Squash It

I’m no chef. I can barely even call myself a cook.

But I love reading Hungry Girl cookbooks and magazines, and I love the website, http://www.hungrygirl.com. I’ve written about the site before. I’ve learned a lot about ways to swap high-calorie/high-carb foods for lower calorie foods over the years, and one of my favorite swaps is veggie noodles.

I was slow to buy into veggie noodles. I love my pasta.

But recently, I started to question whether it’s the pasta I like or the stuff that goes with it. Red sauce? I love it. Tomatoes? I love them. Bolognese? Yes, please! I even like Alfredo sauce, but it’s not my favorite.

So I started experimenting with some of Hungry Girl’s veggie noodle ideas. For months, I ate zucchini noodles. I didn’t buy them in the grocery store. I actually purchased the zucchini and brought it home to make my own noodles. I bought a handheld veggie spiral slicer, and I stayed busy making my own zucchini noodles. The first few times I ate them, I was so proud, and I liked them…but that changed. For some reason, the zucchini noodles just didn’t do it for me. I gave up.

Then a few weeks ago, after reading some info on Hungry Girl about spaghetti squash, I went back to the grocery store and picked up a couple of spaghetti squash. I will openly admit that I had no idea what a spaghetti squash looked like. I actually had to read the labels on the produce shelves, but I found them. They look like the gourds they are. I grabbed two and brought them home. Following instructions I found online, I cut them, cleaned them, brushed on a little olive oil and sea salt, and baked them, face down, in the oven. After I took them out of the oven and scraped the “spaghetti” out of them, I knew I had found my true veggie spaghetti love.

The difference in the zucchini and the spaghetti squash? The spaghetti squash absorbs the flavor of its pairing. The zucchini…not so much. There’s something about the texture of the zucchini that prevents it from absorbing the other flavors, but the spaghetti squash texture is perfect. It absorbs the flavor of tomatoes, onions, Alfredo sauce, red sauce, garlic…whatever I put with it! In fact, the texture of it is so perfect that I have actually fooled my teenager with it. I served it to her once with chicken, butter and sea salt, and she didn’t even realize she was eating squash instead of traditional pasta.

That is a win!

After cooking it in the oven several times, I tried cooking it in my Instant Pot. I got the directions from the Hungry Girl website here. Even before trying it, I knew it would be a little lower in calories, simply because it eliminates the need for the olive oil. I wondered how that would affect the flavor. But I wasn’t disappointed! I was thrilled! The Instant Pot method was super easy and super tasty! Hungry Girl wins again!

So now I need to get creative with the spaghetti squash. I’ve prepared it with marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, Rotel tomatoes, and even chicken/butter. Taking a look at the Hungry Girl site, I see lots of different recipes I need to add to my repertoire. Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi? Yes, please! Spaghetti Squash a la Vodka? Bring it on! To see them all, click here.

Try cooking some of them without telling your family, and see what kind of reaction you get! My super-picky teenager didn’t even turn her nose up at it!

 

 

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February Celebrations

February. Yes, Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day both fall in February, but for me, some very important anniversaries fall in February.

My parents were married on February 18, 1961, so today is their  58th anniversary. Of course, we lost Daddy 12 years ago, and we lost Mother in December of 2017. But every year, on this day, I think of my parents. All their wedding photos are in Alabama, so I don’t have access to them right now to share.

Every year on their anniversary, they would do something together…even if they just ordered in and had some wine. Sometimes they went out to dinner, and sometimes they went out of town, but every year, my mother would tell me about their wedding day.

In 1961, Mother was a nurse and finished her shift at Baptist Hospital in Birmingham the night before they married. As soon as they were married, she would be moving to Florida, where Daddy lived. The head nurse, who was an older unmarried lady (referred to as a spinster back then), asked her as she was leaving, “Do you feel like you can’t live without him?” Mother replied, “Oh, I can live without him. I just don’t want to live without him.” Who knew that was foreshadowing for her life 45 years later? After Daddy died, Mother lost a lot of her get-up-and-go. She seemed as if she didn’t want to go on. I never would have believed it if someone had told me that would happen, but it happened. She just didn’t enjoy life without him as much as she had enjoyed it with him.

So the day after finishing that hospital shift, she and Daddy married at my maternal grandparents’ home. Mother was quite practical…no big shindig for her. Her Aunt Ola helped her with the arrangements, including a beautiful cake, and Mother and Daddy left for New Orleans right away…their honeymoon. Mother got a job at a hospital in Florida, and the rest is history.

