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A little over a week ago, I got a message that my longest childhood friend had a seizure and went into cardiac arrest. Last Saturday morning I got the news that he was not going to recover and he passed away.  I was devastated.  I still am. I am struggling so hard with the grief.

Over the years we’d find each other and stay in touch then we’d drift apart.  It only took a quick catch up for us to pick up where we left off and keep right on rolling with life.  The last text I got from him read, “thinking about you.” He didn’t have children, but I shared our adoption story about Olivia and he was excited about exploring that option to build their family.  That will never happen.   I haven’t seen him since we were in our early 20s and he showed me all over Texas.  We found a bar just across the border that took travelers checks and we drank Corona out of faded bottles and terra cotta glasses.  That was definitely one of the best trips of my life and the memories are as vivid as if it happened yesterday.  I’ve never met his wife, but she has been kind enough to keep me up to date with what was going on and she was gracious enough to accept our special friendship.  I’ll meet her for the first time when I travel to Houston for the celebration of his life instead of the plans he and I started making for next year.

He touched my heart and my soul so deeply.  He was heavy metal and I’m more of a country and 80s girly-girl.  He was a drummer at heart and I can’t keep a beat.  I believe we were soul mates (of the best friend type; not the marrying type) and, no matter what direction our lives carried us, we always found our way back to each other when we needed it.

This week was one of “those” weeks that I would normally lay my trials and struggles on his shoulders and he would encourage me and talk me through them until I was calm again.  So many times I picked up my phone to call him, but I couldn’t.  I long to hear, “Hey, girl… It’s JT” one more time. I only hope he knew just how important he was to me and that I cared for him so deeply.

It’s not fair that he lost his life at the young age of 38.  It’s not fair his wife of a few years is a widow.  It’s not fair his mother lost her son just a few short weeks after losing her mother.  I know God has a plan for his short time on this Earth, but I’m struggling with it.  He had so much love and kindness to offer and was never less than kind, loving and caring to me.  It’s just not fair.

I haven’t had to shoulder this alone.  My friends have rallied around me with kind words and support this past week and I’m so grateful.  One of them told me, “big grieving is an indication of big love.”  It was a huge love and a huge loss.

This picture is from the bar in Mexic0… JT and I are in the middle.  We had no idea who the others were… we met them there and had a blast.

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Going to start with things I have going on.  I’m going to be a co-ed again come Monday.  I’m going back to school to get my HR Generalist certificate.  7 1/2 years of experience isn’t enough for some companies, so I’ll get it.  I about stroked out in my advisor’s office when she told me I’m getting credit for all the core classes I took for my BA in ’91 and ’92.  So, I have 6 classes (maybe 5 if my last transcript shows a computer class – been too long to remember) to take and I will have my generalist by the end of next semester.  After she reviewed my stuff, she said don’t worry about taking any more classes for an AA in Bus with HR concentration, but to just move on with my MBA. So, I’m currently searching out MBA programs and meeting with some folks next week to discuss my options.  I was just going to get the AA to get it.  We’ll see.

My secret thing is moving right along and hope it continues.

Now for some things I’m loving right now:

Spin Pins.  I saw these on t.v. (I am a marketer’s dream) so I loaded up and went in search of these little curly pins.  I found two sizes.  One is a pack of two that are long and one is a pack of three that are shorter. I bought the shorter ones because my hair isn’t all that long.  I love them. L.O.V.E. them.   It totally makes rocking the mom hair easier and it’s not the same ‘ol pony tail.

Sparkpeople.  It’s an awesome website with lots of tools and I can track my progress.  So far there’s not a lot to track, but it’s all about baby steps.  What progress am I tracking on Sparkpeople?  Well, it’s because….

I’m back running again for the first time since I hurt my knee last fall.  It feels pretty good, but I run with my brace on.  I guess it’s been long enough that it should be feeling better.  Olivia is doing it with me… at least a small portion of it.  She rides her bike while I run/walk and she will run the last 1/4 mile or so with me.  She is so stinking supportive and even gave me a, “Mommy, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win.  You’re awesome and that’s what matters.  Now let’s get going.”  And we do.

