a pancake with high protein and no sugar crash later. This fact would also probably make the recipe a better choice for diabetics.
I found this recipe submitted by The South Beach Diet on Allrecipes.com. I've gotten between 4 and 6 pancakes from this. That's 1 serving, or 2 small servings.
1/4 c cottage cheese (or tofu--I've never tried that. I HAVE used ricotta, which also works nicely.)
1/2 c. old fashioned oats
4 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
(You can also add cinnamon and/or nutmeg or other spices as desired. The recipe calls for 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg. I've put more, I've left out--it's up to you!)
Couldn't be easier. Heat a pan as in making pancakes. Put all the ingredients into a blender (maximum easyness is a stick bender or Magic Bullet...I'm sure a small chopper/food processor would also work). Blend. Make as in making regular pancakes. Serve.
I eat these with regular maple syrup, because I don't trust sugar free stuff. But, the real South Beach thing of course requires that you don't use sugar. I should also note that I've made these with 3 egg whites--this makes them slightly thicker (see below for pictures of that time). I imagine you could also get creative and do some mix-ins: dark chocolate chip pancakes, blueberry, pecan...whatever you like with regular pancakes. The pancakes don't taste like regular pancakes...but in some ways, I like them MORE. They're very substantial. And I'm not catatonic afterwards.
I have done a little redecorating. I have been wanting a blog design that is a little more expressive, so I updated my design to one of the new templates that allows for a banner image. I have been debating whether or not to stick with Typepad. I have a blog with the same name at Blogger, too, just in case (it's blank). Let me know what you think!
As I said in another post, this Christmas, I made wine glass id tags for my wine club, AOC. I had the idea because everyone was constantly wandering around pointing at random glasses and saying "Is that one mine? Is THAT mine?" So, it just made sense. But, like many of my ideas, I kind of had something in my head and no real plan. No matter.
I made sets of charms for a few friends awhile back, so I had an idea of what to do for the thingy that goes around the stem. I did not, however, have a concrete plan of how to personalize. I explored letter charms, letter beads, and metal tags and other tags from Etsy. I didn't get any of those and thought I'd be better off seeing things in person, which brought me to Michaels over Thanksgiving weekend.
As it turned out, Michaels had a crappy selection. I dragged my poor mother around that store to every department, and I know she was getting more than a little frustrated with me. (But she's used to it!) The jewelry department was fine for the earring rings that make up the charm holder. The tag part, I had trouble with. I eventually found something approximating what I wanted in...the wedding aisle! They were on clearance which cinched the deal. The problem was they said "thank you." Oh well, I knew I'd find a way to cover them up.
So, I assembled my tools:
I started by choosing a colored or patterned paper for the "covering of the thank you" part. I did consider covering every one with cork and making them like wine corks, so I bought a roll of cork. But, once I tried one or two, I realized they weren't going to come out exactly as I wanted. I did do a few with it as an alternative, but doing every single one that way wasn't something I wanted. So, guess I'll be repurposing that for another project!
Once I chose the paper (in this case, spaghetti-printed for the cooking-themed one I was making), I used the tags as a template to cut the paper with a craft knife to fit. (Oh yeah, please ignore my weather-beaten dry hands!)
After applying the paper, I added letters and other embellishments to personalize them. In some, I could fit a whole name; in others, like this one, an initial. As you can see, I stuck a chef's hat sticker and spoon sticker on this for Jason, who is quite the chef and always makes delicious dishes when he hosts along with Lisa.
The tags go on an earring ring. These are sold in huge packs usually at craft stores. I strung a few colored beads on, which serve both decorative and a practical function; they look cute and keep the tag positioned on the ring. The ends of these loops are unfinished when you buy them. To finish, simply curl the non-looped end up so that it will slide into the loop. This can be done with small pliers or your fingers. (Pliers shown here, dry fingers edited out!)
I can't guarantee you won't lose the beads. I'm sure there's a way to prevent this, but my solution is going to be to replace them! When you're done, you'll have finished products, like this:
I'd love to hear if you try this or find other fun ways!
I admit. I had no idea 1.) how vanilla extract was made or 2.) that it could be made in one's home. Then, my wonderful cousin Lauren surprised me and other family members with these:
Aren't they the cutest? And it turns out Lauren was ahead of none other than Ms. Martha! Because I opened Martha Stewart Living this month (Christmas gift!), and this is what I see.