Two years ago, just two days before my parents’ anniversary, my brother married the girl he took to his high school prom. They celebrated their second anniversary two days ago.

Their wedding was nothing fancy…a civil ceremony. I could hear the joy in my mother’s voice when she called me to tell me my brother had gotten married. She was thrilled.

Both of them had been married before. He was 48, and she was 47 when they married. My brother had been divorced for two years. They didn’t rush into anything. They didn’t live together before they were married. In fact, they live together part-time now, and it works.

Our family has known his “bride” since the mid-80s. Her granddaddy was our family doctor and put stitches in my knee when I was 11 and diagnosed me with mono when I was 17. My daddy adored her back in the day, and he would laugh and laugh if he could spend time with them now. The bride has a quirky sense of humor, making her perfect for dealing with my brother’s crazy sense of humor. They laugh with each other…a lot. They take care of each other, and they help each other. They enjoy traveling together, and lucky for me, they’ll travel with us too.

My brother has two grown boys, twins who turned 21 in December. His bride has three boys, ranging in age from 15 to 22. They all get along, and my daughter is thrilled that she is the only girl in the bunch! She loves telling people all five of her first cousins are boys, and that she is the youngest. She adores them all.

So, February is a big month for us. I had a glass of champagne Saturday to celebrate my brother and sis-in-law’s anniversary, and I’ll have a glass tonight to celebrate my parents’ anniversary.

If my mother hadn’t decided in 1961 that she didn’t want to live without Daddy, my brother and I wouldn’t be here.

 

***Next entry: Squash…***

She’s Our Favorite Child

Just this week, when I told someone my 15-yr-old daughter was an only child, I got that look. That “poor thing” look. I’ve seen it several times over the course of her life. I’ve even had people say weird things. “Oh, she must be so lonely.” “When you die, she’ll be alone.” “When you die, she’ll have to handle everything herself.” “When you get sick, she’ll have to take care of you.” “She’s stuck in an adult world.”

Really? 

First of all, I believe our only child is pretty well-adjusted. I spent her early years making sure she was well-socialized…and many of her peers were/are only children too. Her preschool teacher once told me, “If I didn’t know she is an only child, I’d never guess it.” If we go on vacation and she wants to take a friend, she can. She can invite people over whenever she wants. We have an open door policy at our house…all friends are welcome. Getting ready for a school dance? Come on over! Snow? Come on over! Bored? Come on over! No invitation necessary…

She has never told me she is lonely. I know people who have lots of siblings who are way more “lonely” than she is.

She has never seemed jealous of her friends who have siblings.

She plays well with others.

She is happy most of the time, but she is a teenager, so she has her moments.

She relates to girls and boys well.

And no one can convince me that having siblings would make her life any better than the life she has right now.

My mother was an only child. My husband is an only child. Mother was a happy person. My husband seems fine with it.

Did we intend for her to be an only child? I don’t know. At one point, we considered having another child. I was 38. But then my daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I knew I would need to help Mother as his illness progressed. I decided being pregnant while helping them wouldn’t be a good idea. The first three months of pregnancy had not been easy for me…migraines, nausea…I knew I couldn’t help them if I were sick.

And honestly, I didn’t want to push my luck.

We knew we were fortunate to have her, and we said, “One and done.”

Has she ever said she wished she had siblings? When she was about four, she mentioned it. I told her, “You’ll need to share your toys.” She was OK with that. “You’ll have to share your mommy.” No dice. That was a dealbreaker for her. She said, “I don’t want a brother or sister.” Of course, we had already decided she would be an only child, so she wasn’t actually making the decision. I was 40. We were having the time of our lives!

As for her having to take care of us when we’re old and dying, well, we can “get busy living or get busy dying.” I can’t sit around all the time thinking about that. I choose to live life to its fullest. Hopefully, we will all live a long time, and hopefully, my husband and I will have the wherewithal to know if we need to go to assisted living.

But till then, we are going to enjoy her, and hopefully, she enjoys us. We know the world doesn’t revolve around her, but our little family is important to us. Providing her with the tools she needs to naviage the world is important to us. She’s growing up, and we want to enjoy our time with her. She will be off to college in three years. Three years…hard to believe. We have plans to enjoy her while she still lives with us full time. We have vacations to take. We have colleges to visit. We have people to meet with her. We have new things to experience with her. We have things to teach her. We have memories to make.

