Monday, August 23, 2010

Breaking Bad Habits - Part I

I am a woman of many great qualities, of this I am confident. However, I am also a woman of many bad habits, of this I am also confident. ;) I've decided recently to explore a few.

First, and possibly the worst, is my tendency to have a "junk drawer". If Ryan is reading this, he is laughing out loud by now because I said a "junk drawer". The problem is, it starts with one, and then when that one's full I expand. Over and over. This weekend I tackled the four, yes four, "junk drawers" that had taken over my house. I had one in the kitchen. One in the bathroom. One in the dresser and one in the bedside table.

I have an affinity for organizing. The problem is staying organized. For me to stay organized, it usually requires some hardware. So, first thing Saturday morning, I headed over to one of my top 5 favorite places to shop - The Container Store. I could spend all day and all my money in this store. I always go with a list (or I'll go nuts), and by the time I leave, I've crossed everything off the original list, but added twice as many things for 'next time'.

I got home and went straight to work. I started in the kitchen.
Before:
I snapped the picture after I'd started taking everything out, but everything you see on the counter was just thrown in the drawer. Not a pretty sight, and good luck finding anything. 

After:

Next, the bathroom. Tiny drawer, lots of stuff.
Before:

 After:
 It's so beautiful I could cry!

On to the dresser. Before:

After:


And the worst of them all, the bedside table.  Don't judge me.
Before:


After:


We also have a clutter problem in our pantry because it's really deep, which is great for storing lots of food, but things get easily lost and everything just get tossed in there. I got a few pantry baskets and they made a huge difference.
Before:


After:

The problem? Now that I've started, I want to re-organize every square inch of our apartment. This could become an expensive habit to break...

PS. I am not being sponsored by The Container Store...but if they'd like to, I'm totally in. 


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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gramp - One Year

I can hardly believe the words as I type them. It's been one year since Gramp (my grandfather on my Dad's side) passed away. Words cannot express how much I miss this man. I think I've mourned him the hardest because he was my last living (biological) grandparent.  I don't think many people get as close to their grandparents as I did to him. Don't get me wrong, I was close to my Mom's parents too, my Grandmom on that side especially, but they lived in Kentucky so I only got the see them a few times a years. I saw Gramp a few times a month. Towards the end, I saw him every single day.  We had good conversations, shared meals, spent hours walking around bookstores, talked on the phone. Wow - typing that one got me choked up. I can't believe its been a year since I've seen him smile at me, squeeze my hand, kiss me on the cheek, tell me he loves me....tell him I love him.

As I sit here fighting back tears, I am at a loss for words as to what to write next. (Shocking, I know.) So, I think I'll just wrap this up with one of my favorite pictures of Gramp (and Gram, who passed away when I was in 4th grade). 
Jack F. Silverman
8/26/1920 - 8/21/2009

I miss you every day, Gramp, and I love you.


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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Whatever...Thursday? Again?

Really? Again? I blinked past Wednesday without realizing it? It's not totally my fault. I’ve been sick. I felt it coming Friday, then by the time I got home from the Jackson Browne concert Friday night (more on that in a sec), I knew it was hours away from hitting me like a MACK truck. I woke up at 5am Saturday morning with an aching throat, unable to breath out of my nose, with a fever of 101*. S-I-C-K sick. I barely left the couch Sat-Mon. I went back to work Tuesday, still a bit under the weather. Yesterday, I felt much better, though I’m not yet 100%. Today, I am back in the game! I woke up feeling awesome. And I have to thank Ryan for a lot of my quick recovery because, when I get sick, Ryan steps up his game. He is a genuinely sweet guy, though he is occasionally a bit sharp around the edges, but when I get sick, he turns on the part of his personality that is super nurturing. When he got up on Saturday morning, several hours after me, he took one look at my pale face and swollen eyes and jumped into action. He made a list and headed out the door. A short time later he walked in the door, full grocery bags in hand. He had the essentials: OJ, Gatorade, Chicken Noodle Soup, cough drops and kleenex. He also had a few comforting extras, cause he knows his wife well: Velveeta Shells & Cheese, sourdough bread (don’t judge me, we all crave weird stuff when we’re sick. Right??) AND because I didn’t get to go the baseball game I’d been looking forward to for months, he got me Lemon Italian ice - my favorite ballpark treat! What a lucky girl I am to have such a loving hubby. :)

So, as previously mentioned, Friday night a group of us headed to Grand Prairie to see Jackson Browne with David Lindley! Even though I wasn't feeling great, I had an awesome time. Frankie really got me in to Jackson Browne probably in middle school and has seen him in concert at least 4 times now. It was always a "guy thing" with two of his best friends, Scotty and Justin. But, Justin is an umpire now and he was out on the road this year, so Frankie invited me, Scotty, his roommate and BFF George, George's girlfriend Lindsay and one of my BFFs/Justin's sister Brittany to come along with him. It was such a fun group! And I cannot even put in to words what an amazing show it was. Jackson Browne sounds exactly the same live (in his 60's!) as he does on his albums...if not better! I mean, this guy is immensely talented. I could listen to him sing all day.  And David Lindley! That is a once in a lifetime kind of thing. This guy plays just about every stringed instrument on the planet. No kidding. Here are a few highlights of the night:

A really blurry shot of Brittany & I in which my head and nose look abnormally large.

