Oh my.....

November 30, 2012
So yesterday I had to go to yet another government office to get paperwork filled out, approved and sent back to another government office. And all the government offices that I have been to this month have security that rival TSA. What the hell has happened to this country??? I mean really, why would terrorists take out the SSA?

But anyways, as I was waiting for my number to be called--this gem (and a few others) popped up on the screen. Patty Duke and George Takei in a PSA. I couldn't decide if it was cool, corny, or creepy. What do you think?


Watch all of them here.

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29 Days of Thanks

November 29, 2012
All rolled into one.

A few things are coming together and I can breathe a little easier. Being on the verge of an anxiety attack for almost two weeks, I could feel some of the tension leave. And then I literally took a deep breathe after a huge "Whoosh!" from holding it. I thought that kind of stuff only happened in books.

I'm not out of the dark yet, but there seems to be a light at the end of this very long and very dark tunnel.

Wordless Wednesday: Stress Relief

Good food and good company are instant stress releivers

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Menu Plan Monday: Clean out the Fridge

November 26, 2012
Well, the first holiday feast is over, the leftovers are almost completely gone (enough turkey left for one more sandwich) and I have $40 left in my grocery budget. It's going to be interesting this week.

Luckily, chicken and fish come in big bags, so I have breasts, thighs, salmon and pollack. And my daughter doesn't mind a little variety. It's easier to make sure the food doesn't go to waste when I have her input.

Monday: Chicken Curry with potatoes and spinach
Tuesday: Cajun Salmon  with rice pilaf and steamed veggies
Wednesday: Baked Parmesan Alaskan Pollack
Thursday: Chicken Broccoli Casserole
Friday: Leftovers (if there are any, I've gotten better at cooking the right portions). If not, Quesadillas
Saturday: Chili (beans only)
Sunday: Breakfast for dinner

Thanks to
for hosting

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Sick with worry

Chronic, dull low back pain.
Lack of focus.

I really need to get my mind off my situation, but I feel that if I don't work tirelessly to solve it, I will have failed myself and my daughter.

I know there comes a point where you can't do anymore than what's already been done, but I'm not sure if I've reached that point. I have this nagging feeling that I missed something, overlooked something, didn't do something right. It's extremely stressful. And distracting. And emotionally draining.

Or maybe I feel like crap because I'm coming down with something. Time for some tea.

Really getting inside my head

November 25, 2012
Meteor crater between Flagstaff and Winslow, AZ taken on my Epic Road Trip
I've been asked, "What is your inspiration for blogging?"

To be honest, sometimes there is just so much in my head that I need an outlet before it explodes (or I do)--and writing is that outlet.

I've always wanted to be a writer. In third grade, I wrote a sequel to The Secret of Nimh and tried writing my own version of the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories. Turns out I'm a better editor. But I still need to write to get my voice heard, even if it's just by me.

I've been journaling since age 12 at the recommendation of a counselor. I wasn't adjusting well to my parents' divorce, puberty, and everything else a 12-year-old introvert goes through. My father saw that since I wouldn't actually talk to someone about what was going on in my head (If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!), I needed a constructive outlet before I did something drastic. I still have that journal and the many others that came after.

With my first computer, I was able to create a locked journal that I didn't have to worry about any snooping relatives getting into. In college, I created my first website--on Geocities. I would take the time to hand-code long essays instead of quick blurbs (the WYSIWYG editor was horrible!).

And then came Blogger and Livejournal. No more hand-coding pages! I could focus on getting my thoughts out. At the time, I would still write longhand (usually on breaks at work) and edit as I typed it up. Self-censorship was high on my list back then. Not so much anymore. But neither are my thoughts as deeply personal and revealing--mostly because I know that there are more people reading my blog and I only want to bare my soul to those I trust.

Luckily, I have plenty of hobbies that I like to share about, as well as stories about my kids and travelogues. So I blog about books, movies, podcasts, cooking and every now and then politics or history when some stupid troll one on the internet gets my dander up gets me thinking and clarifying what I really think about something. It's not all fluff in here.

I think that's the real reason I write. Before twitter, my blog had maybe three regular readers. Good friends who I rarely had the chance to talk to on the phone, but they wanted to keep tabs on me. These days I know many more pop in and a few stick around for more than a few posts.

Plain and simple, I need to blog to get the stories, the pain, the adventures, and the voices in my head out on "paper".

This post is brought to you by Zemanta. Zemanta is a social blogging plug-in suggesting related posts, images, and tags to spice up your blogging. Get it at Zemanta.com.

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Who Says?

November 23, 2012
In reality, I'm the only one who says.


