Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Review

We'll begin on a sad note- my grandmother passed away late Sunday afternoon after being in hospice all week long. She was fairly young, and it was pretty unexpected. And that is why we've been scarce for the past few days.

However...

Life does have a way of moving along regardless of one's personal tragedies. So, let me recap our spring break/birthday week for you.

  • Monday- Coach crashes into my car in the driveway leaving my little Honda Accord's future very much in jeopardy. His car sustains a little dent in the bumper, merely a flesh wound really. We work like mules in the back yard to clear our garden. I receive word my grandmother is terminally ill and will most likely not last more than a day or two.
  • Tuesday- My birthday. Coach wakes up early, goes to the store, gets cards and flowers and somehow manages to stab himself with a knife while arranging them in the back of his truck. He then proceeded to bleed for the better part of the day. I missed all the drama though because I was at the hospital.
  • Wednesday - Hospital
  • Thursday- a blur really, I really don't know what happened to that day
  • Friday - mini-drama with the kids; all is well; no harm, no foul
  • Saturday - well it really requires its own post as any visit to an assisted living community during a tornado warning does; and then a late birthday dinner.
  • Sunday- church, Coach's birthday, hospital
  • Monday- AC proceeds to tell me the following in one breath: she learned how to sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" in Spanish and then I got an impromptu performance complete with movement as we were walking into Target; she explained how she made a Chia pet out of grass seed and panty hose (her teacher is McGyver); she asked if she could get in a swing that was on a platform for a bbq display at the grocery, was told no, then proceeded to do it anyway and launched herself into a display stack of charcoal and neon straws that were then splayed all over the floor.

And that, my friends, is why I went running back into work Monday morning happier than I've ever been to return to 400 unmotivated teenagers who've just returned from Carribean vacations.

Ahhhhh....

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Coach


So the big man turns 34 today, which does in fact, make me a cradle robber. He was in middle school when I graduated from high school, and if you want to know something REALLY creepy- I was his camp counselor once and almost his English teacher his senior year. I like to think it was Divine Intervention that kept that from happening.
Anyway, I just thought you'd enjoy 34 random things about Coach.

1. He won't commit to a favorite food (which makes deciding what to make him for his birthday dinner VERY difficult)

2. He prefers not to make decisions regarding restaurants, movies, vacation spots, or paint colors. (Which works out perfectly because I do like to make decisions regarding all of those, and usually prefer not to have any input)

3. He is uncomfortable (we'll not use the word scared) with horror movies and roller coasters.

4. If he's stressed he gets sick at his stomach- every single time.

5. He has a very weird obsession about keeping his car clean.

6. He is currently having an affair with the dustbuster. He sweeps the hardwood floors and dustbusts AT LEAST once a day.

7. He is anal about laundry and does it daily (a definite bonus for me)

8. He finds joy in cleaning, but not in cooking.

9. He has a wife who finds joy in cooking, but not in cleaning.


11. He is mesmerized by anything on Discovery Channel or ESPN.

12. We once sat on the couch and watched football for so long that we were both sore.

13. He can fall asleep anywhere at any time.

14. He has decades of sports trivia locked in his head- he usually never misses- NASCAR, bowling, football, baseball, golf, you name it, he knows it.

15. He is very artistic and creative. He is so much better at helping with creative school projects than I am.

16. He can do math- all kinds. I know that may not be impressive to most, but to me and my kin it is both impressive and helpful.

17. He likes to read about sports and religion - he's not a big fiction fan.

18. If he could have any car in the world it would be a Land Cruiser.

19. Sometimes he changes clothes 3 or 4 times before he decides on what he's wearing.

20. His ties are arranged on his tie racks just like a prism.

21. One year for Christmas he asked for a hunting knife, a tent, a flint, and a compass. We're still wondering if he's planning some kind of survival trip.

22. Children LOVE him- they run to him, make faces at him, stare at him.

23. While on a mission trip in Guatemala someone gave him a baby. (No, he didn't get to keep it) and someone else stole his wallet.

24. He has the best laugh ever.

25. He played professional football in Germany for a season. He is quick to tell people that playing in Germany is NOTHING like the NFL, but I tell him he should ride it for all he can.

26. He is the kinder, more compassionate of the two of us and is very slow to anger

27. He loves to fish, but never gets to go.

28. He's a football coach, but as long as I've known him I've NEVER known him to watch a football game in its entirety on television. He'll eventually end up sweeping, blowing the driveway off, or watching a silly movie. I don't know why.

29. His first job was at a golf course, which is something I just cannot begin to picture.

30. He talks to his dad and tells him he loves him every day.

31. He love, love, loves to talk on the phone- one month he logged 36 hours! We call him chatty Kenny

32. Other than when he's on the phone, he is usually very quiet.

33. He is honest, he is loyal, he is faithful, he loves Jesus, and he loves me - all to a fault.

34. He would rather be with his family than anywhere else in the world.

Happy Birthday Babe! Love You!


Friday, March 27, 2009

I haven't posted any pictures of Onyx lately, so here he is.
He's saying, "I baby Sapphire! I pretending be Sapphire!"

Legacy

I grew up on a steady diet of fried pies, fresh tomatoes, pole beans picked right out of the garden, standing rib roasts, homemade ice cream, and lots and lots of women. A mother, 2 grandmothers and 3 great-grandmothers- all of them very different, all of them leaving their own special legacy.

From my Dad’s mom, Buddy, I was given an appreciation for the arts, for reading, and for good food- seriously good food. She loved Tennessee football, loved people, was a gentle spirit, and she loved her family dearly.

From Mom’s mother, Nana, I learned to appreciate hard work, to be assertive, to dress tastefully and modestly, to laugh when the going gets too tough, and she too, developed herself quite a fondness for the Vols.

My Nana is in hospice care right now. Monday she was fine; she went out to lunch and had a manicure. By Tuesday evening she was in a coma. She will die before the week is done. It is both devastating and miraculous how quickly life passes in and out of our existence. But she lived a lot of life in her 76 years, and not all of it was pretty. Nana had more than her share of hardship, and we learned many lessons from the mistakes she made. She was saved late in her life, and though she developed dementia shortly thereafter, there was a marked difference in her demeanor and her spirit after she became saved.

