Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

As you know, yesterday I spent the 4th of July by myself.  I didn’t deal with it very well.  I mean, it’s not the same as being by yourself on Christmas, but it is a holiday that’s meant to be shared with people.  Laughing, bbqing, drinking, and celebrating our nation’s independence. Instead, I was reminded of my own independence and got a bit depressed and down about it all.

After I took a 30 minute walk, I felt much better about my singledom and decided to spend time reading and watching the last few episodes of The Wire, which I had gotten from Netlix. (How AMAZING was that show?!  I’ve now finished the series, and wow, I loved it.  Yes, it was hardcore, but it said so much about city politics, policing, and how easily people can fall between the cracks.  If you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend it).

Anyway, back to the real reason for this post.

My parents, my uncle, and I are getting together today to have our 4th of July BBQ, a day late.  I’m going to wear the shirt I found on Cafepress.com.  The one that I thought I would wear on the actual 4th of July (until the plans changed).  I figure that I might as well wear it today, since I spent the money on it and I don’t want to wait a whole year to wear it:


I just love this shirt, and I think it captures the true spirit of this holiday.

As far as the food for the BBQ, we’re going all out – guacamole and chips (appetizers), turkey burger sliders, deviled eggs, pasta salad, and a green salad.  And for dessert?  Well, my mom found “the cutest recipe” in one of her online recipe websites (something along the lines of Family Circle, I’m sure).  It’s Rice Krispy Treats made to look like the American Flag.  Easy and adorable, right?  I said I’d make it, because it seemed easy, and I’m usually bringing some sort of appetizer to these events, so I wanted to change things up by bringing something for dessert.

I went grocery shopping on Friday and got the marshmallows and Rice Krispy cereal.  Then I went along the baking aisle to find some sort of icing that could be used for easy decorations.  I found “easy squeeze” frosting in red and blue ($4.85 each) and then I found an aerosol can of white frosting ($5.50).  This was going to be one expensive dessert.  But, convenience is something I don’t mind paying for.

I thought the easy squeeze packages had some sort of decorating tip on them.  They didn’t.  That was sold separately.  I should’ve gotten the aerosol can in all three colors (the aerosol can came with 4 different tips included.  I guess you do get what you pay for).  I imagined making the blue square in the upper left hand corner, then putting little white stars on it.  Then, I thought I’d make waves of red and white frosting for the rest of the flag.  Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans…

The blue frosting wouldn’t come out of the package!  Easy squeeze my ass!  I was using all of my muscle in both of my hands just to get the stuff out.  At one point I thought I was going to have to go to the store and buy the aerosol can of frosting, but then I told myself that I’d already spent way too much on this dumb dessert and tried to make it work.  I finally got the blue out.  Then I started on the red, giving as much force as I could – well, wouldn’t you know that the red came flying out?  In big red globs.  You would’ve thought someone was bleeding to death, from the looks of things around my kitchen.  Sigh.  Luckily, the aerosol can worked beautifully, and I used two different tips to decorate the stars and then the stripes.

With the creative use of a butter knife, I was able to salvage the look of the flag, but man, I am NEVER making this damn thing again in life.  There is a reason that I stick to savory cooking – I’m good at it.  Baking isn’t really my thing, and while I do make good cupcakes for my classes from time to time, anything that requires any level of real cake decorating skills just isn’t my thing.  Plus, I should’ve stayed away from any sort of recipe that would be featured in a middle America bake sale – Suzy Homemaker I’m not.

Anyway, here’s the finished product.  The camera wasn’t able to capture all of the mistakes.  Let’s just say that I hope it tastes better than it looks:



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Ever since I started my weight loss blog, I’ve been writing much less frequently on this one.  Because weight loss is my main focus (almost like a part-time job), it makes sense that I have more to write about that topic than any other.  Still, sometimes I feel badly that this blog, the one I started blogging with, gets pushed back to second-class citizen status.

One thing that seems appropriate to write about here is how I’ve been doing on my quest to “get a life.”  Last August, I wrote a post where I vowed to take back my life and stop living to work instead of just working to live.

I’m happy to report that I am now a reformed workaholic.

It wasn’t easy.  At first I felt like I was really sloughing off on my duties at work.  “I really should go to the play this weekend.” “The students would really like it if I went to that football/basketball/soccer game,” etc.  Instead of feeding into this guilt trip I was laying on myself, I just said no.  I took myself off of the numerous committees I had been serving on and kept only those that I felt were the most important.

Did I feel like I was out of the loop?  Yes.  Did I crave being “in the know” the way I was when I served on lots of different committees and attended tons of school events?  Sure, sometimes.  But that feeling of being slightly out of the dialed in group was well worth the time and energy I found now that I wasn’t spending so much time and effort at work.

