Monday, December 29, 2014

Celebrate w/ a Sparkle-tini!

The Headlines:

It's almost the last hoo-rah of the year.

End it Sparkling! 

Make this…




I am finally slowing down.  We have one more week off from school, one more holiday and I am getting it together!  Not that I'm cleaning the Christmas Tree up or anything but I'm winding down that crazy Christmas mental state we all enter and starting too think about easing into 2015.  Just one more stop before I fully do that.

The New Year Holiday

No special plans for that Eve but I am looking forward to a yummy cocktail, some good home cooked food (of some sort) and some warm spa soaking in the backyard!  If that's on your agenda too… or if you're gathering up some friends - I've got a cocktail you MUST try!

First, every excellent cocktail needs a name attached to it that will either - accurately describe it or make it stand out.  This cocktail fits the name and pairs perfectly with the holidays!

The "Sparkle-tini" couldn't be any more perfect for Christmas or New Year's Eve!  It even raises the cocktail bar a bit since there's some bubbly in it… did I mention it's easy on the taste buds too?  Mmmmmmmm good.  We shared this signature cocktail to friends who attended our Christmas Eve Holiday Party and it was a hit!  But if I had a New Year's Eve Party (ever - I do not) I would absolutely break it out for that too!
Sparkle-tini
Here's what you'll need:
Vodka
Pineapple Juice
Raspberry Liqueur  (we used Chateau Monet)
Sparkling Wine
Fresh Raspberries

Here's what you do - for 1 drink:
2 tablespoons (or 1 ounce) of vodka,  2 tblspns pineapple juice, 2 tblspns liqeuer, shake in shaker with ice and pour into the flute.  (If making for a party do this in a large batch and pour in a pitcher, then skip the shaking until ready to pour)  Then top with sparkling wine.  Spear 2 raspberries and rest on top.  The toothpick melts away … you barely see it.  Enjoy!


I like this drink for many reasons:  it's gorgeous, very elegant, relatively easy to serve to a crowd and it is so very yummy.  It will certainly take your night up a notch!  But be careful, they're also fairly potent. You may want to stick with just one… a perfect way to ring in the New Year!  Cheers.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Be Merry...

The Headlines:


This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Remember?




It's busy.  Everyone is running around trying to do last minute shopping.  People are preparing their holiday parties, deciding what to wear, wrapping things, kids are anticipating, hoping… maybe even peeking a bit!  There is a lot to do this time of year… so much that sometimes we forget the most important thing(s).  This past Sunday BP (the husband) asked if we were going to church?  I answered, "I'm not sure we can… we have so much to do…"  to which he replied, "we can go to church!"  Yes, if you're a Christian - the important thing coming up is that it's Jesus' Birthday on Thursday, December 25th.  That's huge.  If you're not - the general reminder still applies to you: Be MERRY!


Remember that?  Holly and Jolly?  Happy and Healthy?  It's time to enjoy the fruits of your 2014 labor!     So why is that so easy to forget?  In my household… we haven't even done the yearly trek around the neighborhood looking at the beautiful Christmas lights.  Yep, for many of us, it's just too easy to get wrapped up in all that is - this time of year.

I even have a permanent stiff neck this week.  I'm not sure it's fully going away until AFTER Christmas… when I get my massage.  But perhaps I'll get a respite when I settle in tonight after I've done as much as I can with the day… have a glass of wine and take my kids to bed.  Yep, those little guys can keep you on edge or they can get you to chill with the flash of a sweet smile.  Lately, all it takes for me... reading this:
'Twas the Night Before Christmas
(as read by me & Savy - but mostly my little girl!)

 

Hooo hooooo hoooo…. he's got some lungs on him, huh?  Sorry for the shaky camera work.  In the middle of that read my son decided it was time to take off his night clothes.  I was trying to get him to put them back on.  It didn't really work.  We had to change entirely when we finished the book.  He said they were itchy.

Bottom line, it is a beautiful, special and incredibly magical holiday... especially if you're blessed enough to be surrounded by children!  Especially if you're not hosting a huge Christmas Eve Party, ha.  Please enjoy some, if not all, parts of the day… the week… the rest of the month.  Hmmmmmm… maybe I should hire a caterer next year?  Sure.  Yes, my friends, Be Merry!  Be very very Merry!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Center - Sides!

The Headlines:


These are amazing Christmas sides.

Easy.

Delicious. 

Festive.



I love Christmas.  Who doesn't?  But I will say, in our house, Christmas is kind of the ugly step sister to Christmas Eve - in terms of our menu.  The reason is simple.  I concentrate so much on the Christmas Eve party.  All my focus is there.  So Christmas dinner kind of gets... lost.  I only have so much capacity in my brain.  Honestly, sometimes I just want to serve pizza.  One year we did.  Really.   It was the year we found out we were moving into a new house… like the week after Christmas.

But again, no matter what the year.. my menu on Christmas has to be simple.  But good.  Almost as if I slaved for hours but alas, I did not.

Last year, we made these 2 - out of this world - sides.  The first…Green beans with sun dried tomatoes!  Get it?  Red and green.  Love the festive-ness of that, right?   See, I always struggle with vegetables.  Sometimes it's hard to make them taste, well, good.  They're often the most overlooked and boring part of a meal.  Well not this time my friends.  I'm telling ya… you can NOT go wrong.  Even my Mother in Law loved these babies.  AND they only take like 10 minutes to do.  Saaaa-weeeet!


Here's what you'll need:

3 lbs of green beans
3 tblspns unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, "chopped"
1 1/2 tblspns fresh lemon zest
salt and pepper

Here's what you'll do:

Boil a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat.  When it reaches the full boil… add the green beans and cook for only 2 minutes.  While that's happening,  put ice and cold water in a large bowl.  After the 2 minutes, drain beans and put in the ice bath.  The beans will stop cooking that way.  In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat.  Add shallots and sauté.  Couple minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook for another couple minutes.  Add beans, lemon zest, about 1 1/2 tspn's salt and 3/4 tspn pepper.  Cook until beans are warmed through.  5 minutes or so…  done.

Look at how beautiful there are.  The colors are stunning and so appropriate!  Plus, they have a yummy, surprising and zesty flavor.  Oh my gosh - it's like another  Christmas gift - but for your tongue!  One of the best veggie dishes you'll make.  It will not be boring - in fact prepare - it could assume center stage.   This side NEEDS some excellent meat by it in order not to over shine!

Then there's this… horseradish scalloped potatoes.  It goes really well with red meat and actually with the beans above.  And yes ladies and gentlemen… it too takes 10 minutes to prepare.  You're welcome.


Here's what you'll need:

3 lbs of potatoes - peeled and sliced
unsalted butter
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup prepared horseradish
1/4 tspn ground nutmeg
salt and pepper

Here's what you'll do:

Heat oven to 375.  Butter bottoms and sides of a shallow baking dish.  In a bowl, combine cream, horseradish,  about 1 1/2 tspns salt and 3/4 tspn pepper.  Add potatoes and coat with mixture.  Put it in the baking dish.  Cover dish with foil and bake for about 25-30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another hour or until top is golden and crispy looking.