The irony of all of this is that lately I’ve been praying for a specific answer to a direction I’ve received from the Lord. I know I am to teach, and I also know that I’ve been called to minister to a specific group of women, those ages 16-23, about specific issues. I know that the circumstances of my life were used to bring glory to God. I have already been given an audience and a platform, but I've been praying about the specific message and how to deliver it.

But I have to be honest here, I’ve been very comfortable lately explaining my inactivity away by telling myself that I’m still learning myself, still maturing, acquiring wisdom.

Until now. I’ve been working on developing a ministry and book targeted at young women in regards to Jesus, and life, and choices. Every idea I’ve had to this point has seemed trite and overdone. But, in my garden on Monday, God whispered the answer to me. I know the calling for me now, the direction, and the content of my message.

Now I am hoping to be awarded a scholarship to the She Speaks conference in July of this year. I am hoping that this conference will help me to organize and design an effective way to deliver the message. This is an opportunity to hear women discuss Godly purpose and ministry in writing, blogging, and speaking. This is the tool I lack. Go here to see the website for the conference. Click here to see the blog with even more information. Consider whether you could benefit from it, and then apply.

It's an opportunity to hone skills, develop ideas, and be inspired by the work other women are doing to glorify God. Perhaps you know someone who could benefit from attending. Maybe you’re the one who needs to go. Whatever the reason, check it out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1 Is Greater Than 3 (written by Coach)

It's been a hard week at home. The events of the last few days have left us all wondering and worrying what could possibly happen next. V put it best today when she said, "this sure has been a bad week!" We seem to have ourselves a case of the Bad Things Come In Threes Syndrome. This outbreak has included me totaling her car...in the driveway...with no one in it, which, yes does mean, I single-handedly wrecked both family vehicles. Nevermind that adding a car payment during a recession is just not possible.

Nevertheless, the purpose of this entry is not to focus on the "trials of life" (sounds like a wildlife documentary on the Discovery Channel) we are currently experiencing, but to celebrate the fact that today is my beautiful wife's birthday.

Nothing that we could count as bad, negative, or downright wrong could compare to the joy, beauty, and wisdom she has given us since our family started three years ago. V and I were riding around today trying to make a dent in this garden venture when she said, "I'll be glad when Traci comes home this afternoon." (She found out late last night that her grandmother is dying and spent all day at the hospital) I asked why and she replied, " I just like it when we are all together."

I could write a diatribe as to reasons why she would say that, but I guess it could all be summed up by the fact that all of our lives are better when she's around. She is a bright spot in a dark world. She pushes all of us to be better even though we may not want to hear it. She touches the lives of those she teaches. She is smarter than she will EVER get credit for, and she loves us all for who we are. What more could you ask for?

I tried my best to surprise her this morning by getting up early and getting flowers which I tried my best to arrange...in the bed of the truck...with the dog sticking his nose in them. That, too, went downhill fast about the time I sliced my thumb cutting the first stem and then bleeding all over the vase, flowers, and the cards.

When I tried to sneak back in the house, Traci came around the corner and asked where I had been. Once again, her concern for me (really it's my inability to be patient- I'm just saying...) outweighed my ability to surprise.

In closing, I would just like to thank Traci for loving all of us so well, and I hope she feels our love all over her each and every day. Her one is greater than any power of three!!!!!

(Awwww, isn't that sweet- he made me into my own weird little mortal trinity. So now you know why you have to love the guy; he's a big old softy)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flirting With 40

Tomorrow I will be 38- what I call “a black hole in middle-age” birthday. It’s almost 40, but not really- I can’t really say I’m almost 40 because there’s still 39 to contend with, but I’m not really close to 35 either, and everyone knows 35 is the cool birthday, the one year that you feel like you’ve got it together. Older than 30, past the physical derailment of 31, and next thing you know, you and your stretch marks have made it to 35. Maybe I’m weird- it was a benchmark birthday for me, and I do believe I spent my very grown up 35th birthday at Disney World with my mom and my kids.

Anyway, I thought I should record some milestones in my own life before dementia sets in.

So here goes: the events that have led to 38:
  • March 24, 1971. I am born. I immediately make my mother cry (a trend I will continue for another 20+ years) because I was the biggest baby in the nursery.
  • 1974. My brother is born. This simply meant that it was time to up the ante on the shenanigans.
  • 1976. I practice forward rolls in my basement for more than 4 hours in hopes of making it to the 1980 Olympics.
  • 1980. No Olympics, but I do ask for a Dallas Cowboy cheerleading uniform for Christmas. My father emphatically declines, and I settle for tennis shoe skates and a ten-speed bicycle.
  • 1981. I get bangs for the first time, and my mother quickly points out that I don’t have the forehead to pull them off. I keep them for another 28 years (and counting)…
  • 1983. I get my first kiss…at school… by Chip something or other. I quickly mark it off of my “To Do Before I Die” list vowing never to do it again. My list also includes the following activities: making a phone call from a phone booth, riding in a taxi cab, wearing eye shadow, writing a book, and becoming a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. (Ambition is clearly one of my strengths)
  • 1984. I enter junior high, get braces (which, if you'll notice, was NOT on the aforementioned list), and master the art of being “cute and darlin’” a tactic that will serve me well for many years.
  • 1985. My family relocates from Nashville to Franklin. I declare my life over and start reading up on nunneries.
  • 1986. I enter 9th grade at Franklin High School and get nominated for Homecoming Court. Not ever having heard of that, become quite offended because I thought it was something boring like student council. When I found out I just dressed up, sat on the back of a convertible Corvette and waved during a parade- I was totally cool with it.
  • 1987. I attend Barbizon School of Modeling. I then willingly don a two-piece bathing suit in a mall food court all in the name of fashion. (Consequently, this will be the beginning of spectacularly average modeling career which will include a couple of country music videos and a few mall Back-to- School fashion shows)
  • 1988. My parents take me out of FHS and move me to Brentwood Academy so that I am not able to rely on my “cute and darling” routine anymore. I run track for the Eagles and enjoy being state-runner up in 3 events two years in a row.
  • 1989. I graduate from high school and enroll at The University of Tennessee in the pre-med program.
  • Early in 1990. I discover I don’t enjoy sick people and change my major to English perhaps to pursue a career in law. A few years later I realize I prefer not to deal with other people’s problems, so I decide to teach teenagers and have children of my own, because how better to avoid dealing with the problems of others?
  • 1989-1993. I enjoy 5 full football seasons at UT (I squeeze one year of grad school out of the Parental scholarship fund)
  • 1994. I begin my teaching career intending to work 4-5 years before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
  • 1994-2003. 1 marriage, 2 children, 1 heart-wrenching and unwanted divorce. Still teaching...
  • 2003. I enjoy the best year of my adult life. Jesus and I become very tight, and He sends Coach. Still teaching…
  • 2006. Coach and I marry in the coolest wedding ever and bring our families together…and then there were 5. Still teaching…
  • 2008. So begins the blog… AND, still teaching…
  • 2009. Finally reconcile with Jesus that teaching is my purpose. Enjoy the antics of my family. Turn 38. Will begin taking donations for Botox and a new car. (I’ll explain later this week).