Zumba isn’t made for people like me.  You want to know what kind of people it is?  I’ll tell you… it’s people without a lick of dang rhythm.  I told my friend M if I danced that bad back in college when we all used to go out, then my friends were bad friends for not telling me to sit my uncoordinated, couldn’t keep up with the beat if it was glued to the bottom of my shoes self down.  Fabul-O has less than me.  How sad is it I’ve one-upped a six year old?

Still working on regaining my sense of me.  It’s returning slowly but surely.

Enjoy your weekend…

For some becoming a mom is easy.  For others it takes a lot of work, patience, and time.  And there are the moms whose arms are empty.

Our family tree grew with a branch grafted from another five years ago.  There are circumstances from the first year of Olivia’s life we’ll never know, but we do all we can to reinforce our love and work hard instilling the best values we can.  I can’t, and won’t, romanticize the unknown.  However,  if I had the opportunity, I would love for the woman who brought her into this world to know that she’s a beautiful, bright, inquisitive little girl who sees the good in everyone she meets, the wonder in all she does and is loved by so many.  I believe it takes a village to raise a child and  I have an extraordinary group of friends who have loved my child as much as they would one of their own and I’m very appreciative.

I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and to those who have cared for and loved a child.  You are just as important to our lives as sunshine and rain.

There are a couple of times a year I get all mushy and gushy over things and today just happens to be one of those days.  I never imagined the littlest love of my life would be born half a world away, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Five years ago today we met Yu Si Jia  for the first time.  The scared little girl who cried for HOURS when we first held her is now a happy, healthy, thriving little girl who lights up my life more than I ever imagined.  My mom was right when she told me there was no love like a parent’s love for their child.

Happy Family Day, JiaJia.  I love you.

To all our veterans: Thank you for your service.  We’re forever grateful for your service.  That includes my husband.  Despite what problems surround us, he has fought the good fight and has always been willing to answer the call of duty.  I’m proud of him.  Olivia told him last night, “Thank you for being a Soldier boy, Daddy.  Because of you and all the other ‘Vetrins’ I don’t have to go to school tomorrow.  That’s nice of you and I’m proud of you.”  I reminded him that is probably the nicest thing anyone will ever say to him.  Especially in the 5 y.o. age group.

Yesterday, the Marine Corps celebrated its 235th birthday.  When I got married, I married a Marine.  Our groomsmen were Marines.  My girlfriends dated Marines.  It’s what we did.  The Marines were my first real “taste,” if you will, of the military.  Except for one Coastie.  Anyway, I went to UNC-W and Camp Lejeune wasn’t that far away, so the Marines would come into town to mack on the college girls and we would score free beer.  It was then that I realized the old saying was true:  A uniform is the one thing that can make most anyone look good.   It wasn’t until Will left the military, joined the reserves and got ready to deploy to Iraq did I fully understand what it was to be a military spouse.  Remember, we were no longer active duty, and had not been for many, many years; we were a reserve family.  Since that time, my appreciation has grown from ogling cute boys in uniform to appreciating what the uniform stands for.  I didn’t grow up in a military household and, in my opinion, it’s hard to grasp what the call of duty is during peacetime when you’re 20 years old.   At least it was for us.

There are tons of jokes using the branches of the military as acronyms and we’ve heard them all.  After all, we’ve been in three branches: Marines, Navy and Army National Guard.

From our Navy friends: Marine stands for My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment

From old Navy friends: Navy stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself

From Marines: Army stands for Air Force Rejected Me Yesterday and Ain’t Ready to be a Marine Yet.  Others say US Army is: Uncle Sam Ain’t Released Me Yet!    Backwards: Yes My Retarded Ass Signed Up.