It was a strange year for me because CTLB, my best friend at school and one of my best friends in life, left.  I felt a lot lonlier than I had in the past 4 years, when were were “joined at the hip.”  But before you start feeling too sorry for me, I do have an amazing group of friends at school, and we all eat lunch together every day, so it’s not like I sit alone in my classroom and grade papers while I eat a stale sandwich.  (That would never, ever be me, by the way).  We also had a new principal this year, and that made for a lot of changes.  Good changes, but still, there were a lot of things going on this year that left me feeling out of sorts a lot of time time.

But my life outside of the work day was fantastic!  I found that I had tons of free time, and I used it to try new activities, reach out to old friends and make some new ones, spend lots more time with my family, and just enjoy myself by doing whatever I wanted to do – riding my bike, reading a great (or trashy) book, watching movies, cooking, etc.

It seemed idyllic until the school said they were looking for someone to teach a “summer school after school” class.  I saw dollar signs and knew that if I taught the class I would have the money I needed for a down payment on my new car AND I wouldn’t have to work this summer.  So, beginning after February break, I gave up 60 hours+ of free time and taught the class.  (This may not sound like a lot, but this is on top of teaching 5 other classes.  Not to mention grading and prepping for 6 classes).  It is something that I’m glad I did (for the money), but will never do again.  It’s just not worth giving up that much of my life.

All in all, I loved having my life back.  I felt like I was a better teacher because I could look at things from a well rested, happy point of view.  I plan on doing more of the same this coming school year.  Actually, it should be even better because I’m only teaching one honors class, which will dramatically cut down on my paperload.  Can’t wait.

Ok, enough writing, time to get out there and LIVE!

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Lately, I’ve been hearing that question a lot.  This is the first summer where I haven’t signed up to work, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m looking forward to actually getting one of the full benefits of teaching – an entire 2-month period of time off.

My mom in particular is worried that I’ll get bored.  She knows me too well, because when I get bored, I start to spend money.  What better way to ebb boredom than to go shopping, right?  Well, not this summer.

This summer I plan to do nothing.

And by “nothing,” I mean that the plan is no plan. Nothing too specific. Mornings spent reading the newspaper while sipping coffee. Walking. Working out. Swimming. Biking. Lots if activity & focus on weight loss. Keeping the house super clean and organized. Feeling like every day is a Saturday, even when it’s Tuesday.  Thursday morning WW meetings. Seeing friends. Buying produce and flowers from the farmers market every Friday. Overusing my Netflix queue. Music in the Park. Cooking healthy, delicious meals for myself every day. Laying in the sun reading a captivating book. Shopping, but trying not to spend too much $.  Starlight Cinema.  Buying a new car in August when my current lease is up.  (I’m thinking a VW Beetle convertible would suit me perfectly).  A tiny bit if tweaking my current curriculum. And lots and lots of writing on this blog and BellaOnTheBeach.

Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.

— Henry James

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41T0kiR6-2L I just finished one of the best books I have read in a long time.  It’s called I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci.  I could relate to everything in this book – the bad dates/relationships, the love of cooking, the Italian-American (half Sicilian, mind you) culture – all of it.

The book is a combination smart chick-lit, recipe book.  The pairing works fantastically well, as do the menus she provides throughout the book.  Anyone who knows an Italian will tell you that one of the ways we show our love is through food.  The idea for the book was inspired.

Melucci’s style is a great mix of sarcastic, self-deprecating, and so, so humorous.  Her down-to-earth style reminds me a bit of myself.  This is the type of book I would have loved to have written.

The recipes in the book sound divine, and I’m definitely going to try many of them out.

I just found out that Giulia Melucci is going to be giving a book signing in SF on July 11th, and I’ve made plans to be there.

Here’s a little bit from the author, just to entice you:

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2008 was quite a year, wasn’t it?  So many challenging things occurred around the world and here at home, but we made it through.  Some of us just barely, but we ARE here to live again another day.

Personally, 2008 was a pretty good year for me.