This is How You Make A Baby Burrito



This is a rhyme I made up for Sapphire. Quartz really likes it too.

Baby Burrito
This is how you make a baby burrito:
First you take the beef (tickle tummy),
Then you take the beans (tap nose),
Then you add some chile, red or green (move hands back and forth).
Then you wrap it in a tortilla and roll it up tight (fold in blanket),
And when you're all done, you take a big bite (kiss or blow tummy)!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Supper - Edition 12

It's been a big weekend so far. You see, we're planting a garden, a "family garden" as AC has aptly named it, claiming pumpkins, watermelons, and corn as her very own. G asked this morning if we were serious, and I said yes.

His reply..."That's the corniest thing I've ever heard." Now, I don't know if it was an unintentional pun or not, but his comment can pretty much sum up the joy of puberty that we've been living lately.

As the day progressed and we got more work done toward the actual garden, the idea grew on him. (That was an intentional pun, for those of you who don't respond to subtlety.)

Yesterday we bought seeds and little peat disc thingies to start the seeds indoors. (I have to say, I am a little disappointed that you can't buy seeds for Diet Coke or dark chocolate.) I did, however, buy parsnip seeds; I've never eaten a parsnip before in my life, nor can I say I had ever seen one until yesterday when I saw the picture on the package. I just remember a show on Food Network that promised you could make a parsnip puree that tasted dead-up like mashed potatoes. We'll see.

It's an ambitious start- we have about 20 different varieties of vegetables going in, and I am threatening to buy berry bushes. It's just that once Coach and I started talking about what vegetables we wanted, and that this one or that one reminded us of the gardens our grandparents kept, and it spiraled out of control. At one point Coach started talking about going "off the grid" again and having some sort of mini-commune thing going. I wasn't quite ready for all that. I'm still a little hesitant about macrame and armpit hair.

Today we marked off the perimeter of the garden, tried to rent a sod cutter, failed, and then began getting ready for our second big spring project. Painting the exterior of the house.

So, pretty much we're gearing up for one of the most memorable and action-packed Springs of our lives. Coach is pumped.

Anyway, I got so excited about the idea of the garden, and the weather was sunny and warm, and I was tired, so we didn't have the pork shoulder I wrote about last week. I'm saving that one for Coach's birthday which is next Sunday. Tonight we had Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches, frozen french fries, and a garden-fresh salad (all in anticipation of our garden!)

Teriyaki Chicken
4 chicken breasts
3/4 cup of bottled teriyaki sauce (I use the less-sodium)
8-10 drops of soy sauce
A squirt or three of Italian dressing (I use Ken's Northern Italian)
5-6 drops of worcestshire
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon of dried leaf oregano

Mix all together and let sit for at least 3 hours. (I buy our chicken and put 5 breasts in a gallon zip lock bag with assorted marinades, label them, and freeze them that way. When I need them- all they have to do is thaw)

Grill chicken, put a pineapple slice on each breast toward the end of cooking.

Place a breast on a toasted whole-wheat hoagie roll. Add havarti cheese, lettuce, and whatever sandwich toppings you want.

Now, make a salad, cook some fries (Ore Ida is your friend), and eat up!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mommy Meme


Here's some questions for kids to answer about their mom, with Quartz's answers:


1. What is something mom always says to you?

Thank you.

2. What makes mom happy?

Cleaning up my toys

3. What makes mom sad?

Hit her

4. How does your mom make you laugh?

Do funny stuff.

5. What was your mom like as a child?

Play with me

6. How old is your mom?

I don't know

7. How tall is your mom?

This tall [stands on chair].

8. What is her favorite thing to do?

Go to the zoo

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?

Do boring stuff

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?

Because she's a mom

11. What is your mom really good at?

Putting dishes away

12. What is your mom not very good at?

Not this [chews pancake quickly]

13. What does your mom do for her job?

Put all the dishes away

14. What is your mom's favorite food?

All kinds of food

15. What makes you proud of your mom?

Helping me

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?

a Sackboy

17. What do you and your mom do together?

Play with each other

18. How are you and your mom the same?

We're both very nice

19. How are you and your mom different?

I'm a boy and she's a girl

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

Because I love her

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?

In the car.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Retraction

Okay, so Coach read the blog yesterday, and apparently there has been a HUGE mistake that, in his mind, makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE in the entry. So, let me be fair and preserve all journalistic integrity here.

He did NOT say he wanted a wooden map of the United States with burned stars on it. He said he wanted a STICKER with smaller state-shaped stickers to adhere once we visited.

I guess the wooden plaque/burned stars thing was residual trauma from too many years spent at flea markets and KOA campgrounds in a pop-up camper with my parents.

There.

And now you have the rest of the story.

Good day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some Cajun Randomness

No, I'm not Cajun - don't worry. BUT I do have a co-worker who is the real-deal Cajun. She came to us after Katrina.

Don't you just love women who will say anything and have the ability with voice inflection and facial expressions to not offend. She's hilarious and she knows her food- so we always like to run new restaurants by her to see if what we ate was actually as good as we thought, because let's face it...

We are clearly not hard to please.

So last night we went to a new little place called Cajun Steamer. Oh, my my my- Coach had a blackened alligator po boy- yes I did, in fact, say alligator. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

I had shrimp and grits for the second time in 5 days- for a minute I thought we'd died and gone to South Carolina.