And no matter what…she always knows she’s our favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Valentine’s Day Gifts 2019

It’s a problem for some people every single year…what do I get my spouse/significant other for Valentine’s Day? It’s less than a week away, folks. While some people are full-on romantics, others like silly gifts, and some like gifts somewhere in between. And this year, for the first time in years, the traditional candy hearts from Necco won’t be available. Necco went out of business. Another company did purchase the rights to make the hearts, but they didn’t have enough time to make the hearts for this year. They should be back for Valentine’s Day 2020, though. I’ve come across some awesome other ideas in lots of price ranges…and varying degrees of seriousness.

Shari’s Berries. Y’all think you know everything there is to know about Shari’s Berries, but you don’t. You probably know they have delicious chocolate-covered strawberries. I know it, because my husband has sent them to me before. But did you know they have heart-shaped cheesecakes and mini cheesecake bites? Did you know they have flowers and Mrs. Field’s Cookies? Well, they do. If you haven’t checked out their website, you need to look here. But there’s more! When you get to the website, if you look just above the search box near the top of the page, you’ll see a place to click BLOG. Click there for access to lots of great Valentine’s ideas, including some printables that include 102 Reasons Why I Love You. (Or you can click here.Who wouldn’t love a sweet treat from Shari’s Berries plus a booklet of 102 Reasons Why I Love You. My husband will definitely receive some chocolate covered strawberries this year (it counts as a serving of fruit, right?), and I’ll print the printables, but instead of putting them in booklet form, I’ll hide them all over the house and in his car for him to find at different times. Maybe one in a house slipper. Maybe one in a jacket pocket. Maybe one under his toothpaste. Maybe one in the car console. You get the picture.

Shutterfly Personalized Gifts. I love personalized gifts, and frankly, I love Shutterfly. I discovered Shutterfly when our daughter was an infant, and back then, it was the easiest way for me to share photos with faraway family. It also became my go-to for personalized gifts. They offer a myriad of gifts you can personalize with photos…blankets, photo books, notecards, coffee mugs, and more. My personal favorite it the photo book. You can do it the easy way with “auto-fill” or put in a little more work and organize the photos yourself. Maybe gather photos from your first date to now? Or a few photos from every year of your marriage? If my husband gave me one of these, I’d be thrilled. Shop Shutterfly here. There’s still time if you pick express shipping.

Comfy. Some of y’all are going to think I’m crazy. You might have seen ads for this, or maybe you saw it on Shark Tank. The Comfy is awesome. It’s a giant, oversized sweatshirt/blanket with a soft, fleecy inside! I got one for my daughter and one for me, and we love them. Best of all…one size fits most! It comes in a variety of colors, and I think it’s perfect for cold nights at home, cold sporting events (I’ll take it to cold lacrosse games), long flights or car rides, and more! It might look silly, but it sure is comfy! I got us both navy blue, but I have a friend who has a pink one and another friend who has a red one. The red one looks a little like characters from A Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s still cute and comfy too! Get it at Amazon here. Great for males or females!

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Comfy…photo by Amazon

Chick-Fil-A Chicken Minis. I know. It sounds crazy, but this year, Chick-Fil-A will be offering chicken minis and chicken nuggets in a heart-shaped reheatable tray. From what I can tell, there is a possibility it won’t be available at all locations, but I will definitely be checking around to see which ones are offering it! I would be thrilled to get chicken nuggets or chicken minis from Chick-Fil-A for Valentine’s Day…no joke…even if they’re not in a heart-shaped tray! I can say, without a doubt, my teenage daughter would love it.

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Experiences. Y’all know I love experience gifts. Gift the gift that will be remembered. I’ve said it before: we rarely remember gifts of stuff, but we remember experiences. There are lots of experience gifts: spa days, amusement park passes, indoor skydiving (I’m obsessed), race car driving, movie passes, concert tickets…the list goes on and on. You could even give an experience you can do together! Fleetwood Mac is coming to Charlotte later in February…that could be a great gift. Significant other likes basketball but doesn’t have season tickets to the Charlotte Hornets? Game tickets make for a fun night out. Another great one is a gift card to Blo Blow Dry Bar on Selwyn Avenue in Charlotte (see their website here)…women love to get their hair done! Check your local events calendar for concerts or special events in your area.

Other ideas:

  • Claus Porto Soaps
  • Cornet Barcelona Wine Glasses with a favorite bottle of wine.
  • Framed Favorite Photo
  • Homemade Baked Goods
  • Favorite Candies
  • Jewelry

You have almost a week! It’s time to get that Valentine’s Day gift for the one(s) you love! Personally, I’d be happy with anything on this list!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

 

You Snooze, You Lose

Something exciting happened last night at my house. It’s one of those rare things in life…well, in my life, anyway. I can honestly say it has occurred less than ten times (maybe less than five) in my adulthood.