We did steaks to accompany the sides.  The whole meal was excellent and super "Christmas-y"… but if turkey and stuffing is your thing on this holiday these could fit in to that scene too!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What your Car says about you…?

The Headlines:

My car is on its last leg.

I've had it for 10 years.  

It's a part of me.

But is it who I am?



Let's just get one thing straight: your car is not who you are, not even a reflection of the person inside... you are waaaaaaaay better than the piece of metal you drive.  Right?  Your car may be something you like but not any more than that.  Hmmmmmm... I dunno, you sure spend a lot of time in it.  IE: You bring home babies from the hospital in it. You move homes with it.  It becomes, in a weird way, a part of your family.  That is… if you keep it for as long as I've kept mine!

Yep, friends... I bought my car in 2004.  It was close to brand new.


But it wasn't brand new of course - such a waste of money (my dad's always taught me that).  I was proud of the LC it too.  BP (my husband) and I were excited.  I had my eye on the car for a while.  A Toyota Landcruiser.  I even love the name of that car.  It was a luxurious yet rugged ride.   It fit me well.  But now it's old.  Really, really old.  Like 245,000 miles old


We drove it to the Grand Canyon a couple weeks ago and it died in my driveway after we got home.  No joke.  I spent $800 on it and then it died again, for another reason, the following week.  I had to get towed twice in one week.  So, then I spent another $500 and it is apparent to both of us... it is time.  Time to get something new for me and my children.  It's still an awesome car but just for someone else.  Yet for me - it's hard.  For several reasons.

Why Letting Go Of An Old Car Is Hard:
  1. Life changing things happened in that car.  I drove both kids home from the hospital, we moved into our current house - like I probably brought over 10 loads of stuff over the course of 1 month in it.  We traveled to California in it.  Multiple times.  I drove, in the middle of the night, to multiple crime scenes/fires and one long prison stand off during my time in TV news in Arizona.  Yea, the memories are grand and the list of them are long.  Plus, I am one nostalgic dame.
  2. It identified ME well.  I'm not sure what the LandCruiser says about the driver but I was proud to be one.  Classic not trendy.  Very nice but not stuffy.  Cool and individualistic.  Eye catching yet not overwhelming.  Big but not massive.   Expensive however not ludicrous.  It was very me.  Wait, I'm not trying to say I'm super cool… or big either.  You get my drift. 
  3. Getting rid of 1 car means you have to find another!  This is the hardest task of all.  What car will become a part of my family from this point forward?  I AM One Picky Chick, you know?
Inevitably, back to the title… "what does your car say about you?"  It may blurt out who you are before anyone ever lays eyes on you but should that matter?  For (an old) example,  take the convertible Volkswagen Cabriolet.  Circa 1990.  Remember that car ladies?  


It was the classic "cheerleader in the 90's" car.  I was a cheerleader.  In high school and college,  even though I loved that car, I refused to get it.  I would turn my head as it passed in front of me on the streets and I secretly longed for it.  But I didn't want the stigma that was attached to it.   Eventually, however,  I caved.  I got it.  And guess what?  I loved it.  I'm glad I got it.  No matter what it said about me.  I was happy, maybe even a bit "peppy," as the car would indicate... but no matter.  All was good in my world as I drive the red car with a black top. 

What you say?  What are you talking about?  Don't play dumb, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Everyone has pre-conceived notions about others.  For instance, name some current stigmas attached to cars... Mini-van =  parent with lots of kids?  Range Rover = Housewife of Orange County, Beverly Hills or New Jersey?  Toyota Sequoia = Sturdy, solid, sports on the go parent.  Mercedes SUV (3 rows) = old (money) or influence.  We could go on and on… but the truth is your car should only speak to you.  Who cares what it says to others?

So I am now in that very weird place of trying to find a car.  And yes, I know it's the holiday season and it's the last thing anyone has time for.  But here I am toodling around going to dealerships, making phone calls and looking on the internet… you may ask where BP (the husband) is?  And that would be a valid question but the answer is: always working.  I even test drove HIS cars when he got one earlier this year!  

Wish me luck.  I need it… my list of likes isn't too long (don't say it - I know what you're thinking)… I have narrowed it down to -- I would say 4.  I just drove 2 and liked the inside of one but the outside of the other.  Another seems impossible to find and the other is here and there… it's just finding the right fit exactly.  Kinda like marriage.  Wait...?

Once I decide… I will then ask myself the internal question of:  what does this (new) car say about me?  And then I will promptly remind myself - whatever... I... want! 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Let's Christmas PARTY!

The Headlines:


Christmas Eve is a week away.

I need to get my party menu together.

If you need some ideas - try these.



I think I've been very clear over the last year… I am a planner.  So when I do a party, I think long and hard about the details.  That clearly includes the food that will be served.  I'm not a fan of going to a party and having it seem to be similar to your stroll down the Costco food aisles.  You know, you get samples of all their hot sellers - the old men (aka: my father) stand in line and block your way so they can nab the freshest taste!  Very irritating.  Sorry, love my father, can't stand his Costco "sampling" etiquette.  Now don't get me wrong, while I love most of the Costco products, when you come to a party at my house I want you to experience other foods.   Hence, the menu I labor over!

As always, I like the food to be seasonal.  Meaning I won't be serving bean dip and watermelon margaritas.  Cranberry Marg's… maybe.  But they have to fit the theme.  Much more fun that way.

Therefore, here are 2 eye catching and yummy recommendations I would add to any Christmas party list!

First, the red and green bite size appetizer.


Is that gorg or what?  So festive and yet so yummy.  It is a little labor intensive, so I only do about 30, but it's worth it.  They make a statement, and because it's healthy, people usually take just one.  Yes, partygoers love to indulge on this day and the thought of a tomato might just send them over the edge - too good for you.  People are ready to live it up on this night!  Which is great for me.  Therefore, more people get to try the master piece!

Here's what you need:

30 small, "cherry" type tomatoes
1 avocado
2 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbspns pesto
1 tspn lemon juice
Fresh basil


Here's what you'll do:

Wash and cut a thin slice of the tomato from each bottom.  Be careful.  They're delicate.  That's so they can stand on a platter.  Then, on the top end, with a small melon baller or spoon - scoop out the insides of the tomato.  Throw all the gunk away.  Line a baking sheet with paper towels and stand the tomato (top down) so the insides can drain.  20-30 minutes.  While that's happening, combine half the avocado, cream cheese, pesto, lemon juice and mix in a food processor.  Taste and decide if you want to add the rest of the avocado.  Then put the filling in a big baggie, cut the corner and begin to fill the tomatoes.  Almost like you're filling cupcake centers.  Place directly on your serving platter.  Serve immediately or refrigerate 4-5 hours.


Add little sprinkles of the basil right before serving.  So pretty.  These bite sized pops of flavor will not disappoint!