There’s a lot of fun that goes into those.  Everyone’s dog is bigger than the next person’s in their eyes.  And that’s fine. It’s the pride in the uniform and the dedication to do the job that makes it work.  It takes all the branches to protect us.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure, and privilege, of meeting some of the most wonderful people.  People who have touched my life in ways they will never know.  I have hugged wives whose husbands were deployed.  I have cried over videos of homecomings.  I have stood on the tarmac in tropical storm weather holding hands with other wives and families waiting for it to finally be my turn.  I have been to funerals, arranged for food to be brought in for families and ordered Gold Star banners.  I have felt inadequate in wishing I could do more.  I always will.

Over the years, my appreciation has grown up a lot.  I appreciate our Nation and the jobs that it takes to keep us safe, a man in uniform still makes my heart skip a beat and I still firmly believe a uniform is the one thing that can make most anyone look good.

Hooah!

Bloglines is going away.  I *heart* Bloglines and it has been the only feed reader I’ve ever used.  Now I’m going to have to force myself to fall in love with Google Reader.  I’m a creature of habit and am not doing well with the change.  It did, however, force me to prune my blogroll.

 

I have good days and I have bad days, which is expected.  But I’m not miserable all the time.

A few weekends ago, we went to the Bank of America 500.  Last year Mar was here.  They boys went to the race and the girls (us, Shannon and Shannon) went out and we had a fantastic time.  Hard to believe a year has passed and I miss her so.  This year we went again.  It was O’s first race and she was lukewarm about it.  I’m not a huge race fan, but there is something about feeling the thunder in the stands as the cars go by and being  under the lights that gets the adrenaline going.  O roots for “Smoke” (a.k.a. Tony Stewart) and I will pull for Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) because he drives the 88 National Guard car.  Y’all know that no matter what I have going on in my life, I love our Soldier boys and girls (and Marines, Airmen, Coasties…)

Last weekend we met up with a long time friend, M, and her husband JT and went to the SC State Fair. It was my first state fair.  Ever.  Seriously.  It was okay.  Fabul-O rode some rides…and Uncle JT got his first ride on the Wacky Worm roller coaster.  They don’t have children, so it was a super treat for him.  O kept her head down until the very end, at which time she proclaimed she had a fantastic time.

We ate fried pickles…I couldn’t bring myself to have fried butter even though I wanted to so, so badly.  And I also managed to stay away from the Krispy Kreme burger known by many as a Luther Burger.

And one of us sacked out before we made it back to the interstate to come home.

We had a good time.  I have always said friends are the family we get to choose and M has been part of my family since 1992.  Wish we saw them more often.

It was a nice couple of family days.  The sun was shining brightly and the weather was perfect.  Days aren’t always this good, but I’m trying to make note of all the good and, one of these days, they should outweigh the bad.  I hope.

Coming soon…an attempt at apple picking.

Nothing much, really. Nothing anyone would be interested in, anyway. In January, I lost a contract job I’ve held for seven years. No, it’s not my “real” job, so I’m still working full-time (and very grateful for that, I might add). However, it was a pretty big blow to our household budget, so I’ve made saving money my new mission. Now, I’ve always watched for sales and stuff and avoided paying full retail unless it was absolutely necessary, but when you have more “disposable” income, you tend to not pay attention as closely as you should. Okay, “you” = me/I. It took a while to get used to not having to work in the evenings and I’m enjoying being able to spend time with Fabul-O. I’m cooking more and loving being able to go to bed when I’m tired, not when a deadline has been met. OH, and having a weekend that is completely free. *squee*

So, I’m a couponing diva now. Yes.I.Am. And I love it. My coupon binder is my third love and I *heart* my reusable bags. I love super doubles and triple coupon weeks make my heart swell. We’re still able to donate and give at a level we’re comfortable with, so that’s an added bonus. Saving an average of 70% on my grocery bill is freaking awesome. Awesome, I say, and I haven’t paid more than .25 for toothpaste since December. And, no, I don’t buy things we won’t use just because I have a coupon for it. Not for our personal use, anyway. I recently donated 60 cans of dog food and three bags of cat food to our local animal shelter. We don’t have a cat because of my allergies and PomPom doesn’t eat canned food. But it all worked out to be free, so it was a win all the way around.