Sometimes I need to make the voices in my head shut up. They are stressing me out and making me focus on the negative instead of the positive. And I really need to focus on the positive right now.

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Chef Mickey Parmesan Potatoes

November 22, 2012
My daughter declared these the absolute best mashed potatoes she has ever had. So of course I had to get the recipe. I think these will replace garlic mashed potatoes as the Thanksgiving staple.

Chef Mickey's Creamy Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Recipe from Chef Mickey's Official Photo folder

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: 8-12 servings

  • 8 cups peeled and diced Idaho potatoes
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream (or half & half)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. Boil potatoes until fork tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes and place in large mixing bowl (or reuse pot)
  3. Heat cream and butter in saucepan over low heat until butter is melted and warm.
  4. Add warm cream and butter mixture to potatoes. Add Parmesan cheese.
  5. Mash (or beat with a mixer) until all ingredients are blended.
  6. Add salt and pepper and mix for another 1-2 minutes or until smooth and creamy.
Absolutely divine with turkey gravy.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

November 20, 2012
Checking on sweet potato pies as
I work on the cheesecake
Not everyone in my immediate circle is a fan of sweet potatoes, though I am slowly wearing them down. As a compromise, two years ago I made my first cheesecake -- pumpkin flavored! At the time, I took lots of pictures because I meant to blog it.

Well, I'm finally getting around to that.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Recipe by Adapted from Pillsbury Classic Cookbook #344 pg. 73

Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Total time: 8 hours 40 minutes
Yield: 16 servings
Calories per serving: 440
Fat per serving: 28g


  • 2 cups cinnamon graham crackers
  • 1/4 butter, melted
  • 4 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or allspice

Cooking Directions


  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter (or spray) 9-in springform pan. Warp foil around pan to catch drips.
  2. In a small bowl, mix crust ingredients. Press mixture into bottom and up the side to 1-inch. Bake 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes. To minimize cracking, place shallow pan half full of hot water on lower oven rack.


In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Spoon 3 cups of the mixture onto crust; spread evenly.

Add pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and cardamom (or allspice) to the remaining cream cheese mixture. Mix with wire whisk until smooth. Spoon over mixture in pan.

  1.  Bake 1 hour 15 minutes - 1 hour 25 minutes or until edge of cheesecake is set at least 2 inches from edge of pan but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly when moved.
  2.  Run small spatula around edge of cheesecake to loosen. Turn oven off, crack oven door at least 4 inches and let cheesecake remain in oven for 30 more minutes. Cool in pan on cooling rack for an additional 30 minutes. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 6-24 hours.
  3.  Serve with whipped cream. Refrigerate any remaining cheesecake.

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Sweet Potato Pie

This isn't quite the recipe that I made growing up, but it's pretty darn close. And I get to use less sugar than the original. 

Sweet Potato Pie
Ingredients 1lb sweet potatoes (orange flesh not yellow, might be labeled yams) 1/2 cup butter softened 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 1/2 cup milk 2 eggs 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (or to taste) 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (or to taste) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 (9in) unbaked pie crust Directions Peel sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks and boil for 30 minutes or until soft. 
Preheat oven to 350F. 
Drain sweet potatoes, then break apart. Add butter and mix well. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, spices, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. 
Notice the orange hue. If it's yellow, you got the wrong kind of sweet potato.
Pour filling into pie crust. 

Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool before serving. Whip cream is optional.

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Menu Plan Monday: Fall Foods

Well, it's autumn here in SoCal, and that generally means that the weather can't make up it's mind from one day to the next. Rainy and cold, rainy and warm, almost 80 ... I long for the days where I can wear boots and sweaters without wondering if I am going to create a personal sauna by being overdressed.

This past weekend was on the chilly side, so it got me to thinking about fall foods. I usually make a lot of soup and casseroles this time of year. This being Thanksgiving week, I get to cook less, and more. This Thanksgiving will be the smallest I have ever cooked for. Ever. Just two people. It seems ... wrong. Onto the menu!

Monday: Broccoli Cheese Soup
Tuesday: Baked Salmon or Chicken Chili
Wednesday: Alaskan Pollak with Black Bean Compote
Thursday: Thanksgiving! Turkey, Bacon Roasted Potatoes & Aspragus, Cranberry Apricot Relish with Ginger & Orange Zest, biscuits, sweet potato pie -- the turkey and sweet potato pie will be my usual recipes (I'll post those soon in case you're still looking for an awesome recipe), but the russet potatoes and cranberry sauce are new that I pulled from Google+.
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Turkey Noodle Soup or Turkey Casserole
Sunday: Leftovers

P.S. I just want to thank everyone who keeps stopping in on Mondays. I have a bunch of posts backlogged as well as recipes, so I will try to get those up ASAP.