Next, bring on the desert.

This is so pretty, always makes a statement and so EASY!!!!  Like, so so easy.  Especially if you go store bought all the way.  I'll explain.

See, this cake could be done completely from scratch or easily arranged via "store bought stuff".  Buy your angel food cake, buy some whipped cream, buy some candy canes and assemble.  But I like to go half and half.  Meaning I buy the cake (I've made angel food cakes before and they're just a little more trouble than they're worth!), I buy the candy canes and I MAKE the whipped creme frosting!  So if you're up for that...

Here's what you'll need:

A store bought Angel Food Cake
4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
candy canes (however many you feel you need)

Here's what you'll do:

Crush the candy canes with a hammer in a heavy duty baggie until in fairly small peices.  Be careful with this… don't hurt a finger or break your counter!  Then, in a large bowl, beat cream and sugar together with a mixer until soft peaks form.  Frost cake after it's placed on what it will be served on.  Sprinkle candy on top.

DONE!


The key to this little diddy is timing.  The frosting won't hold forever.  As the night goes on it will start to melt.  So do this pretty close to when your party starts.  Mine held for about 3 hours last year.  Turn down the heat to your house, it helps.  People will stay warm (through all the extra body heat from your guests) and your cake won't melt as fast!  Seriously.

Anyways,  it's always a crowd pleaser.  Catches peoples attention!  How could it not?  Do one or both of these food items at your party plus supplement with some meat, dips and cocktails and your party will be memorable and fun - I guarantee it!

By the way, if you're looking for an EXCELLENT Cranberry Margarita recipe - try this one.  I put it on the blog last year for New Year's.  Can NOT go wrong.  Click here

Stay tuned… I'll have some more food items as we get closer to the big day!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Finding My Bun-da

The Headlines:

I have no idea what a bun-da is…

But I hope to find mine soon.



Sorry I've been so absent.  I'm sure you were missing me.  Kidding.  I know you weren't but I truly missed writing you.  See, the holidays are in full swing and the list, for us all, is a mile long.  I was talking to my sister-n-law and this year she and I agree - we feel more overwhelmed than usual.  I have no idea why.  Well I have some ideas.  But I'm not sure I'll bore you with them now.  Anyways, because of that, I thought it would be a nice idea to take a moment, breath in and out and attend a yoga class with my friend.  Now, I am no yogi.  But I do like an occasional class.  It can be relaxing.  I've always liked to stretch and I usually come out of the class feeling refreshed and ready to take on -- more than before I took the class.  So Monday morning I attended a class that was above my skill level but good nonetheless.  Until she told everyone there that her wish for us - was that we would all find our "bun-da."


She went on to explain that when she found her bun-da - her world opened up.  Things were better.  She was balanced, life was lifted blah blah blah.  I just couldn't help but laugh a bit inside.  Now I'm sure finding your bun-da, whatever that means, is awesome and super well intentioned and like a high level of something very cool but seriously - this is the holiday season - FIND MY BUN-DA?   Man, I feel like finding my car keys  is an accomplishment this time of year!

But, I'm sure she was right, I need to find my bun-da.  Regardless of not knowing what it is… I think it sounds nice.  So I'm taking her advice and looking for it.  I think maybe I'll see it when I look for new cars since mine has died twice in the last week alone.  Or I could look for it when I make the menu for our yearly Christmas Eve party we started years ago.  Better yet… maybe I'll find it when I help my kids look for Santa this year.

For some reason, I do think I'm well on my way to finding my bun-da ever since I finally got off my butt and put my new blog look on line.  I'm hoping it makes the blog look a tad more professional.  I still have to tweak some of the pages but I'll get there... just right after I find my bun-da.  I did, however, find my tag line.  You may remember I asked, "what was yours?"  In the end, I had (with your help) narrowed it to
Perfectly Imperfect Living
and
Because you've only got one life

I love the first because it showed that while I'm "One Picky Chick…" I'm not taking myself too seriously.  I hardly think I know everything.  Like Hardly.  But I try really hard to get things right.  Sometimes along the way, I fail, and that's okay too.  But I went with the latter.  I felt it was more descriptive of what I'm trying to do here.  Wait, what AM i trying to do here?  It's funny.  I started this whole blog to talk about about all my outrageously picky ideas and how I make them come to fruition but along the way I started just talking.  Writing about things, instances and situations.  Basically anything that matters to me and, hopefully, you.  From a great recipe to a sick mom.  How we can maneuver through all of it and, hopefully, be okay.  Because all of us only have one chance at this whole thing…  it's now or never.  So why not be as picky as possible?  I want to be the best mom, the best wife, the best cook, the best decorator, the best party thrower, the best person - for me.  Very simply, I want to be the best version of me possible.  Not anyone else.  Because I've only got one life.  

In any case, I hope you like the "new look" on my blog.  I'm pleased with it and my new "tag line."  If you get an email sent to you every time I write a post… you many not be seeing it.  To do so, either click here or go to onepickychick.blogspot.com and you can check it out.  No, it's not perfect and for a picky person that's killing me a bit inside.  But I will get to it.  All in good time.

Hmmmm… still not sure what it is but maybe I've already found my bun-da - I just don't know it yet… Yea, I feel better already.  

Good luck finding yours.  P.S.  Tell me what you think of the new look if you get a chance!  






Thursday, December 4, 2014

Special Holiday Cookies

The Headlines:


This is the month to make cookies.

Try these.



December hits and kids want cookies.  I'm not sure why, it's almost intuitive, they just want cookies around.  I guess I do too.  For that friend that pops by unexpectedly, a play date made at the last second  or even a planned party.  Cookies are festive and fun during the holidays.  But here's what I don't want:  boring old chocolate chip cookies.  No sir, I want a cookie I don't get all year long.  A cookie that screams CHRISTMAS!  Something special to celebrate a season that is just that… special.   I want something like this:

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
They are a teensy bit more labor intensive than your average chocolate chip cookie but the difference is worth your time!  I know very few people who don't like the combination of chocolate/mint… which is why this cookies works so well!

Here's what you need:
2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tspn salt
1 1/4/ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 tblspn vanilla extract
5 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tspn peppermint extract

Here's what you do:
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, beat 1 cup of butter and 1 cup of sugar on medium until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, beat to combine.  Then gradually add flour.  Put the 1/2 cup left of sugar in a small bowl.  Roll little balls out of the dough into the bowl of sugar to coat.  Place balls on cookie sheet with parchment paper on it.  Bake for 5 minutes and remove.  Use the back of a tablespoon to make indentations in center of cookie.  Place back in oven for another 3 minutes.  You want them to just set.  Then take them out and let cool.  


While that's happening, find a microwave safe bowl and micro the chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of butter.  Watch carefully and stop as needed.  Once melted, stir in peppermint extract.  Let cool.  Then put mixture into a big baggie.  Cut corner off to use as make shift pastry filler and squeeze on top of cookies in indentation.  Let cool fully and serve or freeze.  