I negotiated a better rate with Time-we’re-sucking-your-bank-account-dry-because-we-can-Warner and even made the courageous feat to give up our Blackberries. It’s a luxury, a purely evil luxury, but I missed it terribly while it was gone. Yeah, we’ve got it back, but only thanks to Will’s company insisting he have it and the reimbursement method they chose covers most of my service, too. We already have Vonage, but I’m not quite ready to give that up yet, even though we hardly ever use our home phone, so that expense stays. Our room addition/playroom/three-season porch is about 80% done. Will take a wee bit more time to get it finished, but it’s been closed in since October, what’s a bit more time among friends? BUT I was able to do it in the evenings and on weekends. We are sprinters on that project…run for it and then stop. We’ll sprint on again soon. I need to paint the trim, pick out flooring and hang the curtains. After I buy the rods.

I hurt my foot a while back, so my Couch to 5K training came to a halt. I’m not sure I’m meant to be a runner, but we are currently training and getting ready for the Marine Corps Mud Run in September. Four months from today, actually. Running is one of about a half dozen things that makes me feel defeated and deflated. I’m trying hard not to let it, but it does. I’ve set the goal to finish it. And I will. Our team is “Ladies and Grunts.”

I’m also dealing with some “heart” issues. Not as in health, but as in forgiving, forging on and being made whole again. I have a hard time forgiving, no matter how hard I try. Dudes, it is so stinking hard. I have lost my will to be a greater person and I want it back. I need my head and heart to get on board together. Has anyone else ever noticed you can’t force those two to jive? It’s like oil and water. I need it more like peanut butter and jelly. If I don’t do something, my life as I know it will never, ever be the same and I’m not sure I want that.

Olivia has two more weeks at her current school. Friday is field day, and I’m off work, so I’m going to spend the day with her at school and hopefully make some nifty little treat for her class. Then we’ll spend the afternoon packing for a little coastal get away with my family. Will’s parents just left/ they visited with us for a week and a half and I know they were exhausted from having Olivia climb all over them, but it was nice to have them here. The big plus was they were here for Fabul-O’s end of year program at school, which she rocked, by the way. Totally rocked. All the kids did. And you can tell from the way they screamed they were told to speak loud so all the audience could hear. Pre-K has had its challenges for us this year, but it makes my heart sad that Kindergarten is on our horizon. My little girl gets bigger and bigger each and every day. I only wish she knew how much I love her.

So, with a wee bit over 900 words, you see what I said was true…nothing much going on and certainly nothing interesting. I miss blogging. I truly do and hope to get my mojo back. I’ve tried for about a year, with no success, but I’m going to keep trying.

Thanks for hanging around.

All around the blogisphere, you can find “Favorite Things Friday.”  From time to time, Shanny posts a few of her favorite things and I wanna do it, too.  So, here we go.
I’ll start in the kitchen.

Those who are FB buddies know I lurve.lurve.lurve. my “magic pot” from Pampered Chef.  They actually market as the Deep Dish Covered Baker.  Most weeks I use it at least three days a week.  In the microwave.  I know!  Never in one hundred bajillion years would I ever think I ‘d make chicken in the microwave, but I have.  Whole chicken, boneless/skinless chicken breasts, and bone in chicken.  I have also used it for pork loin, browning hamburger, made tacos, meat loaf.  Let me tell you, ever since I browned hamburger for the first time – virtually unattended – I haven’t cooked it on top of the stove again.  6 minutes on high, break it up some more, stir it up, cook it for 4 more minutes and, voila, it’s done.  Drain it well and use it.  Because it’s the stone ware, clean up is more than simple.  Bottom line: I love it.   FYI: My preference are chicken breasts with the skin on…just tastes good.  Rubs work 150% better than using a sauce. And I do have the cranberry one.