Which brings me to the first of a few random bits o'information:

1. Obviously our pre-marital counseling didn't quite cover all the bases because all this time I thought Coach was fine, maybe even what he would call "pumped", with my plan to move to Savannah or the South Carolina Low Country the millisecond that AC graduated from high school. I'm pretty sure that we even talked about him getting a boat and a captain's license and running deep sea fishing excursions during the day while I worked at some cool little bakery or such in town.

So imagine my surprise when he announced that he would like to, now sit down for this, BUY AN RV and drive all over the country and live in campsites.

After a 10-minute barrage of "Yeah right" and "Are you kidding?" and "Are you feeling okay?" I, with as much calm as I can muster, say: "I'm not doing that. Have fun, and stop by when you're in South Carolina."

His reply? Another classic geography retort from Coach: "Babe, we could go to church in Spokane one week and Fargo the next. And we could get get one of those wooden maps to hang on the back of the RV and have stars burned on all the places we've visited." And nothing says fun like a wooden map of the United States.

Okay- there's so much wrong with that I can't even begin to go there. And while I'm sure there are plenty of welcoming Baptists in both Spokane and Fargo; I am also sure there are plenty in Savannah and Kiawah, and in the South there are palm trees and women wearing Lilly Pulitzer. You can't be respectful in Lilly Pulitzer in Spokane; I'm sorry, it's just a fashion fact.



2. All the above is probably a moot point anyway because all of our retirement funds are with AIG, and we all know how that's going. So, realistically we'll probably spend our retirement under the Shelby Street Bridge warming ourselves over a tin drum and hunting frogs out of the river for food.

3. Back to our Cajun co-worker/department chair of the science department. I walked in this morning exhausted from an entire night of Coach romantically coughing and snoring directly into my ear. I have a track meet tonight and won't be home until after 10- so I grabbed my good luck breakfast of champions, a Diet Coke and a Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tart. She looked at me and said:

"Just hanging on today are you?"

I say, "Yes, by a thread."

She says, "Don't worry, the acid eats everything- the calories cancel out."

So now I feel all sorts of better because she has validated my long-standing hypothesis that Diet Coke does, in fact, cancel out all the chocolate calories I've ingested.

4. My birthday is in 5 days and I am currently obsessed with what kind of cake I want - more thought is going into this than went into naming both children combined. I NEED some cake.

5. I am also currently researching to find out if there is any way to lose 15 pounds by the 31st of March while still being able to eat cake and Pop-tarts. So far, no luck. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The boys got tired of their cars, so we taped the boxes together, cut a hole in the bottom, and made a hinged lid for the top. Now Quartz says it's his robot costume ("like Wall-e!"). He likes to hide in it and pop up and surprise people.

Sapphire loves to hold and snuggle and mouth stuffed animals. This monkey is her latest torture victim.

Oh, and apparently whooping cough is going around in Albuquerque. "Wait a minute," you say, "Weren't we all immunized against that like 30 years ago?". Yes, you were, and apparently it's just run out. So that's what Wes has. :-(

Car Washes, Logic, and Irishmen

Coach has an old friend that now lives in Jacksonville with his wife and two boys. I got to meet them about a year or so ago when they drove through town on their way from St. Louis to Jacksonville during the Christmas holidays.

Anyway- they have the stinkin-cutest boy, Tucker, that I’ve seen in a while. Even G, who really only likes himself and those who serve him, fell in love with Tucker to the point that it bordered on obsession. Anyhoo, I was reading a blog post about Tucker’s birthday.

Apparently Tucker had himself quite an obsession with car washes, so his daddy built a car-wash out of PVC pipe and a yard hose so that all the children could get themselves a wash. The COOLEST THING EVER.

Fast-forward a bit. I mention to Coach how sweet it was that Kyle built a car wash for the little man’s birthday and went on and on about how cute and sweet Kyle and Libby and their little family is (they’ve since added little Mac, who is a wee little one). Coach turned green- with jealousy. It wasn’t pretty. But what was most surprising was how quickly reason and logic left him when he perceived a threat.

Me: “Awwww, look at that. Kyle built Tucker a car wash for his birthday party. How cute is that?”

Coach: “Babe, he’s from Florida.”

Ahhh yes, the old “he’s from Florida” explanation which explains exactly NOTHING. Odd response, yes? I thought so. Coach has quite a knack for illogical jumps in reason - especially where geography is concerned.

Fast forward a bit more to where Coach just randomly explains away my behavior and such by using my…

Irish Heritage. Didn’t know I was Irish did you? Yeah, me neither.

Yes, my maiden name is McClary, which is an Irish name. Yes, I am so fair-skinned that I am practically translucent, my hair is blond (with a little help now), and yes I have a temper.

But, I don’t have a super-cool accent, nor do I have unnatural attachments to the University of Notre Dame. I’m not Catholic, I don’t like beer, and I don’t know what the Blarney Stone is or why you kiss it. So, I’m thinking that if ever I needed a large contingency of angry Irishmen to claim me and defend my honor- it more than likely would not happen.

But that doesn’t stop Coach. Oh no. If I have a sudden outburst of temper, he blames it on me being Irish. Once, while we were at an Irish Pub he asked me how to pronounce something on the menu, and when I couldn’t he said, “Come on Babe, you’re Irish.”

Oh yeah. I forgot.


So, in an effort not to disappoint Coach and to make my people proud, I feel it necessary to say …


Top O’ the morning to ya and Happy St. Patrick’s day! Now, I really must go, we’ve got plans to celebrate at O’Charley’s.



Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Supper - Edition 11

Well, we're still on the birthday party train. Last night we had a surprise 40th party for a friend and then we went for a late dinner with friends to a fabulous new place. If you're in the Nashville/Franklin area you MUST try Boxwood Bistro. It's simply the best place I've eaten in a good long while. The service is fabulous, the restaurant is beautifully decorated and fresh, and the food is unique, but not too frilly. And dessert? Don't even go there- they make a strawberry cake that cannot be touched, and who doesn't love a molten lava cake?



Y'all I had Shrimp & Grits there that would put Paula Deen to shame on her best day, and that's saying something, because I worship the woman. As Coach says, "They'll make your tongue slap your brains."