Guests of any kind, young or old, will be delighted by these babies.  You will too!

  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

5 Reasons the ELF Can Stay.

The Headlines:


It's the magic season.  

SO why do some want to "off" their Elf?

Here are 5 reason's why you shouldn't.





Wow.  I can finally breathe.  The lovely burden of an overly scheduled holiday weekend is over.  I hope you all had a special one.  Our was complete chaos.  As it always is… but wrapped in pure delight.  I did "cancel" the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  Meaning, no turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes… but BP (the husband) went golfing which meant I worked extra hard preparing what we DID eat!  We had a rich app, a grilled tri-tip, a scrumptious soup, a basic salad and a decadent dessert.  I will honestly tell you it was pretty stinking good.  But a lot more work than I thought.   It tuckered us all out!  My son included.  He was a little too rambunctious for his own good…


on Thanksgiving he was a whole lot of naughty.  One of my friends asked what happened and I said, "nothing in particular.  His Dad was just home to see his son in all of his glory!"

I "cancelled" Thanksgiving because I didn't want a bunch of leftovers we wouldn't eat.  See, the day after the holiday we packed up the kids and the grandparents and headed to the "North Pole" via the Polar Express in Northern Arizona.  It was super cute.  The kids love it.  After that, we ran up to the Grand Canyon to see the wonder that is in our own back yard.  It was a lot of time in the car but it was worth it.  Until my daughter and I got car sick and our car broke down in the driveway - just as we got home.  Ha!  The last day of the 4 day weekend was spent ferociously decorating the indoors and outdoors of our house.  It's a huge task.  2 trees, countless wreaths, major white lights.  I am relentless.  Now, most everything is done except for a few details.  Next weekend.

Anyways back to the topic I really want to talk about today: the ELF.  It is around this time that our Elf shows up.  I'm sure he's thinking about visiting your home about now too.   Or maybe not.

First appearance of 2014
It has come to my attention that some of you no longer want anything to do with the Elf.  For various reasons.  All potentially valid.  One Mom I know wants to "off" their Elf… click here to read Kristen Miller Hewitt's blog.  She's funny and has some good points.  She always does actually… it's a good blog FYI… but I take the opposite stance.  I contend that the Elf (Elffey we call him) is welcome here as long as he wants to come and here's why:

5 Reasons the Elf Can Stay as Long as He Wants:
  1. He helps discipline.  This is a very basic reason that I'm positive we have all used the Elf for… "Elf is watching - better be good!"  It works.  Most of the time.  Some times. Okay, maybe every once in a while. 
  2. You're only young once.  There is a small window in which children can believe the unbelievable.  It starts the day they're born and ends various times before the age of 10, depending on the child.  My daughter is 8 and her innocence is starting to fade.  She still believes but the window is starting to close.  She deserves to spend as much time in this special place as she can.  It IS a special place you know.  
  3. There's plenty of time for disappointment.  When doing morning television our researchers used to always tell us "it's a good time to do news."  The reason?  Because the day hasn't beaten the viewer down yet.  The morning is filled with possibility not defeat.  That's kind of like a child.  The excitement remains during this time of their lives.  I say we encourage the possibilities and accept defeat only when it's out of our control which brings me to my next reason the Elf can stay…
  4. The Elf is under my control.  I call the shots.  He lands where I put him.  I can make my children happy with the movement of a tiny little doll and I will take that.  Sooner than later, someone will call them ugly, they will fail a test, their boy/girlfriend will break up with them, they won't get into their college of choice and they may not get their dream job.  And, to a certain degree, there will be nothing I can do about any of it.  So while I can… I will.  
  5. It's fun for adults too.  Let's be honest.  Part of this is for us, right?  Parents are able to rewind the clock and experience the wonderment all over.  It reminds us when our own innocence ruled.  When you didn't have to worry about hunger in the world, fighting in Missouri, your cell phone bill, car payment and mortgage.  All you had to care about in December was how many more chocolates on the advent calendar you had to eat before there were no more.  Yes, my friends, the irony when you're young is you want so badly to be older.  Then when you are… you desperately want to go back to your youth.  Well guess what?  The Elf brings back the kid in us all.  
Now as I said before - take or leave my reasons.  Clearly, you and your family need to make your own decision.  Neither is right or wrong.  As I said before, Kristen Miller Hewitt had good, humorous  points on her blog and she's a gifted, sweet and thoughtful writer - so this is by no means a "diss" on her or any other writers who may feel the same way.  But as I take the opposite stance I know there are quite a few in this school of thought too.  See, I'm convinced there are so many "Breakfasts with Santa,"  "Polar Express'", "North Pole Experiences'" "Elf on the Shelfs'"  because the children who were enamored and drawn to the story of Santa… are now parents.  WE are doing it.  WE are demanding it.  WE are, literally, buying into it.  For our children and for ourselves.  It's simply because there are few, truly magical times in our lives.  One can hope for many but usually they are rare…  that's why they're considered so special.  I would bet at least one of those precious, magic moments came around the Christmas Season which is why so many of us hold it so dear.  Sure, the little Elf charade is delaying the inevitable… but for all the reasons above, I am very okay with that.  My wish… is that you are too!




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Best (cheap) Holiday Cards Ever!

The Headlines:


I get excited for holiday cards.  

I like them to look good, original and, well, not cheap.

Yet, I want them to be cheap.




I know, I know… no one likes the word cheap.  Especially in marketing.  I don't like the word cheap… but sometimes "less expensive" just doesn't bring it home like CHEAP does?  You know what I mean?     Hopefully you do or you may be extremely put off in the very first paragraph if this blog!

Back to business… now that Thanksgiving dinner is almost over (or is over, depending upon when you read this)… it will be time to switch into High Holiday Alert!  Which, at least for me, includes Holiday cards.  Holiday cards are my thing.  I wrote about it last year… I just like doing them.  I like getting them too.  Each year there are a few families that I anticipate getting.  You know who you are!  Because they're good, i.e: fun to look at, themed, heartfelt.  I feel like it's a families way (outside of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) to kind of connect to people that matter to them during this special time of year - near and far.  It's traditional, it's kind, it's expensive.  Between the stamps, the photographer (if you hired one), the cards… it can cost a lot to keep that tradition going.  There are cheaper options.  But, being One Picky Chick - I want my cards to look like I got them from a designer graphic artist who custom made them, for me.  Well, now I have one.

Vistaprint.  

I've been using them for the last few years and here's why.  They let you create your own cards (from scratch) paying NO EXTRA MONEY.  I am NOT a graphic designer but here's the deal: they are.  Their call center staff is in Jamaica and the (mostly) Jamaican ladies I speak to on the phone can do what I can't.  My Christmas cards this year are crazy.  I have a picture on front like normal.  But on the inside I placed 10, yes ten, tiny pictures around the message… plus I wanted to add a smaller picture on the back with some extra text.  They did it all… NO EXTRA CHARGE!  I thought they for sure were going to add an extra charge for TEN extra pictures on the inside of the card.  Oh no… I got 10 cards with my own message, 60% off!  I think they were $6.  Of course there was a coupon… they always have coupons.  And I only order 10 so I can see it for myself before I order another 200.  I want to get it right.