Reynolds Wrappers Pop-Up Foil Sheets.  I bought some moons ago from S*m’s and have finally just run out of them because I don’t use them all that often.  Besides, it was an industrial size package I bought.  They are the perfect size for lining a small pan, covering a dish and wrapping stuff up.  Sometimes I have to overlap them, but I love them.  Plain and simple and I, honestly, can’t tell you why.  I just do.

Plastic gloves.  Another lurve of mine.  I bought a double pack at S*m’s and have had them forever.  There are 500 in a box and I think I’m still on my first box.  They’re great for handling poultry or pork.  Heck, they are great for handing all types of meat and when you don’t want to get your hands dirty.  Of course, they don’t do well around heat, so you gotta make sure you are smart about that.  A wonderfully smart, inexpensive must for my kitchen at Chateau L.

Temp-tations Stoneware.  I bought this on the recommendation of my friend Amy and it it awesome.  Awesome, I say, and I’m hooked on it.  I have the blue.  They are heavy weight and look nice.  I’ve baked lasgna and macaroni and cheese in them and it.has.never.stuck.  Never. Ever. And, no, I didn’t use any type of spray or butter.   I baked a pineapple upside down cake in it not too long ago and it came right out without such ease.  Of course, that one had a whole stick of butter in the bottom of the pan so there was no way it would have stuck 🙂   It is pretty inexpensive stuff and I have replaced all my old stoneware with it, except for a couple of Pampered Chef pieces I use (see “magic pot” above).  This is definitely worth it’s weight in gold.

I buy some of my spices from Penzey’s.  I wish they had a store close to me, because I don’t like paying shipping.  I have used many of their spices, but these are my favs: Beef Roast Seasoning, Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle (this is yummy sprinkled on pasta tossed with some crisp-tender veggies), Breakfast/Pork Sausage Seasoning (yes, I’ve made my own sausage and it was good.  No, I didn’t grind up a piglet, but I started with ground turkey and ground pork…I like controlling what’s in it), Galena Street Rib and Chicken Rubsalad dressings: Buttermilk Ranch, Creamy Peppercorn, Italian Vinegar and Oil.  I have, but have not used Country French Vinaigrette and Sandwich Sprinkle, and Shallot Salt.  I really love the shallot salt, but I’ve ordered it twice and both times I have had horrible problems with caking.  The first time I ordered it, I didn’t use it right away and when I opened it, I had a problem with caking.  I called to talk to them about it and was told since I waited so long to open it, they wouldn’t exchange it.  I ordered it again after they told me they had started a new anti-caking agent, but I have the same exact issue.  I chisel it out of the jar when I want to use it. Aside from the Shallot Salt, I’ve not had any issues with their spices.  Maybe I just got a left over jar of the old stuff.  Who knows.  I’ve ordered more of their stuff – some I liked pretty well, but not really well like these. Others I am lukewarm on and some of them I just didn’t like.

My beloved Kitchenaid mixer.  Oh, I how I love thee.  Let me count the ways.  I don’t have the fancy dancy big one, just the basic one and it r.o.c.k.s.  It has made more cake mixes and batches of butter cream icing than I could ever dream of and it has never missed a beat.

KitchenAid food processor.  I totally don’t use this to it’s fullest capacity, which will change soon.  It’s awesome for making salsa and cole slaw. My dad recently asked me have I ever used it to shred cheese.  Not one time did I ever think about that.  It’s on my to-do list since I’ve started buying my cheese in blocks vs. pre-shredded.  I don’t mind shredding it by hand, but I’m gonna give it a whirl.  Slight pun intended.

Programmable pressure cooker.  Shannon recently asked if any of her FB peeps used a pressure cooker and was it scary.  Yes, I do.  No, not in the least.  Again, this isn’t something that I use to its fullest potential, but I like having it.  It sat in a corner of a spare room for at least a year before I dusted it off and began using it.  Seriously.  I couldn’t believe I didn’t use it before I did.  It certainly isn’t the old fashioned pressure cooker my mom used, that’s for sure.

So, there you have it.  A few of my favorite things from the ktichen.

It’s What Day?!?

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