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Time to Kick My Ass

November 9, 2012
I came across this on Pinterest, and since I have a yoga mat, a jump rope, and lots of time on my hands, I might as well work on dropping 40lbs (I'm down to 176 as of last week!).

For those of you who lost count, I started getting serious about my weight when I hit 200 lbs. It's been a long and arduous trek getting to my goal weight, with many stops and starts. Oddly enough, I lose the most weight when I am unemployed, I'm still trying to figure that one out.

The Workout
Pick a form of cardio you can do for two minutes at an all-out pace. Rich's preferred activity? Jumping rope. It's an incredibly effective cardiovascular workout that can be done almost anywhere, plus it's a killer calorie burner (according to the National Institutes of Health, jumping rope can burn up to 750 calories per hour). It also helps the routine move fluidly—it's faster and easier to drop the rope and hit the mat than wait for the treadmill to come to a complete stop, walk back over to your mat, and so on. But if jumping rope isn't your thing, feel free to sub in any heart-pumping activity (running, spinning, elliptical).
Do this workout three days a week on alternating days: Start with a two-minute cardio interval (go as fast as you can), then immediately do the first two Pilates exercises as instructed. Hop back up (no resting!) and bang out a second cardio interval. Follow with the third and fourth Pilates moves. Finish with two more minutes of an all-out cardio interval and then complete the final two Pilates exercises.
The first time you do the workout, hold your jump rope (you can also use a dog leash or a towel) as you work your way through the Pilates exercises; gripping the stretched rope encourages better posture and engages your lat muscles for even better total-body toning. After two or three workouts, you can make the routine harder by swapping the rope for light dumbbells (try three to five pounds) for extra resistance.

Do you have any favorite at-home workouts?

LEGO® KidsFest Announces 2013 Tour Dates

November 1, 2012

Southern California just isn't cool enough it seems. But for the rest of the U.S. -- get ready, get set, BUILD!

Giant Family Expo Kicks Off Fifth Year of National Tour
  • Richmond, Virginia:  February 15 - 17
  • Louisville, Kentucky:  April 5 - 7 
  • Houston, Texas:  May 17 - 19
  • Phoenix, Arizona:  July 12 - 14
  • San Jose, California:  August 30 - September 1
  • Portland, Oregon:  October 11 - 13 
  • Hartford, Connecticut:  December 6 - 8 
Ready your building skills! The LEGO KidsFest, a nationally-traveling giant LEGO expo, is coming to a city near you!  This interactive LEGO extravaganza brings all of the creative hands-on, minds-on fun of LEGO building and experiences together in an activity- and entertainment-packed family event for children of all ages and builders of all skills and interests.
Among the many LEGO attractions, families will find:
  • LEGO Model Gallery: dozens of life-sized models made entirely from LEGO bricks
  • LEGO Master Builders: live demonstrations and activities from the crew who get paid to play
  • Creation Nation: build your own creation to add to a custom map of the U.S.
  • Race Ramps: build your own custom car, then race it down the ramp against friends and family
  • LEGO Games Arena: roll the dice to play LEGO board games
  • Construction Zones: creative free build, play and display areas
  • LEGO DUPLO®: younger visitors can explore imagination through building
  • LEGO Retail and KidsFest Marketplace: purchase LEGO and official KidsFest tour merchandise
  • Brick Pile: a gigantic pile full of LEGO bricks for creative play and enjoyment
  • Monochromatic Builds: bricks of a single color to foster group creativity
  • Brickscapes: fantastic displays that combine lots of LEGO and DUPLO sets
  • And much more, covering over 150,000+ square feet of space
On tour since 2009, nearly 400,000 have attended a LEGO KidsFest.  Previous tour stops include Minneapolis, Boston, Austin, Cincinnati, Denver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Raleigh.  Tickets for many cities have sold out with 25,000 to 30,000 visitors in attendance at each venue.
Based on sell-out attendance in previous markets, advance ticket purchase is strongly encouraged. Tickets for all 2013 tour stops are on sale at www.LEGOkidsfest.com. 
Five sessions - all identical - are available for the each tour stop.  For full details, visit the website at www.LEGOKidsFest.com

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Happy Halloween!

Groovie Goolies Monster Mash Music Video - YouTube: ""

My daughter refused to be photographed this year, but she was a ninja. Her best friend was Katara. She had fun trick-or-treating and is back in time to get a decent night's sleep. Part of me wishes that California could have rescheduled it like New Jersey. But it's over and done with and she's happy.

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