Here's a postcard we made 2 plus years ago when we first moved into the house we live in now.  The picture supposed to look crazy because we just moved and it said "Sorry for the chaos…" on the outside "but we moved!" on the inside... in quirky writing.


It's nothing super special but it was original and cheap.  And I'm using it because I didn't want to put my 2014 Holiday cards on my blog this year.

So, if you're game here's how you can custom make your own cards for, well, I'm just gonna say it… cheap.  Start by clicking HERE.  It will take you to a link which will give you a $10 off coupon plus you'll probably be able to find another percentage off if you search their website for a promo code.  Then get yourself to "Holiday Photo Cards,"  then "Shop Photo Cards" and then "Browse all Photo Cards."  Until you see the first box that says "Upload a Complete Design" only you don't have to upload a complete design… just the picture you want to start with.  But be prepared with a bit of a plan.     what does that mean?  Think about it.

5 Tips for Holiday cards:

  1. What picture do you want to use?  Change it up a bit.  You shot on the desert last year, this year try the beach.
  2. Have a particular idea and theme.  Quirky or traditional?  Thoughtful or funny?
  3. Say something that means something.  That can be short and sweet or  a small paragraph about your hopes and dreams!
  4. Try non-traditional colors. At the beach - turquoise might be nice.  Red and green get old! 
  5. Do what you want.  It's your card.  Make yourself (and your family) happy!
Anyways, while you're on Vistaprint and you've uploaded your photo, fiddle around with your words and colors for a bit and then at one point just call them on the 866 number they have for you on the top right hand corner.  Those ladies can then can help launch your card from ho-hom to badda bing badda bang!

TIP: some graphic artists are more talented than others.  If you're not getting what you want from one, hang up and dial another… she may be better.

I can promise you your cards will come out great… I get compliments every year and I'm convinced that's due, in part, to Vistaprint.  Plus it might be because I start thinking about them in mid-May.  But whose counting?





Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving - The ---- has Hit the Fan!

The Headlines:


I am going crazy.

The holidays are in full swing.

And the S--- has hit the fan!




I just came back from my friend's house.  We had a nice dinner and our kids played very sweetly together.  It was about 3 hours of good friend time.  Of which I had no time for.


If you're a mom of 1, 2 or 6 children you probably know what I'm talking about.  This time of year there are a lot of balls in the air.  You must
  1. Plan parties 
  2. Go to parties 
  3. Plan dinners 
  4. Plan to look at holiday lights
  5. Holiday decorate
  6. Put laundry away - do dishes (over and over) 
  7. Bake cookies
  8. Christmas shop 
  9. Go see Santa
  10. Plan holiday cards 
  11. Take pictures for holiday cards 
  12. Mail holiday cards
  13. Internet shop
  14. Hide stuff 
  15. Wrap stuff 
  16. Travel somewhere 
  17. Exercise (because of all the parties) 
  18. Still do all your everyday "mommy" stuff
  19. Not to mention - fill in the blank - everyone has their things.  Do you have rental properties?  Internet problems?  Phone problems?  Remodeling problems?  Friend Birthdays?  A part time job?  A husband who travels all the time?  Car trouble?  
  20. The list goes on… depending on the person you are. 
Yep, this year at this time… in my house, the S--- has hit the fan!  I need to re-gain control fast because today, tomorrow and the next month I will be running and gunning.  I did not want to take 3 hours and spend some time with a great friend, but I did… and you know what?  I feel better.  Instead of getting my "stuff" handled… I just talked about it all.  That probably did me way more good than the 3 hours I could have spent at home attempting to get it all done.

It reminded me that we get so wrapped up in the craziness of this time of year sometimes we forget to enjoy this time of year.  We, I, concentrate so much on what we need to do… we forget about why we're doing it in the first place.  The message is not new… we hear it a million times, especially in December - but still… we ALL forget - until something reminds us to stop.

This was my reminder last year.  I watched it again today.  You should too... it's quick.



That's my son.  Singing "Jesus Loves Me"… repeating one of the phrases over and over and then ending with the cutest smooch face/pursed lips ever!  Nothing like the words of a child to make you stop in your tracks. You know what they say:

Sometimes the best present is presence.

Actually, that's not exactly how "they" say it but it's how I phrased it for my purpose today.  See, last Thanksgiving my son had just started pre-school for the very first time.  He was in the 2's class.  And at his preschool they sing a lot of songs that center around Jesus because it's a Christian school.  So very early on he started coming home and singing.  It was delightful.  One of the best sounds I'd ever heard.  Because he was mine.  Your best sound comes from your own child!

Since we couldn't have some of our family here for Thanksgiving… I thought, maybe I should send my son to them - with this cute song - a song that would surely should remind everyone to stop in their tracks and enjoy the day, the season, the time.  We will never get it back.

This year, my son sings "Jesus Loves Me" perfectly - exactly the way he's supposed to… and a little part of me, wishes he didn't.

So yes, the S--- has hit the fan over here.  Just like it has in houses all over America.  But as I deal with the craziness during this next month (plus) I will find the moments to stop, enjoy my friend - my son - my daughter - my husband's ---presence.  Because I will remember "Jesus Loves Me" is the greatest gift of all.





Monday, November 17, 2014

Salted Caramel Dessert

The Headlines:


To me, caramel and Thanksgiving go hand in hand.

You will too after you try this deconstructed cheesecake!





I will be honest.  The Thanksgiving menu in my house is quite a big deal.  I spend a decent amount of  time trying figure out what I'll be serving on that special day.  Unless I cancel it.

HUH? Yea, sometimes I cancel the traditional dinner and do something a lot easier.  For different reasons… BP (the husband) wants to play golf and can't help me much, we go out of town for the weekend and I don't want leftovers or well, let's face it - it's a lot of work during a busy time of year.  I pick and choose my moments!

But enough about me… back to you.  If you're serving a big, traditional spread this year - this dessert is your moment.  The perfect exclamation point to a dynamic dinner!  Presenting...

Salted Caramel Cheesecake
As always, not too hard to make (there is a tricky part with the caramel) and the pay off is huge.  The other reason I love this dessert is that you can make it a day ahead of time… so it frees you up to do the other dishes on Thanksgiving day.  For the record, that's the case with a lot of ramekin desserts, which is why I do them often.

Here's what you'll need:

Cheesecake
8 ounces of cream cheese - softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream

Caramel
12 tblspns light corn syrup
1 cup plus 4 tblspns sugar
6 tblspns unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tspn salt 
coarse salt (or just use regular)

Here's what you do:
Heat oven to 325.  In a large bowl, beat cc and sugar until smooth.  Then add eggs, followed by sour cream.  Pour into 6 small ramekins.  Place the ramekins into a pan and pour water into the pan so that it comes up to the halfway mark on the ramekin.  


Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are firm and the center is still jiggly.  Turn off the oven and leave in for 1 hour.  Once out transfer to a rack to cool completely

While those are baking you have to make a decision, do you make the caramel or do you buy it in the store and pretend you did?  I say the answer is up to you.  Though I will also say the recipe that follows is great.  But a tad tricky.  Be careful, as good caramel can go to burnt caramel in seconds.  In a medium sauce pan heat the corn syrup.  Stir in the sugar and cook over medium heat.  Keep stirring.  A dark amber color will start to emerge.  This is the dicey part… too long and it will burn.


Take it off the heat and stir in the butter, followed by the cream. 


Transfer the caramel to a heatproof bowl and let cool.  Stir in 1 tspn of salt.  

Once cooler, pour the caramel on top of the cheesecakes.  You should have lots leftover to sprinkle on the plate the ramekin will sit on to make it look more festive (or save it for ice cream later that weekend).  Clearly I didn't sprinkle for that for the picture below but I should have…  

Anyways, refrigerate the cheesecakes at least 3 hours before serving.  I actually made these the day before and just placed some saran wrap over the top.  Sprinkle with coarse salt just before presenting.  If you don't have the coarse salt, any will work but it's better if it's coarse. 


Also, since there's no crust in this dish I would add a small graham cracker or 2 on that plate with that drizzled caramel.  Therefore, it sort of becomes a "deconstructed cheesecake" if you will.

  
Mmmmmm yum.  Guests will love it.  So will you!  Goes so well with a traditional turkey spread.  Here's to a Happy, caramel-y Thanksgiving dinner and dessert.  That is, if you don't cancel it.   Heeee heeee.






Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Best Snack Bar EVER!

The Headlines:


It's the holiday season.

Lots of food to buy.

That means Costco. 

Here's why that makes you lucky.




I don't know about you but my family and I are big Costco shoppers.  We head to that gi-normous warehouse store probably about once a week, Trader Joe's is another big food supplier in our hood and then the normal grocery store falls in at third.  When the holidays hit, i.e.: more parties, more dinners, more food… we may even go (to Costco) twice in one week.  I usually bring the kids and here's why…


the major yum food they have at their snack bar.  I am dead serious.  Every single time we go we, without fail, I get these. 

Why?  They make me happy.  They make the kids happy.  And that is a great bargaining tool.  "You're good in Costco, you get a slushy."  Or "here's a slushy on the front end of the trip - sit down in the cart and let me shop while you chug it, slowly, please!"  

Berry Costo Smoothie
A coffee slushy for the MRS. - berry ones for the children -  and let me tell you the latte freeze is full of serious caffeine.   So if you need a pick me up - bingo.  They can even drizzle chocolate sauce if you want it to be more of a mocha.  I used to always have them do that but one day they forgot to put it in and I discovered I liked it better that way.  I usually don't even finish it - I put it in the freezer for another day.  They're not theee most healthy things for the kids but they're also not the worst and they're a treat.  Not to mention they are $1.45.  Uh-huh.  You heard me right.  One dollar and 45 cents.  Crazy cheap.  And if you're on a budget mommies… I'll tell ya you can not get FRAP-A-anthing for that price!  Sometimes, I'll even ask the nice Costco snack bar people to split the drink for the kids.  If they just ate a big lunch or something.  They do, always as nice as pie those Costco people.

Now, some of you may be going "no-duh" to this post and to you, I salute.  But I am writing this because plenty of you have no idea these little drinkable gushes of gold exist.  Plenty Mom friends are stunned by such a rare and special find.  Heck, my father in law, one serious frapa-star-cino drinker… may well be sworn off the stuff since he discovered the Costco Latte Freeze.  I'm pretty sure his Costco Snack Bar is on a first name basis with him by now.

Then, there's the other incredible food gem at Costco.


People, I am NOT kidding.  Best pizza under $10 you'll ever have.  Because yep, a whole pie - and these puppies are big.  Is only a cool 10 bucks.  For a huge slice, it's less than 2 bucks.  But cost aside…  the everything pizza is major major yum.  I know Italians are turning over in their graves, cars, beds, seats - wherever - hearing something like that but I kid you not,  it's a darn good pizza.  Oddly enough though I am not crazy about their normal pepperoni pizza.  It's not half as good as the everything one.  I know, weird.  Get a closer look.

Everything Costco Pizza
Seriously, awesome.  And no - once again - no one is paying me to say this.  Bummer I know.

Then there's this new item they just added recently and BP (the husband) happens to love it.  I can not speak to it as I have yet to really try it.


It's a BBQ sandwich with coleslaw on it.  It's costLY for Costco coming in at just under 5 dollars.  But BP says it's worth the dough.  I'm not swearing by it yet… but I will stand behind those slushies and everything pizza.  I'll stand behind them, beside them, with them for a holiday picture… heck I'll go anywhere with those treats.  And trust me, you should too!

Here's the epilogue to this blog post:  they now take credit/ATM cards at their snack bar.  Ahhhhhhlllllllllleluia.  Something they have never done.  Until now.  So I, the Mom-who-never-ever-has-cash-on-hand, always-had-to-have-an-emergency-$3-stashed-to-support-my (our)-snack-bar-addiction, can relax.  I can get the food I want with the card in my wallet.  It's a whole new world.  My family may eat an everything pizza once every week now.  Or at least, we could if we wanted to…

So have a good time shopping at your Coscto this season… and don't forget the snack bar.  See ya there!


Monday, November 10, 2014

What's Your Tag Line?

The Headlines:


It's time to update my look (of my blog).

Now I need a "tag line..."

So what is it?

Better yet, what's yours?



I happen to love this blog.  It's fun.  I get to write - about whatever I want… it challenges me, gives me a creative outlet and in a weird way, I feel it kind of keeps me in the game a bit.  No, I don't get paid anything to do what I do.  No I don't have millions of followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, You Tube.  No, no, no.  But yes, I like it.   Every once in a while, I hear that others do too.  For me, that's enough.

I've decided it's now time to update the look of the blog I love so much!  Settling on a look wasn't that hard.  It was, in fact, simple.  You buy a pre-made template and, in theory, easily throw it on my blogger background.  I have yet to do that however… the hold up?  My tag line.  With the purchase of the template, the designer adds your "tag line" to the header (the top) of the front page and then sends it to you.  Now, the question becomes:  what IS my line?


I have asked other bloggers, friends, thought about it myself while walking (that's a good time for me to think) and have yet to decide definitively.  Here are some ideas (each of which I really like):

One Picky Chick
Because you've only got one life

One Picky Chick
Picky about things… Pickier about life

One Picky Chick
PurposeFULL Picky Living

One Picky Chick
Perfectly Imperfect Living

I need to decide on which one suits me, or rather, my blog best.  That's not an easy thing to do.  Think about it - what's your tag line?  It's like defining your life in a few words.  Not even a full paragraph but words!  Perhaps when you find this "tag line..." you provide yourself a clarity you didn't even know you were lacking.  Still, finding it is hard.