I slept through the night.

And when I say I “slept through the night,” I mean, I did not wake up even one time. I didn’t look at the clock once. I didn’t wake up to roll over once. I didn’t get up to go to the bathroom once. I slept through the night! And when I woke up at 8:40am (my husband tiptoed around the room so I could sleep, and he always takes our daughter to school), I was confused. I knew where I was, and I could tell by the clock it was 8:40am, but I was wondering, “How did that happen?”

I wrote about sleep once before. And when I did, I wrote about the things I have to do to try to get better sleep: exercise, spend time outdoors, take melatonin, and take my restless leg meds. But yesterday wasn’t like that. In fact, I’ve had to stop taking melatonin, because it was causing me to have vivid, sometimes scary, dreams.

I’m wondering if there are other adults out there who have rarely slept through and entire night without waking up once? Or am I odd? Before you even think it…yes, I know I’m odd, but is it odd that I rarely sleep an entire night?

I’m knocking on wood as I type this, but generally speaking, I don’t have trouble falling asleep. My husband always jokes that as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m out. And lots of my friends know I can fall asleep almost anywhere…planes, cars, chairs…anywhere I can get still and quiet. But not tents. I can’t fall asleep in a tent, as far as I know…and I don’t want to find out. But sleeping through an entire night rarely happens.

I have a cold right now. I guess it’s a cold; I can’t ever tell the difference between a cold and allergies. I have a runny nose and watery eyes, and I’m sneezing. So last night, I took some NyQuil before going to bed. NyQuil usually works great for me when I have a cold. It usually stops my runny nose and coughing, and it helps me sleep, but usually, about five or six hours after taking it, just after the medicine wears off, I wake up. But not last night!

I don’t know why I slept so well, but I’m saying a little prayer of thanks right now for that good night’s sleep!

But now I’m thinking about the saying, “You snooze, you lose.” Yes, I know it has nothing to do with sleeping through the night. I know it means that if you move too slowly, you miss an opportunity. The early bird gets the worm. And that’s true in most cases.

But today, in my world, I snoozed and won! I usually wake up at least two or three times a night, so any night that I’ve slept the entire night? That is a big win!

 

 

 

One Year of Blogs

I say it all the time, and the older I get, the more true it is: time flies.

It has been one year since I started “blogging.” I started it as my own form of therapy a month after my mother died, and I do believe it has helped me cope with her death. If you had asked me about that this past December, I might have said otherwise. The first anniversary of her passing was extremely difficult for me…maybe harder than when she actually died. I think I was in so much shock after her death that I didn’t fully digest what had happened. At the one year mark of her death, I was heartbroken. Fortunately, the holidays are a busy time, so I could find lots of things to occupy my mind: shopping, parties, wrapping gifts, spending time with family, spending time with friends. I still grieved throughout the year. There are still times I think I’m losing my mind with grief. But the blog was also a big help.

The blog has morphed somewhat over the year. Originally, I wanted it to be a place where I could share great things I had found and share the stories behind them. There has been some of that, but sometimes, I find myself just sharing stories. I love a good story. I also have a pretty good memory, so I have a story for lots of things that happen. I don’t profess to be a great storyteller, but I appreciate folks who are.

I love writing about my favorite products, but my favorite pieces are stories about my life, my friends, or family members. Yes, I have favorites. I’ll list them at the end of this piece.

Just when I think I’ve run out of stories or new things to share, something else pops up. Lots of times, I see someone or something that reminds me of something else. I make a note in my phone, and then, when I get time, I sit down and write about it. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Some things are easier to write about than others.

But here’s the thing: I write for me. Do I like that people read it and sometimes reach out to me? Of course I do! Does that make it more fun? You bet! But I’m really writing it for a selfish reason: my sanity. It’s a great outlet. If I’m mad, sometimes I write about it. I might not ever share it, but it’s saved in my “drafts” folder. If I’m sad, I write about it, and again, it might not make it past “drafts.” If I’m happy or amused, I might write about that too! In fact, I just took a look at my drafts folder and found that I have about 240 blogs in that folder! And I’ve published just over 140. And hopefully, one day, when I’m long gone, my daughter will still have some of my stories.

Thank you for reading me. I never expected this to become “the next big thing.” I expected it to help me get through the first year without my mother. And it did. Now, I hope it will help me through the second year without my mother. Readers have sent me messages about how some of my stories remind them of things that have happened in their own lives. That’s what I enjoy. I enjoy the feedback. I enjoy the interaction.

So thank you. I’m grateful.