Lauren is so cutting-edge. What really surprised me is how EASY it is. I'm going to shorten this, but basically, you take vanilla beans, scrape out the seeds, and stick the pods in bottles with vodka...and then shake them every day for a month or two. That's it! I'm so going to try this one day once Lauren's runs out. I'm wondering if I can do the same with anise extract!
Why do I need to make every title cutesy? I just wanted to share the wine glass tags I made for my wine group, Another Oneophile Club. I realized that during one of our get togethers, people were constantly hunting for their glass, so I made personalized tags for the regulars! I plan on doing a step by step, but here are some of the finished products:
Where possible, I tried to personalize to reflect people's interests and personalities, but for the most part, I just made them pretty. I'm not showing mine because it has my last name (the top of a cork from a wine with my name), and I'm still a wee bit paranoid about the Internet! :)
I've been told that my fans miss me. Sorry...I just haven't felt like blogging. Hopefully, this will get the juices flowing!
I spent about 10 days back home, and they went really fast. It was a somewhat hazardous holiday. Both my brother and his dog had "paw" injuries--my brother from cutting ham and my brother's dog from having my brother cut his nails. Doesn't he look sad? Notice the bandage.
That's okay, he got LOTS of toys from Santa, including the one he's holding and using as a pillow. I got great stuff from Santa too, including toasty gloves, a great new Scanpan frying pan, and boiled wool slippers. Love them! Check out the velvet "coat" on the Scanpan!
I had my own holiday party the weekend after New Year's--my Twelfth Night Tea. I love entertaining after the holidays. Why? Let me count the ways. 1.) it extends the holiday season; 2.) people aren't as crazed, so they can enjoy the party more; 3.) you get discounts on Christmasy party supplies; 4.) I'm less crazed so I can enjoy the party more!
I don't prepare for weeks before. That would be a sane thing to do, but unfortunately, that would negate the whole purpose of having it after the holidays because I'm too busy in December. No, I prefer to wait until a day or two before and work nonstop.
I had Friday off and so decided to work my magic that day. I had planned my menu a few weeks in advance, tweaking it along the way. I ordered most of the ingredients from Peapod (love it!). All of the stuff was able to be made ahead. Here's the menu:
And the results?
Yup, bar's all set...
Let the guests arrive!
And Jake wins as the youngest guest in his cute puppy outfit from Christine! :)
I simply refuse to believe it has been 2+ months since I posted. To be honest, I have considered quitting the blog. It's just not that rewarding anymore, and I can't explain why. I'm frustrated by Typepad (like now, when it keeps changing the font size on me). Anyway, we'll see. I'll keep you posted.
One of my favorite meals ever is tacos. And I don't mean fancy, Oyamel tacos, though those are delicious too. I mean the type 10 year olds like. Crispy shells, ground meat, cheese, etc. I do make mine a little more adult-friendly by using ground turkey breast (gotta watch that cholesterol), but otherwise, it's pretty much the same I ate as a kid. Except I skip the iceberg lettuce because I can't be bothered.
Being a child of the 80s, it never occured to me that seasoning could come from anything but a packet. Literally, until I was 30-something, this never occurred to me. It was only when I was looking for something with less sodium that I found out a little secret: taco mix is just spices. (Well, unless you buy those packets in which case you're getting a lot of strange chemicals too).
So, I started making my own. There are many varieties on the Web, and really you can play with it until it's how you like it. And, that is the wonderful thing about it--it's customizable. I personally like ones that incorporate corn starch, because it then thickens into a sauce like the packets mom used to make. I based mine on a recipe from The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas (a really kick ass book). I did make some adjustments.
2 T Chili Powder (pick a heat level that works for you)
2 t Paprika
1 t Cayenne (again, adjust the heat)
1 1/2 t Dried Oregano Leaves
1 T salt
1/4 t Black pepper
2 T Cornstarch
1/4 t. Garlic Powder
1 t. Ground Cumin
A few dashes of Ground Chipotle
Mix it all together. Store in a jar. Add about 2 T with about a cup of water and cook for 5 min after browning meat. If you feel it's too thin, add a wee bit more.
Buen Provecho! Enjoy!