Part of the reason this task is so difficult for me is because I started this blog with one intent but it sort of morphed into another.  It began as a way to chronicle decorating/remodeling, cooking and party ideas.  But something happened along the way and I just started writing about life in general.  No spectacular creation needed.  Not every time anyways.  It showed me:  I may be picky about what I do and the things I try -  but I now know I'm choosier about the life I lead.  As well I should be.  As well we ALL should be.  We all have just one shot to make this time our own.  One try to "write" our story.  One time to get it right.  So I intend to pick and choose the best ways for me and my family.  I hope others will do the same.  Whether or not they literally do the same as me doesn't matter.  For instance, I happen to think, in a rush, the "warm cookie dessert" is one of the easiest/yummiest/most impressive desserts ever (you can find it here).  After you try it, you may not agree… but perhaps it will inspire you to find yours!  When you do, it will make your life that much sweeter.  And isn't that the goal?  The sweeter, the better.

SO that is why I'm One Picky Chick.  Now, to put it all in a "tag line" - for me - is next to impossible.  Probably because I'm... picky.  But guess what?  I wouldn't change a thing.

Tell me what you think. Which above "tag line" do you like?  Give me your new ideas…? Or tell me your own personal "tag line!"  Apparently in this new age of social media we live in - we all need one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Get Your Give On!

The Headlines:


Now's the time to teach a lesson.

We will take our blessings and give to a cause that matters to us.

Here's how we're doing it.


  


It's this time of year we all tend to have a lot of friends and family over.  Everyone feels more festive.  People come and go… us personally, we have a Halloween party, lots of different in-house dinner dates.  Thanksgiving.  We have a fairly decent size Christmas Eve Party.  That kind of stuff.  It's a good opportunity to… well, ask people for money.  Not for us.  For a cause.

I thought it was time we taught our kids a small life lesson about giving back.  Sure we give money to our church, my daughter raises money for the Girl Scouts with cookie sales, maybe a school fundraiser here or there but it's time to do a grass roots effort that they are, mostly, in charge of - from start to finish.  One they can see through and understand fully.

So the first thing to figure out was… our cause.  We decided on Alzheimer's Disease.  Specifically, the research to find ways to prevent it.  Because we all feel - memory matters.  Our family has been touched by it on both sides.  And while no ailment is easy this one is difficult for different reasons.  The body is working so the person is technically there.  But they are not.  They may appear okay but just below the surface they're slowly and steadily dying inside.  It is heart breaking for the person.   But painful for the people around them.

Our kids were in complete agreement.  We got a big glass jar with a lid on it and stuck it right by our front door so it would remind us to ask when someone enters or leaves our home.


I wrote out what, exactly, we were doing… where the money would go and how people could volunteer or get more information.

Only, my kids forgot to tell anyone at our Halloween Party about it.  Not one soul… oops.  Remember, I told you earlier this week Halloween was chaos.  But they did contribute money themselves.  The two of them dove into they their own "spending money" jars/piggy banks and put in their contributions to the cause.


They weren't stingy either - they made me proud.  Now, if they can only remember to tell everyone who comes over to give us their extra change so we can pass it on.  Yes, I see the irony in that last sentence.  Specifically, we're going to donate the money raised over the next several months to the Alzhemier's Prevention Initiative.  It's an international collaborative effort to postpone, reduce or prevent the onset of the disease.  They're associated with Banner Alzheimer's Institute and the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium.  If you're interested in more information go to www.endalznow.org There, you can sign up for newsletters or volunteer opportunities.  Another source is here.

So if you take anything away from this post, I would say, "get YOUR give on" this season. Decide what matters to you and your children and teach them a lesson that may - arguably - matter more than the ones they learn in school.

Wish us luck…  I'm not sure the dollars will be too high but I'm also not sure that means as much right now.   See, the lesson will come through the effort.  The money, while important, is secondary.  Isn't it always the journey that matters more than the destination?   Here's to our safe travels.  And, hopefully, yours too!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hi - Thanksgiving? Time to Bring it!

The Headlines:


Goodbye Halloween.

Hello Thanksgiving.

Goodbye Boring.

Hello Smashing!




Can I just say - thank God I made it?  Wow that Halloween was chaotic!  It's so fun to plan class parties and house parties but it sure is a lot of work, huh?  Not to mention, with Halloween it's the added craziness of having a party for 25 people at which you can only stay for a short while before you have the pressure of getting out the door to the main event - Trick or Treating!  That's my downfall.  I have neighbors who have golf carts lined up, chalk full of waters, glow sticks and Fireball the night before they go out!   Me?  I throw everyone out the door when I realize it's getting too late.  Yes, I'm picky but sometimes it gets away from me… I've only been doing this Halloween party thing for 2 years now!  Next year, will be better….?  Right.
The Firefighter & Spider Queen
So Tis' the season to move from one holiday to another!  Halloween's over.  Thanksgiving's around the corner.  There are things to be done.  Starting with taking down the black and white decor and replacing it with more gourds and pumpkins.  Man I hate that.  See, that was the reason I used to only decorate for Fall.  Since I have embraced Halloween decor - now it turns one season into two - which means more work for me!

Sometimes being picky is exhausting.  Wait, sometimes?

Anyways…  after the removal of all things Halloween the next big agenda item is deciding on the menu you'll be serving for the big bird day.  That is, if you have the big bird day at your house.  I always do.  If you don't… bravo.  You have room in your brain to move on to other things… unlike me who instead spends her time thinking about - what to serve.  Geez, when I put it that way it makes me sound pathetic, huh?  So, if you're pathetic like me (I am soooooo kidding) I'd like to give you an idea for a great side to go with your turkey.  I bring you these…

Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes   
Goat Cheese Smashed Potatoes and they are delish!  Smashing really.  Here's the thing, they are mashed potatoes with a twist.  I HATE BORING!  Mashed potatoes people - by themselves - are boring.  We've had them one million times.  Change it up a bit.  Traditions are awesome but so is living with variety - especially when it comes to food!  These go marvelously with turkey and stuffing and they just take your dinner up a notch.  As it should be.  Your Aunt Betty, who makes the same potatoes every single year will thank you, I promise.  

Of course, as always, it's easy.  Takes hardly any hands on time.

Here's what you need:
3 lbs peeled potatoes cut into chunks
2 cups milk
10-12 oz of goat cheese (depending upon your taste)
5 or 6 green onions, chopped 
salt & pepper

Here's what you do:
In a large sauce pan put potatoes, 2 tspns of salt and enough water to cover the potatoes.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium low until really tender.  About 20 minutes.  Drain and return to pan.  Add milk and cheese. 

Mash with masher, mix in additional salt, pepper and onions to taste.   Serves 8, give or take.  Like I said, it goes wonderfully well with a Thanksgiving dinner.  Your guests will be pleasantly surprised.

Now excuse me while I go think about some other very important things.  Like stuffing. 