  • I started on a serious weight loss journey that involved trying the South Beach Diet, medically supervised fasting, Medifast, and finally Weight Watchers.  I lost a lot of weight, but more than that, I gained a whole new perspective about how I wanted to live my life.  I decided I wanted to live in a healthier, happier way.
  • I graduated with my Masters in Educational Leadership in May.
  • I bought a beach cruiser and rediscovered how much I love riding my bike.  It doesn’t really matter what the destination is; it just makes me feel happy to feel the rush of wind as I pedal as fast as I can, or slowly cruise by.  I love looking at life and the things around me at a bit of a slower pace than normal.  It’s like I’m taking time to breathe when I’m on my bike.
  • I went to CTLB’s wedding in Connecticut in August, and I was able to travel all over Massachusetts (Cape Cod, Boston, etc).  It was a trip I had been looking forward to for at least a year and half, and it was awesome.  I can’t wait to go back to  visit CTLB and her new hubby at their new place in Southie (South Boston).
  • I made sure that my life had more balance.  I left work at work, which was HUGE for me.  Never before in my life have I had the sense that work is just work (although I love it), but that there is so much more to life than your profession.  I am still working towards figuring out how to define myself past what I do, but I know that will come in time.
  • I started cooking for myself. All the time.  Delicious, healthy dinners.  And along the way, I discovered that I not only enjoy cooking, but that I’m really good at it.  I can’t wait to try out a bunch of new recipes (at least 1 a week) in 2009.  (I’ll be writing about those on Bella on the Beach, if you want to check them out).
  • I started reading again in earnest, once I no longer had grad school books to read.  I’ve borrowed a ton of books from the library since May, and truly, it has been one of my greatest pleasures.  I even started a book club with some friends, something I had always wanted to do.  I really like the discussions we’ve had about the book choices.  Plus, it’s a great excuse to get a wonderful group of ladies together for an afternoon.
  • I organized my life.  Top to bottom.  Floor to ceiling.  I feel in control, at ease, and happy.

Even with all of the positive things that happened to me in 2008, I am really looking forward to 2009 even more.  I have a terrific feeling about this upcoming year.  For myself personally, I think it’s going to be MY year, filled with many new triumphs and discoveries, capped off in October with my 20th high school reunion.  But thinking in a more global sense, 2009 means change.  Change in political leadership in our country, change in our perspective about how we should live our lives, and change in the way we deal with nations and people around the globe.

Tonight, New Year’s Eve, I am a bit sad that I don’t have that traditional “date,” but I know all good things will come in time.  HE is out there, I just have to wait and not settle for the Mr. Maybes of the world who might distract me from HIM.

As we welcome 2009 tomorrow, what is the thing you’re most looking forward to?

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The past two weeks have been really busy for me.  I’m always busy at school, but the two weeks before break were CRAZY.

It just so happened that I had a journalism deadline AND a yearbook deadline within days of each other.  I’m really strict with my students about meeting the deadlines, no matter what.  In this case, “no matter what” meant staying in my room for the past two weeks, staying at school until 6:30 last Friday (Dec. 12), and going a little nuts when we ran into some technical difficulties.  But, I’m happy to report that both the newspaper and the yearbook deadline were met.  We got rave reviews on the paper, which always makes us feel good.

Couple these deadlines with the fact that I had a set of essays and 2 sets of research papers (think essays, but longer) to grade.  I was determined that I was going to grade these papers before I left for Christmas Break – no matter what.  There’s that phrase again.  This time “no matter what” meant staying up until 2:30AM on Thursday night, waking up at 5AM to continue grading, and still not finishing.  So, I stayed on Friday evening until 5;30 to get them done.  I may have been the last car in the parking lot (teachers clear out early when we have a long break like that), but I am so proud of myself for completely finishing all of the work I wanted to.

Which means I have two weeks off and ABSOLUTELY NO GRADING OR SCHOOL WORK OF ANY KIND TO DO!  (Ok, sorry for the ALL CAPS, but unless you teach high school English, I don’t think you can imagine the feeling of elation I have right now).

So, what am I going to do with myself?

  • Read books. For pleasure!  Books like Sundays at Tiffany’s, Pledged: The Secret Lives of Sororities, and A Lion Among Men.  Looking at those titles, I know they sound like quite an eclectic mix, and they are.  Recent books I’ve checked out of the library.  I’m a voracious reader even when life is hectic, but especially when I have some time on my hands.  To see more books that I’ve been reading, you can click on my Good Reads Shelf to the right.
  • Catch up on the stacks of magazines that are threatening to overtake my living room. That might be overstating it a bit, since the mags are all neatly placed in a magazine rack, but when I see 4 months worth of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Self, Real Simple, Prevention, and Women’s Health in front of me, I know it’s time to do some light reading.
  • Workout or “be active” everyday. Today’s activity was cleaning the house from top to bottom (electric broom and mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, empty the dishwasher, do two loads of laundry, change sheets, clean the bathroom, and vacuum the whole place).  Whew!  I know I probably didn’t burn too many calories, but I did all of that in under 3 hours, and I am sort of sore as I sit here tonight writing this.  It’s been cold and rainy here, so I’m afraid that most of my working out will have to take me to the gym, but that’s ok.  It gives me a chance to catch up on my elliptical and treadmill time.  I am going to start Couch to 5K and see how it goes.  I have a few other activities planned for the new year, but I’ll discuss that more on my weight loss blog.
  • Go to the movies. I love movies, but don’t find myself going to many lately.  I think part of it is that my schedule is so busy that I have to pick and choose which movies I have time to see.  There are two movies that I think look very interesting that I’m definitely making time for this vacation: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Seven Pounds Seven Pounds hasn’t gotten great reviews, but it intrigues me, and I think it’ll be worth $10 to find out what it’s about.
  • Spend time with family and friends. There are so many people I can’t wait to see and spend time with.  I’m sure I’ll post about all the fun ahead.
  • Go through my cookbooks. I have lots of healthy cookbooks that I’ve bought or been given in recent years, yet I find myself making my tried and true recipes more often than not.  I want to go through these cookbooks and mark several new recipes to try out in the new year.  I’m hoping to make at least one new recipe a week, just to keep things interesting.