Not to be outdone, our lady of the kitchen, Mrs Paula put on quite a show or three today during my Food Network marathon. And while I didn't cook a bunch tonight because it was just Coach and me, next week I am planning an entirely new menu. I haven't a clue how it will turn out- perhaps delectable, perhaps disastrous. BUT- I can tell you that it looked so stinkin good on television today that I wished for the first time since Poltergeist premiered and I was mad at my brother that a person could be swallowed up by the t.v.



So, here's what I'm trying next week (all courtesy of Mrs. Paula Deen and her show Paula's Best Dishes)

Roast Pork Shoulder & Spanish Rice

Sofrito:
1 green pepper, minced
1 onion, minced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil


Pork Shoulder:
1 (5-pound) pork shoulder
12 whole garlic cloves, slightly smash
3 envelops (1 1/2 tablespoons) sazon seasoning (you can buy this at the grocery store- I got it in the Mexican food section it's made by Goya)
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
1/4 cup sofrito, recipe follows


Spanish Rice:
1/4 cup diced pork
1/4 cup diced onions
2 tablespoon butter
2 envelopes (1 tablespoon) sazon seasoning
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
2 cups long-grain rice
4 cups water
2 tablespoons sofrito
1 (16-ounce) can pigeon peas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, to garnish


Directions
In a food processor add green pepper, onion, and cilantro. Pour in oil and mix well. Set aside 2 tablespoons for Spanish rice.
Cook's Note: Can keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

For Pork Shoulder:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Cut off 2-slices (about 1/4-cup) of pork and set aside for Spanish rice.
Make at least 12-slits in pork with the tip of a very sharp knife. Put 1 clove of garlic in each slit. In a small bowl, mix together the sazon and adobo seasonings. Add 1/4-cup sofrito and stir together. Rub over entire pork shoulder.
Place pork in large roasting pan, wrap with foil and cook for 3 hours. Remove the foil and crank oven up to 400 degrees F and let cook additional 20 minutes until desired crispness.


For the rice:
In large saucepan on high heat, saute onions and reserved pork in the butter until lightly browned. Add sazon, adobo, rice, water and reserved sofrito.

* Cook's Note: Do not stir at any point.
Cook about 10 minutes on high or until the water begins to evaporate to almost the level of the rice. Add pigeon peas and cilantro. Cover with lid, reduce heat to low and let cook until water is totally evaporated and rice is tender. Remove from heat.


Cajun Tempura Okra

Tempura Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
16 ounces soda water

Whisk together and let chill.


Peanut oil , for frying
2 pound fresh okra stem removed and halved
Tempura batter, recipe follows
3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt, for seasoning

Directions
Heat peanut oil in deep-fryer or a large Dutch oven to 375 degree F.
In a shallow pie plate, add flour and 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and mix well.
Season okra with 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning. Dip okra in seasoned flour and then in tempura batter and place in oil, 1 at a time and fry until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined sheet tray. Season with salt.
Serve with Scallion Dipping Sauce.


Scallion Dipping Sauce:
16 ounces sour cream
1 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt


In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all ingredients.

Mississippi Mud Cake
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 bag miniature marshmallows


Icing:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
Combine the sugar, salt, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Bring the butter, oil, cocoa, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add to the flour mixture.
Beat together the eggs, baking soda, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add to the chocolate mixture, mix well, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the icing by melting the butter in the cocoa and milk over low heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the confectioners' sugar. Slowly mix in the nuts and the vanilla. Take the cake from the oven, and when it cools a bit cover it with miniature marshmallows. Pour the warm icing over the cake and the marshmallows. Cool the cake before serving.

So, if you're still waiting on me to figure out what to eat for dinner tonight- I'd say it's a bit late, and you had better run yourself as fast as you can to Boxwood Bistro, or you could just eat an omelet like we did.

Happy Sunday!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

White blouses

OK, here's a fashion question for everyone more fashion-conscious than I (that would be everyone reading this blog): What's the deal with white blouses? I mean, I've ordered several from my favorite tall-friendly stores (JCPenney and OldNavy), and they're always translucent, bordering on transparent, so I return them. Am I just a total prude that I don't think people should be able to see my underwear under a shirt? Or is there some clothing device usually worn under a white blouse that I am totally ignorant of? Or is there some special type of white blouse that is actually opaque? Responses appreciated! :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sam & Esther

A few weeks ago I saw the video below on little Abe's blog. As sad as this story begins, it does have a happy ending, so stay with it.

Understand that for $32 a month you can help prevent children like Sam and Esther from ever having to suffer like they have. Compassion International is an organization that longs to provide not only the necessities that are required to sustain life physically, but also to providing the information and love of Jesus so that these children are also able to sustain life abundant in Jesus Christ.

Please watch the precious story about Sam and Esther. Then, if you are able, please click on the Compassion banner on the right side of the blog or click here.

Consider buying a little less at the grocery store and trying to shave $32 from your grocery bill so that a child on the other side of the globe can eat for a month. Your help will change the life of a family.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Coach- A Man Among Women

Last night I asked Coach what he thought of the newest blog post about Barbie. His reply?

“It was okay” he said. And then, very quickly qualified by saying, “it just wasn’t you; you don’t play with Barbie all that much.”

Why no, no Coach I don’t play with Barbie very much BECAUSE I’M 38 YEARS OLD, HAVE A JOB, AND WE ARE RAISING 3 CHILDREN. HELLO!!!!

Really, what I said was, “How’s that?”

“I don’t know, I’ve just never known you to play Barbie, it just didn’t seem like you” and then he very quickly changed the subject to something a little less “pink.”

Coach ‘s arch-nemesis? Estrogen. (And Rosemary the Rosarian, but that story will have to wait for another post). Simply put, he doesn’t handle girlie things well, actually he doesn’t handle them at all. Period.


So, when estrogen levels get too high in the house he has to find a place to convalesce, which usually includes a leaf blower and an unplanned and very unwanted rendezvous with Rosemary the Rosarian. All to state the obvious, Coach and girls don’t mix.

Which totally rocks since he lives with 3 girls (4 if you count Ivy, the dog), and that my friends is what we call Divine Intervention.