Scotty with his new shirt.

Lindsay, George, Frankie and Scotty

JACKSON BROWNE!!!

DAVID LINDLEY!!!

Jackson Browne and David Lindley, making beautiful music.

Alright, that's all I've got this week. No recipe though...sorry!! See, the thing about trying new things is that sometimes, they don't turn out very well and you end up ordering pizza for dinner. I could give you the number to a great Domino's though! ;)
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whatever Wednesday!

I don't have much that is blog worthy this week, so I'm just going to jump right in to my Recipe of the Week!

Slow Cooked Pork Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)
adapted from Gina's WW Recipes

2.5 lb pork shoulder blade roast, lean, all fat removed
6 cloves garlic, minced
cumin, to taste
adobo, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
1 can chicken broth (we use the low-sodium Swanson broth)
chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to taste (we used 5-6)
2 bay leaves

Season pork with salt and pepper. In a medium sauté pan on medium-high heat, brown pork on all sides for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cut small holes sporadically in the pork and insert garlic. Season pork generously with cumin, adobo and garlic powder all over.

Pour chicken broth in the crock-pot, add bay leaves and chipotle peppers. If the pork is not covered, add water until covered. Place pork in crock pot and cover. Cook low for 8 hours. (Our crock pot evaporates liquid fast, so you made need to add more liquid.) After 8 hours, removed the meat from the crock pot and shred using two forks. (Remove bay leaves and chipotle peppers prior to shredding.) Adjust salt and cumin (we had seasoned it well, so we did not need to add more).

We served this with low-carb tortillas, and topped them with reduced fat cheese, avocado and salsa.

Frankie came over for dinner when I made this and he and Ryan went nuts over it. They both request I make it again - soon - and my hubby who loves to send people home with all our leftovers, told Frankie he could only take half. It's THAT good.

Random Ramblings? Sure, why not! I finally got my new iPhone 4 yesterday!! That was my birthday present, and I used my birthday money to buy it. This thing is so great. I've had the iPhone 3G for a couple of years now, and will never use anything but an iPhone as long as I can help it. Well, the 4 puts the 3G to shame! It's lightening fast, I love the sleek new design, the screen is so clear and vivid and the features are unbeatable. My 3 favorite new features are, multi-tasking between applications, Face Time video chat between other iPhone 4 users and the video camera/camera with flash and zoom. As if I wasn't already obsessed over my phone enough, this has sealed the deal. Thanks, Apple.
Here is a quick little video of Frankie playing with Cooper that I shot last night while messing with the settings. The volume is low but Frankie is "baby" talking to Cooper. ;)

video


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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

American Idol Concert - Season 9

Last night, my Mom & I went to our 4th American Idol concert. As always, it was a great time, and I love having that special thing we do together. We were to the right of the stage, 7 rows from the floor, so we had an amazing view of the show. Here are some photo highlights of the night! (Click on the photos to see them larger.)


My Mom & I waiting for the show to begin!

Didi Benami - She really sounded great. I love her voice.

Andrew Garcia - He opened with "Straight Up" which was just as great as when he did it for the Hollywood round.

Katie Stevens - She hit a few bum notes but she sounded hoarse when she spoke, so she may not have been full voice. She's a little power house, though.

Tim Urban - Not a fan. He sounded better than he had on the show but compared the rest? Not so much.

Siobhan Magnus - She hit all her notes, though some made 1/2 the audience hold their ears.

Aaron Kelly - He was outstanding. He may be my winner for "most improved". He will definitely have a career beyond Idol.

The Bottom 6.

BIG MIKE Lynche - He is just a classy guy. He came out in his three piece suit, and started with "This Woman's Work", which may or may not have had me in tears. (Okay, it did.)

He is just sooo good.

Casey James - The hometown favorite! He tore it up. He schooled the Idol Band lead guitarist and sang his heart out. He was recently signed with Sony Nashville and I am really looking forward to his album.

More Casey

Casey & Big Mike sang "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?" and it was awesome.

Crystal Bowersox - She was incredible. She sang with so much passion and her voice filled the entire place effortlessly.

She did "Up to the Mountain" by Patty Griffin without her guitar, which was kind of cool.

Who could that be, entering from the shadows...?

LEE DEWYZE!!!!!!!

Lee was stellar. The more I think about it, he and Aaron tie for most improved. Everyone in ear shot (and my Mom & I) were talking about how great he sounded. He had grown and improved so much even since the finale. He had so much energy and sang so, so well. I have been a fan of his since day one and even I was so impressed.

He showed us all why he won the title for Season 9. :)

All the boys.

All the girls, plus Lee.

Season 9's Top 10!

It was an awesome night and a fantastic show.  