***Some of my favorite pieces from the past year (click on title):

 

 

 

 

 

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Once Upon A Time…

Television made quite an impression on me when I was growing up. I like to think I wasn’t staring at the TV screen all the time, but back then, families watched TV together. These days, my husband mostly watches the news or business channels. Our daughter and I don’t watch much TV, but sometimes, she and I watch something together…a rerun of Zoey 101 or Drake and Josh…or maybe a new episode of Henry Danger.

But when I was growing up, the big three networks were the bomb. I remember going to school on Wednesday mornings in third grade, and everyone would be talking about Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, because those popular shows came on ABC on Tuesday nights. I remember pretending to be Laverne and Shirley with a friend, and  I remember how we all imitated Pinky Tuscadero, Fonzie’s brief love on Happy Days. She had this catchy snap and point thing she did with her hands. Her sister, Leather Tuscadero, who appeared later, didn’t impress us so much.

Those shows were great, but I didn’t really want to be Laverne and Shirley or Pinky and Leather. They weren’t living my dream. I didn’t dream of living in a basement apartment with a roommate and having Lenny and Squiggy around all the time. And I didn’t dream of riding in a demolition derby like Pinky did.

My very favorite shows were shows that had women as the lead characters, and they were living good lives. I wanted to be those ladies. The shows that had characters I wanted to be were The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bewitched, and Charlie’s Angels.

I still love those shows, in fact. I rarely see any of them, but occasionally, I watch on Amazon Prime.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one I remember from early childhood. Mary Richards, played by Mary Tyler Moore, worked at a TV station…glamorous. She was single and living by herself…exciting stuff! Sometimes, she wore leotards and did 1970s-style exercises in her living room. And often, her cool friend, Rhoda, would stop by. Mary was spunky, but sometimes got herself in trouble at work. I can still hear her saying, “Oh, Mr. Grant!” In the show’s opening sequence, Mary stands in the street and throws her hat up into the wind…I’ve always wanted to do that in a city. And Mary had great hair.09-mary-tyler-moore-show.w1200.h630

 Bewitched. Who didn’t want to be Bewitched?!?!? Heck, I still find myself thinking sometimes, “I wish I could just twitch my nose like Samantha Stephens.” In a traffic jam?   Twitch my nose and arrive at my destination! Someone gets hurt? Twitch my nose and rewind time. My team is losing? Twitch my nose and change the outcome! I loved Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens.  Samantha got herself into jams lots of times when her husband, Darrin, would bring his boss, Larry Tate, for dinner. And when she did, she would say, “Oh, my stars!” She also had a great wardrobe. She wasn’t fancy, but she had some groovy outfits. Plus, if she were sick, all she had to do was say, “Calling Dr. Bombay! Calling Dr. Bombay!” He would pop right in! And she could clean up messes just by snapping her fingers! Did I mention she had great hair? I’m starting to see a theme here. It’s likely I remember this mostly from reruns, because it ran from 1964 to 1972, meaning I was five when the series ended. I’m sure I was watching it in first run, but I probably remember more from reruns.https---s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com-nine-tvmg-images-prod-63-16-83-631683_p183952_b_h3_aq

And then Charlie’s Angels came along in 1976. I remember it vividly…sitting in my big yellow beanbag chair in the family den to watch it…right in front of the TV. The three original leading characters were Sabrina, Kelly, and Jill.  Lots of women who were little girls during the show’s run from 1976 to 1981 can spontaneously recite the show’s opening monologue by John Forsythe: “Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.” They were the three most gorgeous private detectives ever, and I wanted to be them. Lots of women my age have at least one photo of themselves with their friends posing like the silhouette from the show’s logo. They were young, single, smart, brave, tough, and beautiful…and they had great hair. Last July, when I was in New York, Jaclyn Smith, who played Kelly Garrett, walked right past me on the sidewalk in front of the Sherry Netherland Hotel. I was speechless. She was talking on her cell phone, so I didn’t say anything, but she is still beautiful. I saw a real live Charlie’s Angel!

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You know what else all those shows had in common? Great openings. If you’re close to my age, you can likely hum the Bewitched theme song while remembering the animated witch on a broom in the opening credits. See it here. Surely, you can sing the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hear/see it here. And everybody remembers Charlie’s speech in the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels…see/hear it here.

Television made quite an impression on me. Now, if I could just twitch my nose like Bewitched and be dressed for the day with great hair before starting my private investigator work like Charlie’s Angels, I could end the day with some exercises while wearing a leotard in my living room like The Mary Tyler Moore Show!

 

 

 

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