I might have deceived him just a bit. We began dating during football season, and I do love football, especially UT football (Tennessee, not Texas; the orange is Citrus, not Burnt). It was also during a time in my life that I refer to as my “outdoorsy period” in which I pretended to love camping and dirt. However, that was a very short lived and unsuccessful period in my life.

We were a match made in make-believe heaven.

I did not tell him that I also love the color pink, ruffles, shoes, handbags, chick-flicks, dresses, and I cry at commercials- regularly.

So, maybe it was a bit unfair; one might even consider it an ambush. But, I like to think that it just adds to the mystery that is me.

How does one of the manliest men I know end up with a girlie girl? Simple: perfume, the ability to praise him for breathing, and enough football knowledge to be dangerous- it’s really not all that difficult.

I joke, but I will say, the man loves me. I mean loves, loves, loves me. AND I drive him C-R-A-Z-Y. (The "fun to watch his head spin and almost explode" crazy- nothing serious)

He loves that I love tackle football, I don’t enjoy frilly restaurants much, prefer sporting events to cultural events, and can tolerate an impressive amount of sports talk.

Things he does not understand nor does he particularly enjoy:

  • Girl talk – he used to try to hang with me on this one and occasionally would surprise me with his vast wealth of celebrity gossip knowledge (which I reciprocated with a wealth of sports trivia – thank you Sports Illustrated.)
  • My addiction to chocolate and Diet Coke and the moods associated with lowered caffeine levels in my body
  • Shopping without a specified mission.
  • Crying without a specified mission.
  • Being in a bad mood because the Bachelor clearly made a BAD choice
  • Being angry at him because the Bachelor clearly made a BAD choice
  • Meg Ryan movie marathons
  • Floral bedroom décor
  • Grey hairs around his temple that sprouted approximately 5.4 seconds after he said “I do
  • The bald spot on the top of his head that can now only be described as “smallish” whereas in 2005 I do think we called it “tiny” and perhaps even “microscopic”


So here’s to you Coach. You are a man among women. May you always have a steady supply of tissues, chocolate, Diet Coke!


Amen.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Barbie: She's Come a Long Way Baby

Two Christmases ago I convinced AC that her life-long dream was to own a Barbie Dream House. When I was a child I had a small army of Barbie dolls, an arsenal of cars, vans, RV’s, and maybe even a swimming pool, but never the elusive Dream House.


I don’t remember why I never actually acquired the house- I think it had something to do with a ten-speed bike and some tennis-shoe skates, because clearly exercise and fashion were at the forefront of my mind at the time.

Oh well- something had to give- dream home for the Barbie commune or fashionable tennis-shoe skates to wear with my striped tube socks and terry-cloth shorts? Clearly, a tough decision.

I still sport a nice scar on my knee from an unfortunate shoe-skate tackle football game, and have rethought my decision on many occasions. Many occasions.

Anyway, turns out that our girl turns 50 today. And I have to say, she has held up almost as well as my other childhood idol, Christie Brinkley.

Here are a few little known facts about Barbie:

  • She made her first appearance on March 9, 1959 after Ruth Handler, the wife of Mattel co-owner Elliot Handler, saw her daughter Barbara making paper dolls of women with careers.

  • Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, but her friends call her Barbie, and she hails from Willows, Wisconsin.

  • Her alma mater is Willows High School, but apparently she had to transfer at some point in her career to Manhattan International High School in New York. It was during this very difficult transition that she became interested in fashion.

  • In 1961, she met Ken Carson (based on Handler’s son, Kenneth) and Barbie and Ken continued to have an on-off relationship until 2004 when Mattel announced that Barbie and Ken had officially split. (45 years ain’t bad for a Toyland romance.)

  • In February 2006, after a failed relationship with a Nissan-driving military guy, Barbie and Ken officially reunited. (see video)

  • She has had over 40 pets including dogs, cats, horses, a lion cub, a zebra, and even a panda bear.

  • She has a resume that even Donald Trump would appreciate- she’s been a pilot, an astronaut, a doctor, a NASCAR driver, a veterinarian, a teacher, The President of the United States, a cheerleader, a clerk at McDonalds, a model, a dentist, a paleontologist, an Air Force Fighter Pilot, a rock star, a Rockette, an Olympic gymnast, a yoga instructor, and a firefighter, to name just a few.

  • She has inspired fashion and hair styles for decades, even taking credit for Jackie O’s hair style.

All of this to say that this incredible woman has been inspiring girls to become educated, successful women who see no limits to what they can do.


So, my question is this: Why does a woman like Barbie who has impacted history, juggled the demands of a professional career, maintained staggering physical beauty, and managed a storybook romance ...

find it necessary to go to work in hot pants and a midriff-bearing t-shirt?



I'm just asking.





Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sunday Supper - Edition 10

Woohoo! Spring is FINALLY here. Now, I realize that it will more than likely be 20 degrees and snowing on Tuesday, but today was P-E-R-F-E-C-T.

So much so that I sacrificed my hind end for a 10+ mile bike ride with Coach and the girls today. We had sunny blue skies and temps in the mid-70's. Can't beat that if you tried.

And what's even better than a day like today?

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME.

Praise Jesus. V actually looked at me and said "You seem different today, happy, prettier, or something..."

Well sweetie, they don't call it S.A.D.D. for nothing. Coach actually suggested that I go and camp out in a tanning bed this winter in hopes of improving my mood. Never mind that I would look like a faux-leather purse come spring, or there could be another mooning incident...

But, again, I digress.

In honor of the warm weather and the 3000 birthdays we have to celebrate this month- there's no Sunday Supper at our house because we're going to a big family party,

but if there was,

we would have...

Tangy-Grilled Salmon Fillets
1 lb of fresh salmon fillets (skin 0n)
4 garlic cloves smashed or minced
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce (I use less-sodium)
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes

Mix the garlic, honey, soy sauce, and hot pepper flakes together in a large zip-lock bag. Place salmon in the bag to marinate for at least 45 minutes. Take salmon out, place on foil, skin side down and grill until the fish flakes. (About 7-10 minutes)

Roasted Vegetables (Sorry- the directions for this recipe are in movement and time)
2-3 zucchini

2-3 yellow squash
1 onion
1 package whole mushrooms
1 bell pepper
1 bunch broccoli
1 package savory herb and garlic dry soup mix
olive oil

Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Place in a very large bowl. Pour olive oil over vegetables for 3-5 seconds (just enough to give the soup mix something to stick to). Pour package of soup onto mixture. Stir well. Place in a large casserole dish and roast in the oven at 400 for about 25-30 minutes.