So, there you have it.  Some rough plans for how I want to spend my Christmas Break.  I look forward to this 2-week vacation every year, and yet it always seems to fly by without very much getting accomplished.  I’m hoping that this year, I’ll make it a vacation to remember.

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I know I haven’t written a real post on here in a while.  Not sure exactly why that is, other than the fact that I’ve been writing a lot more on my weight loss blog, and sometimes it’s hard to come up with content for both.  Or, the other obvious reason, because there hasn’t been a whole lot worth writing about going on in my life. 

So, I thought I’d do a quick recap/update of some of the things I’ve been doing

  • I’ve been sticking to my Back to School Plan of staying 2 hours everyday after school to get my work done, rather than grading at home, on the weekends, and pulling all-nighters.  So far I’ve been really successful.  We just had grades due on Monday, and normally my weekend would’ve been stressful and I would’ve spent hours and hours grading.  Instead, I only spent about an hour grading my last 10 book reports that I hadn’t finished. It’s so nice to get home around 4:30 or 5pm everyday knowing that I have left school at school.  I know I have the entire evening stretched out ahead of me, and I can do whatever I want to with the time.  Weekends too.  It’s been great!
  • On that note of having more free time, I really need to get some hobbies.  The last two years I have had almost no free time, so this idea of having idle time is sort of getting to me.  I know that I could/should use the time to workout, and I want to do that.  It’s just that reading a book on the couch sounds so much more fun than working out, ya know?  I think I’m going to tell myself that once I’ve been going to the gym or doing some other form of activity (bike riding, doing exercise DVDs, going for a walk, etc.) at least 5 days a week to start, then and only then can I entertain the idea of doing some other hobby.  Because the main goal I have in my life right now is to lose weight, so I feel like most of my efforts should be focused on that, if at all possible.  Ok, this bullet point was a good little pep talk for me.  🙂
  • I joined eHarmony, but so far, the results have been nothing to write home about.  Or write a blog about.  None of the guys that are my “matches” are people I would want to go out with.  Not that they have anything wrong with them, per se, but they either live too far from me, are too old for me (11 years older is too old, I think), and seem to be in a different place in life than I am.  I paid for 3 months, so I’m hoping some diamond in the rough stands out and he and I decide we want to at least go on a date.  So far, I haven’t even entertained that idea with any of my so-called matches.  Ugh. 
  • Any ideas of other places I can meet a nice guy
  • The library has become my new favorite haunt.  I’ve been going at least once a week to return books and pick up new ones.  I’m like a reading machine.  I’ve always been an avid reader, but over the past two years I didn’t have as much time to devote to reading for pleasure, because I had so many things to read for my Masters program.  It’s so nice to read anything I want again.  You can click on my Goodreads link in my sidebar to see what I’ve been reading lately.  Mostly chick-lit because sometimes you just need to get lost in the fantasy, right?
  • Now that I joined Weight Watchers, and I’m  eating real food again, I’ve been able to start cooking!  I’ve come to find out how much I really love cooking.  I want to start spending more time pouring over recipe books, creating meals and showing off my culinary creativity.  So much fun!!
  • I’ve been enjoying spending time with friends and family.  Every weekend since school started I have been able to spend time with my parents, my sister, my nieces, and/or my friends.  It’s been great.  I’ve spent spa days, had cocktails, hosted a book club, gone to several dinners, and had lots of quick coffee/catch-up sessions.  I love reconnecting with all of my favorite people. 

So, that’s what’s been going on with me.  Nothing overly exciting, but all good things.  I’m enjoying the quieter side of life right now.  I’m learning to live life at a bit of a slower pace and enjoy each day.

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