  








Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why I Cry.

The Headlines:

I cry.

Sometimes in front of my children.

It helps me. 

Does it hurt them?






For as long as I can remember, I have cried.  I have always been an emotion ball.  Call it empathetic or pathetic, I cry.  As a little girl, I would sit on the couch in my house with my Mom and ball over an episode of Little House on the Prairie.  One of the best family shows of all time thank you very much!  Then, when the show was over - I was good.  I would saunter up to bed and sleep the night away.  Not a care in the world.  Mary may have lost her eye sight but I cried about it and moved on.

I contend that crying is not always bad.  But my daughter hates when I cry.

It is ugly.  I look really, super awful when I get to the Full Cry Eruption.  More on that later.  See, I've always had this lip thing.  Kinda like my daughter in the picture below.  But worse.  Our lips just automatically go in the downward position and it is truly devastating - looking - that is.  My son has the same lip look too… I'll be honest - it makes the person watching feel like one inch tall.  Especially, if it's aimed at you.  Horrible.


But back to the point:  crying can be good.  It lets me feel severe emotion and then release/relief.  I am often better because of a good cry.  I let it go.  It's gone.  It makes me wonder what happens to the people who never cry?  Do they not let it out?  Is it bottled up forever?  Some people probably just don't need to cry.  I think the only time I ever saw BP (the husband) cry was at our wedding.  He just doesn't do it.  Of course, that was one time I didn't cry.  Too many people.  Crying is more personal for me.  I don't like to do it in front of crowds.  I once saw a newscaster cry on live television when I was in a small market in Washington State.  It scarred me.  I vowed - never me.  But in private, I may do it like 5 times in a week.  Depending on the week.  Last week I cried when I read an email from my daughter's teacher, when I heard a man died whom I had never even met and as I was talking to a friend about…  I don't even remember.  Uh-huh.

But with all of that said, have you noticed?  All cries are different.  The following is my 
Cry Momentum Chart
at least in my eyes.  No pun… well, it was kind of intended.  Here goes...

Tickle Cry = a tiny welling up in the back part of your eye balls… I get this tickle and there's barely a glaze over.  That's me with a good Hallmark commercial.

Welling Water =  actual tear build up in the eye.  Possible but not probable a tear could fall out.  That's going to church: thinking about God's infinite love or a really good sermon.  It is the most common type of "cry" for me.

Random Tear Drop = out of the blue touched with a bolt of emotion.  For me, writing this blog sometimes brings one tear...  It also happened as I wrote touching stories in news.  I loved covering those stories.  They didn't happen often, but they did happen.

Bit of Blur = multiple tears that in turn make seeing a bit of a challenge.  That's me when I tuck in my children at night, say prayers and think.  The good thing is, usually, no one knows it's happening because my voice remains the same and it's dark.

Full Cry Eruption = that's the ugly cry.  It's super uncontrolled, awful to look at but the best to get out.   Me, watching "The Notebook" will always produce a Full Cry.  I can't even show my face the next day it's so puffy!  My eyes may even kind of ache a little.  It will take a whole day for my face to re-form again.  That's why this cry is the only one I truly do try to avoid at all costs.  It takes a lot, doesn't happen often and that's a very good thing.  For my face.

All of them can be healing and helping, to me, in their own ways.  The question is - is it good for my children?

My son doesn't see me cry - much.   One, because he's not really paying attention and two, because I'm not sure that he cares.  Sometimes he just looks, points and laughs.  He rarely comments.  The one time he did see a Full Cry Eruption (just after I heard my father had a supposed brain tumor - he didn't - it was an aneurysm instead) - he said to me, "Moms aren't supposed to cry!"

My daughter, on the other hand,  has always hated when I cried.  Just last night she told me it embarrasses her.  Odd to me, since I don't do it in front of her friends or anything.  At age 2… I would shed a tear and she would stand paralyzed in amazement.  She would take her finger and go right up to the source… my eyeball... and touch it.  It was as if she was trying very hard to dissect and determine -  what was this wetness?  Where did it come from?  How do I make it stop?

I try to explain all crying isn't bad.  Some people cry when they're happy, I say.  Others cry to get them through something unusual.  For me, it's more often than not, feeling empathy, appreciation or total emotion.  But, for my daughter, it's as if she doesn't buy it.  Like, she believes, if I cry something is very wrong and she may need to worry.  The last thing I want is to hurt her with my tears.  Ironically - and you know what I'm talking about all you mama's out there - she cries from time to time and my little guy cries almost everyday about something.  No one flinches.  It's business as usual.  But yes, I know, I'm the Mom.

Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a day where she will understand that it's okay to cry.  I keep waiting.  She's 8 now.  I really want her to sit on that couch, watch Little House on the Prairie with me… and cry.  But maybe she's like her dad.  Crying won't be her thing - like it is mine.  

In any case, my question remains: does my crying hurt my kids?  Does it show weakness and uncertainty that is bad for children to witness?  For the record,  I can cry several times in a week but I do NOT weep uncontrollably everyday.  Really I don't.  But maybe my daughter sees it that way?  So, what do you really think?  Do you cry in front of your kids?  Or am I the only blubbering mama out there?

Sniff Sniff.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chill Chili. It's what's for Halloween.

The Headlines:

Make this chili.

It's the easiest recipe you'll ever find.

That's why I call it the CHILL Chili.




I love chili.  Who doesn't really?  I mean, it's good stuff.  And it just makes you feel like fall.  Even when it's 90 degrees still.  Like here in Arizona!  In any case, it's just the perfect thing to eat on Halloween.  Especially if you have a big group coming over.  In fact, if you haven't a clue what to serve Friday.  Problem solved.  You're serving this.


There are so so many chili recipes out there.  Like… so so so many.  And most of them are all good.  Each has their own little tweak to make it special.  The Chill Chili is special because while it is very good - it took you maybe all of 3 minutes to "make!"  Yep, in my book - too many steps and ingredients can be very overrated.  My friend gave this recipe to me last week and I made it like 2 days later.

The Chill Chili.

Here's what you need:
1 can white corn
1 can golden corn
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can cannellini beans
1 64 ounce Pace Picante Mild Salsa


Here's what you do:
Drain and rinse all the beans/corn… place in crockpot.  Add salsa.  Turn crock pot on high for 4 hours. Serve with all the usual: shredded cheese, onions, tortilla chips, sour cream.  The tortilla chips, in my opinion (and cheese of course), makes this dish SING!


Optional: Meat.  Briefly brown and season ground beef if you want to add it to the mix.  Then throw it in the slow cooker too.

Is that crazy easy or what?  Totally my kind of recipe.  It may not win an award or anything but it will get the job done.  Wait a second… I take that back.  My friend did say she won a chili award with it once, no joke!

Here's my daughter eating the leftovers a couple days later.  I think it may even be better after it sits - the flavors really settle into each other.


Yep, this recipe rules and it's easier than taking candy from a Zombie Queen.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  Happy Halloween!