Sorry folks- I use good old Uncle Ben's Wild Rice for a starch and you're done. This one cooks quick and easy!

Dessert?

Buy an angel food cake, some strawberries, and some whipped cream. (A little Hershey's syrup if you're feeling froggy)

Happy Sunday!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Can Bring Home the Bacon...Fry it Up in a Pan

If you're a child of the 70's-80's - you remember the Enjolie perfume commercials. I've never wanted to fry some bacon up in a pan so badly in all my life. This commercial gave us our first glimpse at the "Super Woman" who could work, cook, clean, raise children, and have a satisfying and romantic marriage.

Then the 1990's became the decade of anti-depressants.

And then, we got real. It can't happen - not like they showed us on t.v. so many years ago.

And you know what? Thank God for that. I don't want to be Super Woman - she looks like a stiff.

It's funny- the things about childhood that we remember. I used to have this "shirt" a term that I am using liberally here. It was actually a napkin with ties. (In my mother's defense, I was only 5). But- I loved it because there was a picture of a girl and a few boys playing baseball on the front with the following caption:

"Anything boys can do, girls can do better."

Philosophy on a napkin courtesy of Kmart - what a bargain.

Again, in my mother's defense- she hated the shirt. HATED it. But, I loved it, and by loved it I mean planned on wearing it to my wedding LOVED it.

And so began the mother-daughter fashion struggle. But I digress...

Anyway, I can still remember feeling like I had super powers when I wore that shirt. I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids, but most of them were boys and they were 2-5 years older than me.

Believe me, super powers were necessary.

In all the games of football, ghost in the graveyard, and war (with real bb guns and all) the boys NEVER cut me a break because I was younger, smaller, or because I was a girl.

So...

I had to get tough. "Super powers activate!"

One of the greatest legacies of my childhood is this: It never occurred to me that I was "less" because I was a girl. Not one time.

Feminism was never an issue for me. I have never resented a man because of his abilities, nor have I backed down from one because of intimidation. I knew exactly where I stood in the neighborhood hierarchy, and my ranking had absolutely nothing to do with my gender.

My how things have changed. We're failing our girls in this generation. I didn't grow up watching Britney and Miley and Paris. I grew up watching Laura Ingalls, Blair and Tootie, Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, and Charlie's Angels. Girls were people, not "pretty." They did things- they ridded the world of evil, fought their way through adolescence, and put up with the Nellies of the world!

They lived and acted and propelled real story lines- they didn't just writhe around and say "That's hot."

I know we have a Godly desire to be pretty; to be seen as "beautiful" by another person. But at what expense? Beauty is too expensive for our girls today. They are selling their souls for "pretty."

I know- I teach them every day. I teach well-educated, affluent, talented girls- I am not in area where there are "needs" as we define need. But these girls are some of the neediest I've ever seen.

Last night I read this over at JMom's blog, Lots of Scotts. The need for pretty never goes away - and God put that need there. But we must teach balance- there is a Godly balance of "pretty."


This is what I read last night that I think is so important for girls to hear: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Matthew 7:6


So, in honor of Women's History month- send your girls out into the world ready to be tackled, shot at, and sought after. Teach them to act compassionately, but shrewdly. Teach them that beauty isn't a vision, it's an action. Involve them in sports, and don't shelter them from the games and antics of boys - let them be girls.

Because we all know...

"Anything boys can do girls can do better."



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beside Myself With Randomness

I have to say I am beside myself. For the record I do not like Jason Mesnick, NOT one little bit. I watched The Bachelor precisely twice this season. I saw the first episode, rated all of the dresses and didn't give it another thought until last night.

Then, all the talk of "the most dramatic rose ceremony yet" pulled me in and I just had to watch...and then I couldn't take my eyes off...and I might have even cried a little bit.

I watched one man tell two different women that he didn't love them and was in love with someone else. Not once, but TWICE! I'll give it to him- scruples are definitely NOT his cup of tea.

My thoughts? Melissa should have scratched his eyes out, and if Molly was smart she'd high-tail herself right on away from that boy. But what do I know?

But hey- on a lighter note - this guy isn't taken. He's never been hitched, has a stellar personality, and is as loyal as they come.

In other Momsense Randomness this week- G and AC called a cease-fire on the constant onslaught of insults and fits thrown at one another and decided to....

do algebra together????????? Don't even ask. Not a single one of us enjoys math- I have denounced it more times that I can count- but this is what they were doing when I found them the other night. For.No.Good.Reason.

Then, tragedy struck. In some sort of overnight attack, Lambie's hands spontaneously exploded. To our dismay, Neme could not surgically repair her hands,

But with modern technological advances and the magic that is Visa, Lambie was resurrected, reincarnated, or cloned - however you want to spin it politically speaking...

And they lived happily ever after. Thank you very much!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Eavesdropping on Treat Time

Conversation overheard during treat time:

Quartz: Onyx, can I please have some of your ice cream cone?
Onyx: No.
Quartz: But, why?
Onyx: I going drive garbage truck, forklift, monster truck I grow up.
Quartz: And you have to have your ice cream to do those things?
Onyx: Yup.

And, the boys also had a tea party in the bathroom.

The Moon and the Stars

March came in yesterday and brought with it a horrible chest cold, two inches of wet, slushy snow, frigid temperatures, and an epic drought on cable television. They weren’t kidding when they said “In like a lion, out like a lamb.”

Except for last year. Last year, thanks to me, it roared itself right on into April. And…it was NOT pretty.

Do you know where the “In like a lion…” phrase comes from? Yeah, I didn’t either. Let me enlighten you. It’s an astronomy/astrology thing- all has to do with how the stars line up during the month of March- something about the alignment of Leo (lion) at the beginning of the month and Aries (ram or lamb) at the end of the month. Last I checked there were vast biological differences between a ram and a lamb, but who am I to question science?

I don’t remember how March came in last year, but the memory of it going out is emblazoned on me and a poor soul named Jack forever.