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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Whatever Wednesday!

Happy Wednesday! Or "Hump Day" as some call it. I prefer Happy "Middle-of-the-Week" Day.

So, I've been cooking a lot more lately. Ryan used to do 80% of the cooking, if not more, but now that he is working later than I am, I am doing the majority of the cooking...and getting better at it as I go! (This makes Ryan really, really happy, by the way. I think he doubted my cooking skills.) Along the way, I've gotten a lot of recipes from friends and family. My friend Carie and I do a lot of recipe exchanging. This Recipe of the Week came from her, via The Biggest Loser cookbook, and you know me, I had to tweak it a little. ;) I probably added back in some the calories The Biggest Loser peeps took out, but I have to make it so that Ryan will eat it!

Baked Ziti

1 (14 1/2 oz) box fiber-enriched ziti or penne rigate
1 15 oz container fat free ricotta cheese
2 Large egg whites
8 Ounce (4 cups) finely shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
1/4 Teaspoon garlic powder
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1 jar of low-fat, marinara (I used Classico's regular marinara)
Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 450. Lightly mist a 13x9x2 ceramic or glass baking dish with the non-stick spray. Cook the ziti according to package directions until al dente. Drain and shake off any extra water. In a large mixing bowl, mix the ricotta, egg whites, and all but 1 cup of the mozzarella until well combined. Add the garlic powder and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir in the cooked pasta until well combined.


Spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the prepared dish. Add the pasta mixture and spread to evenly cover the dish. Top with remaining sauce then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan over the top. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 10 minutes longer, or until the mozzarella is melted. Let stand 5 minutes.

It was SO super easy, and really tasty! It's definitely a winner.

Today's Random Ramblings from Rachel is an open letter brought to you in part by Rachel's Rules of the Road:
Dear Fellow Drivers,

I want to talk to you today about the LEFT LANE. It seems many of you have forgotten what we learned in Driver's Ed and The School of Life.
Here is a break-down of a few "unspoken" rules of the road:
Let's start with an easy one. If you are getting into the left lane to pass someone, don't cut off the person who is already in the left lane, forcing them to slam on their breaks. Wait until said left lane driver passes (cause they are going faster than you), then get over.
Next, if you chose the drive in the left lane, especially during rush hour traffic, please do not fluctuate your speed like a maniac. I use cruise control to maintain pace. When you are in front of me, it impedes my peaceful drive when you are going from 60 to 70 and every speed in between every few minutes.
Part two of the fluctuating speeds situation is when you are behind me. Because I use cruise control, I know what speed I am traveling at all times. When you get on my tail, then drop way back, then get back on my tail, I become confused. In an attempt to be a courteous driver, I move to the next lane in order to let you pass, and then you drop way back again. Please make up your mind. Are you going faster than I am, or are you just trying to give me road rage?
Lastly, the left lane is for passing. If you are driving under, or right at the speed limit, chances are you should pick a different lane. It's clear I am going faster than you. If you absolutely refuse to move over, I will pass you from the middle lane. Giving me the finger makes YOU the (slow) jerk. Not me. I'm following the rules. Perhaps you should to.

Sincerely,
Your Fellow Driver

**Note from the Editor (also known as...me): Some people seem to be offended by my open letter. An open letter's purpose it to express MY opinion. I am not stating law. Just my thoughts. 


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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Email Drama

So, last week, my friend Carie emailed me to tell me she had received a strange email from me with a random link and nothing else. That is not like me. If I send a link, I explain what it is. Thankfully she brought it to my attention so I could warn everyone else NOT to click on it. This began my email drama.

I've had Hotmail for my email account for about 6 years. Before that I had AOL, because that was the cool thing to have in the 90's, and I held onto it for a long time. I really loved Hotmail, but mine was the 6th account I knew of to be hacked. Yes, SIX of my friends have had their Hotmail accounts hacked. Of course I changed my password, but I couldn't shake feeling a little vulnerable to future hackers. (Plus, it did always bug me that they added little "ads" on the ends of all my emails.)

So, since we are recent Apple converts, I decided to give Apple's me.com domain a shot. On my MacBook it is set up similar to Outlook on a PC. I can also add it as a very user-friendly email account on my iPhone, which Hotmail never get quite conquer. AND, you can also access it via the web from any computer through a fancy-shmancy "secure connection" where it syncs up with the contacts and calendar on my iPhone and MacBook. I thought this was the perfect set-up!
On my MacBook at home, it runs just like Outlook would...fine.
From my iPhone, it runs like a dream.
But if I dare access it from the web, I get THIS:
THIS is the super annoying "loading" screen that haunts me.  It will show me I have new mail, but once I click on a message to read...I get this at least half of the time. The more I use it, the less I like it.

I JUST emailed everyone on Thursday night to give them my new email address. And now everyone will be getting another email with another new email address. Yay.

In the meantime, Ryan is doing his "I told you so" dance in the background because he said I should have tried it out before I emailed everyone...and I offer my sincerest apologies for all the email drama.

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