I had a moment a few weeks ago where I decided I was no longer going to buy one of the staples of my kitchen: No Sugar Added Fudgsicles. It just grossed me out thinking that I was eating what essentially amounted to a frozen chemical stick. So, I decided to fulfill my sweet cool cravings, I was going to buy popsicle molds and make my own. So I did.
I settled on the "Groovy" molds from Tovolo that I bought at Hill's Kitchen. (If you want to buy these, call Leah at Hill's Kitchen and she'll hook you up...Amazon's good but no cheaper...so why not "buy local." :))
So, I've become a bit obsessed. (These were taken w/ my iphone, so sorry for the quality...)
Honeydew pops...basically just honeydew, some honey, and a little yogurt:
I believe these were my personal favorites...Blueberry Limoncello. I would give you the recipe, but I didn't have one. Basically, blueberries, limoncello, freeze!
I also made delightful Fudge Pops from a Taste of Home recipe that are now on my "do not make" list. Why? Not because they were gross. Quite the opposite--they were delish, but way too caloric and delicious to make regularly! You can find that recipe here.
I do highly advocate making frozen treats...they are generally healthier than what you'd get in the store and you can come up with some cleverly delicious recipes on the fly. I'm excited to try additional ones! And, apparently, they're the new trend--popping up in bars in cities, including mine! Witness this feature from the Washington Post. I'd like to point out that that article came out AFTER I started making my pops. What can I say? I'm a trendsetter! :) Here is the accompanying video about fancy popsicles from the Dairy Godmother in Alexandria (one of my favorite places down there!).
I just bought this beaut at a big discount (still more than I had originally planned...but...):
I scored my deal ($199, normal price $300 or so) on Rue La La. (If you like being suckered into daily deals, use my link and I'll get credit...) By the time I got to the deal, the only choices were Blue Willow (shown) and Cinnamon. The Cinnamon would clash with my bright red KitchenAid food processor, so I went with the blue. (I really wanted yellow...but life is about compromise.)
Anyway, I had long wondered if I needed a stand mixer. I don't bake all that much, because I have an eating problem...if I bake, I eat. I had sort of taken pride in the fact that I could bake during Christmas with only my nearly broken Procter Silex hand mixer that I got years and years before at Kmart for under $10. It had some kind of gear loose, and you could hear it rattle around. That puppy was recently replaced with a Cuisinart hand mixer. But, in some ways the old dog was better for low speeds. I digress...all these appliance considerations had me thinking about how often I use various kitchen appliances and how that differs from others. Here's my list...
Coffee Maker: I have a drip coffee maker that I got in grad school after a sordid "break up" with a friend whose maker I was using which came after my college era 4-cup brewer bit the dust. I got it on Amazon.com for $19 after shipping. I use it nearly daily. Recently, it doesn't seem to get all that hot and is ugly given the missing carafe lid (unfortunate dishwasher accident).
Cordless Electric Kettle: I use this nearly daily. So helpful for brewing tea and for pre-boiling water with less time and energy than on the stove. Indispensible in my book. And, my dad would agree once I got him one for his birthday.Toaster: This is one of the cheapest appliances I own--Toastmaster, under $10. I use this more days than not. Mine has a Pop Tarts level...I do not use that. Don't believe me?
KitchenAid Blender: This was acquired when I was on a smoothie kick and convinced I needed a blender...and not just any blender, but the granddaddy of blenders. It's helpful for soups and for smoothies, but I don't use it daily. Recently, I've used it for preparing popsicles. I've always kind of regretted having such a nice one.
Stick Blender: This was a more recent acquisition. Very helpful for blending soups, or for quick blending jobs. Also helpful for whipping with the included whisk attachment. Whips cream and egg whites sooooo easily.
Waffle Maker: I use this at least once a month. What's cool is that my waffle maker is also a pizzelle maker and sandwich maker. I never use the sandwich plates, but I do use the pizzelle iron during Christmas.
Popcorn Popper: Shamefully, I never use. However, I store. Why? Who knows.
Food Processor: As you may recall, I recently bought a KitchenAid food processor and am REALLY pleased with this purchase. I use it usually once a week or so for chopping or slicing or shredding or something. It's great for bread making too.
Now, if the food processor took up half my kitchen, this powerful bad boy takes up the other half and then some! I haven't decided where to keep it permanently. Right now, it's positioned beside its buddy. I'm glad I didn't get the cinnamon. I think they make a nice, patriotic couple.