Yes, my friends, it was the end of last March when the infamous mooning incident occurred.

A little pertinent back-story- March is a HUGE birthday month for us. Mainly because it’s MY birthday month, but we also celebrate both of Coach’s parents birthdays and their anniversary, one niece’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, and Coach’s birthday. That’s right folks – 5 birthdays and an anniversary.

You also must know that birthday’s are my FAVORITE holiday- because they are spontaneous and individual. What a great idea, yes? A whole day just to celebrate YOU! I, however, prefer to have a birthday month. Plenty of time to celebrate with everyone we love and multiple occasions to eat CAKE! I hope Gigi is ready for us- we’re going to wear that woman out this month!

Anyhoo- my birthday is the 24th and Coach’s is the 29th. We always have two birthday weekends- one to celebrate with kids and extended family and one to celebrate alone. Except for last year when Coach up and went to Los Angeles for a “Coaching Clinic” with the guys. Whatever.

Not to be outdone- I decided to have myself a very nice weekend thank you very much. I ate, shopped, and bought a sundress, and shoes, and maybe some sunglasses. While sundress shopping, I did notice that my ivory complexion was looking so very ivory and it needed a little pick me up.

(And, I’m very competitive. I knew Coach would come back all sun-kissed from CA, and since he’s already 700 shades darker than me, I had to catch up)

So….

I went to get a spray tan.

The first time I did this an 18-year old named April sprayed me. That experience officially takes the number one spot in my “Humiliating Underwear Experiences” Hall of Fame. I swore off spray tan at that point until…

I found out that there was a booth that was mechanized and required NO ONE to see me in underwear or a little less- I was SOLD.

So off I went on a cold, drizzly, 29th of March 2008. I got my instructions.

“Be sure to put barrier cream on the bottoms of your feet, your palms, etc. so they won’t turn orange. Take off your clothes, step into the booth, push the button, turn around and voila- you’re done!”

Simple enough- yes?

Uh- NO.

I walked into the booth area, took off my clothes and then remembered the barrier cream. I put it on my hands, and got ready to put it on the bottoms of my feet.

Hmmm. Only a cold metal stool in the booth sat on the ceramic tiled floor.

I stood on one leg while putting the barrier cream on the bottom of my foot. One foot down, one to go. Interesting…. I started to slide because one foot was slathered in lotion. And we all know that lotion and ceramic tile are not friends.

I leaned on the cold metal stool, but not wanting to completely commit my naked rear-end to said stool, I only meant to lean on the edge of it.

Enter, physics- my arch-nemesis.

Apparently the weight of my pasty, larger than I would prefer rear-end was too much for the stool. So it flipped out from under me, and in a motion I can only explain as explosive, shot through the door and out into the hall. Yes my friends- into the general tanning public.

Subsequently, I lost my balance and my entire NUDE self splatted, and I mean S-P-L-A-T-T-E-D out into the hallway onto the slimy, bacteria ridden floor.

Picture a floundering fish greased from head to toe in barrier lotion wallering on the tile floor for all to see- notably, Jack the tanning technician.

My boy Jack was in the booth directly across from me cleaning a tanning bed. He saw the entire thing. I cannot imagine the trauma the young man must have experienced as a 30-something, pasty, and a little bit chunky woman came lurching at him like some creature of the deep.

But there I was, flopping on the floor in all my splendor for God and everyone to see.

I did manage to get myself up, and with more determination that ever, got myself into the booth and got my spray tan.

It lasted 5 days, Coach came back from California tanned and NOT humiliated, I lost all my dignity, and then came April Fool’s Day.

Yeah- I know – I was a few days early for that one.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Would Not, Could Not In a Car

The new size of Costco diaper boxes make really good cars. Thank goodness I happened to have two of them lying around. And, finally, a practical use for the toy nuts and bolts that came with a toy toolset. They pretended to be police vehicles, and kept coming to me asking for police jobs. They did everything from rescue an escaped alligator to helping people go safe speeds on the highway to finding lost children, and of course the favorite of catching robbers and taking them to jail.

In other news, Sapphire just gets more and more smiley. I'll be changing her diaper in the middle of the night, barely awake, and in the light of the nightlight she'll be beaming at me.

Quartz lately says "I would not could not!" if you ask him to do something he doesn't think he can do. Maybe we need to lay off the green eggs and ham.

Sunday Supper Edition 9

I may or may not be fabricating the Sunday Supper for this week. We may or may not actually be having left-over enchiladas or chicken noodle soup.

Truth is, I have been scourged by one of the following: Avian Bird Flu, Polio, Malaria, or a severe case of the common cold. For dramatic purposes, we’ll go with either Avian Bird Flu or Malaria. However, probability and all evidence actually points to the common cold.

IF I had been feeling myself we would have celebrated my 4 pound weight loss this week (woohoo!) with the following fat-laden menu. (Actually, if you use low-fat ingredients, it’s not too bad. You might need to find a friendlier alternative to the okra though.)

Meatloaf

1 tbsp. butter
3 celery ribs, finely chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, divided
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup ketchup
3 tsp. Creole seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ketchup

Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat; add celery and onion, and sauté 7 minutes or just until tender.
Stir together celery mixture, ground beef, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into a 10- x 5-inch loaf; place on a lightly greased broiler rack. Place rack in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan.
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Stir together remaining 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon ketchup until blended; pour evenly over meatloaf, and bake 10 to 15 more minutes or until no longer pink in center. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Garlic Mashed Potatoes
3 baking potatoes peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
4-5 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup light sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tbsp (or more) 2% milk, at room temperature or warmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a medium saucepan, cook the potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan.
Add the butter, sour cream and garlic. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or the back of a fork until the ingredients are blended. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the potatoes are the desired consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.


Fried Okra (from Paula Deen)
6 cups oil, for frying
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons House Seasoning, recipe follows
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds fresh okra, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 cup buttermilk
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven to 350 degrees F. (You may not need to use this much oil; do not fill the pan more than halfway up the sides with oil.)
In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, House Seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Dip okra in buttermilk and then dredge in cornmeal-flour mixture to coat well. Carefully add okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown. (It may be necessary to fry the okra in batches.) Remove from oil, drain on paper towels, and then serve immediately.


Paula's House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.