An apple a day keeps the doctor away…

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unless you add a half pound of butter, 2 eggs, flour and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes!

Which is what’s been happening in my house for the last month…

My parents have an apple orchard on their 5 acres of land.  And this was a banner year for fruit grown in New England!

I told them to unload their delicious bounty on me and as you can see from the photo above, they took me literally.  I’ve been eating them for breakfast, and baking apple this and apple that nearly every day for the past month!  Wow, have I eaten some yummy apple desserts!

Now if only I had a cider press in our garage…mmmmmm.

One of the classic recipes using freshly picked apples of any kind, is homemade applesauce.  Everyone loves applesauce; babies, kids, and adults (pork chops & applesauce, anyone?). It’s easy to cook and can be altered to work for any age!

Here’s the greatest applesauce recipe you’ll ever come across:

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Use 1, 2 or 3 varieties of apple in your sauce. Gently bruised, banged up, shriveled and older apples work perfectly. Pick 12 medium-large. Peel, core and chop.
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Add 1 cup of water.
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Bring to a gentle boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
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Turn off heat when apples are easily ‘smushed’… is that even a word? I love it…with the back of the spoon. About 10 minutes or so.
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Using a potato masher, now start ‘smushing’ them!
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Add 1 cup of sugar.
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Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
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Looking yummy! Now you determine the consistency…it can be stored away as is if you like your applesauce a little more chunky, or…
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If you’re like me, you’ll love it silky smooth! Puree in blender till chunks disappear.
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Soooo good! And it’ll thicken as it sits in the refrigerator. If it lasts long enough to make it in there…

Yield = 6 Cups

If making for baby food:
Omit sugar and cinnamon. The apples themselves offer enough sweetness for a baby and are full of fiber & vitamin C. Just don’t cook too far past the 10 minute mark, so that you retain all the nutrients!

Disclaimer:
The recipe above is fit for my 4-year-old with enough sugar in it so that she’s excited to eat it and thinks it’s a treat.
I, however, prefer my applesauce sweeter.  My recipe uses 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Try this smeared on a buttered english muffin for breakfast and you’ll never go back to peanut butter again!

Yoga Pants-Giving Men permission to ogle since the late 90s

Yoga pants are the new jeans.  And they definitely shouldn’t be.

I agree that they’re comfy and make you feel good about yourself!  And your significant other appreciates them too, I’m sure of it!  I’m just saying that there is a time and a place…

wearing sweatpants or pajama pants out in public has always been frowned upon as something lacking elegance, style and decorum. Don’t get me wrong, sweatpants or my favorite pj pants are the greatest thing ever for those cozy nights by the fire.  Just as yoga pants are the greatest thing ever for your workout class.

But, they are not appropriate for the grocery store, or school, or shopping.

The true genius of the yoga pant is in its equal appeal to both men and women. Men want to see them on women, and women want to see them on themselves. Men like the fact that they can see every detail of the lower half of the female’s body. Women like their comfort and their supportive pull-everything-in-tight effect. They feel good because they look good. Everybody wins.

Or do they?

Well, let’s see…now just type in the 2 words “yoga pants” into the search bar on google.  Do you see the myriad of blogs, sites, comments, etc by men in praise of this invention?

Men LOVE yoga pants inventor Ryan McLatchy.  And I quote,  “It’s as if he dutifully laid this incredible gift at the doorstep of the hetero male”.

My hubby works often with contractors and he said that almost daily the conversation comes around to a woman in yoga pants. And the fact that women allow themselves to be seen in them. And it is usually a lewd discussion that ensues..

The feminist in me wants to rebel against all this ogling by every man out there.  “Just because they want to be inappropriate, shouldn’t dictate what I wear, right?”

But the other side of the feminist inside me says, “You know they’re gawking, why would you allow them to? Or allow your daughter to be the focus of this type of attention?”

Regardless of the fact that you think you’re dressed, a lot of men out there feel as though you are “baring all”…YIKES!  They may warrant unwanted attention, whether you intend this or not.  Which may not be fair, but is a reality.

Schools across the nation are banning them, saying that they along with tight pants, leggings & jeggings are against the dress code.

There’s a reason that exercise or workout clothes is worn to a gym, to a yoga studio, a dance class, a dojo, etc. It’s necessary and highly functional then.  And completely appropriate and even recommended.

Suffice it to say that the message sent when these pants are worn outside of these circumstances may not be the one you want to be sending!

Visit ethnic grocery stores

IMG_7322Visit ethnic grocery stores, both locally and in the surrounding communities.  Middle Eastern markets, Italian delis, French bakeries, Asian food marts, European markets, etc…

Have you ever been to a Greek market and had their fresh feta?  Too die for!  And no comparison to the hard block that comes tightly wrapped in cellophane at your grocers.  How about fresh charcuterie from an Italian deli?  You’ll have a hard time going back to your weekly lunch meat!

It’s so exciting!  There are so many items there that you have never seen before, never heard of and of course, never tasted.  Or perhaps you’ve tasted a certain food before, but never the type of quality that’s offered at a specialty market.  It’s a whole new world of flavors.  And you learn about a culture while you shop and take it all in.

Take your time while you’re there;  browse.

Stroll down the aisles and look at all of the merchandise.

If they are offering any kind of food or beverage tasting, partake in it!  You could discover a new favorite food.  Or you could gag and decide that you’re never going to eat that again!

Talk to the store clerks or patrons and ask them questions. What is this? How do you cook this? What kind of dish would you serve it in?

If something peaks your interest, take it home with you and try it. Even if you don’t know how to cook it, remember that you can surf the internet for a recipe for virtually any type of food out there.

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Visit grocery stores and food markets wherever you may travel.  It may be to a foreign country or to the state which neighbors yours; no matter, you’ll discover so many different local ingredients, recipes and people excited that you’re interested and eager to share them with you.

A couple of personal accounts of local market visits while traveling:  In an Asian market in Portland, OR I was introduced to gooey duck (geoduck), a very large Pacific saltwater clam that bears resemblance to an elephant trunk,  a locally made and renowned cheese and smoked sausage in Vermont, fresh nutmeg and cinnamon just picked and peeled off a tree in Grenada, duck tongue in Shanghai, and Chinese whiskey with a preserved lizard in it.  You never know what’s in store (pun intended!)!

So, it’s time for your baby’s shots…

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I don’t care if your “baby” is 2 weeks old, 4 yrs old or a teenager.  This is a traumatic experience for both the child and the parent.  Seeing your child in pain is heartbreaking!

We just had our 4 yr shots today and it was no picnic.  Neither for my little beach rose nor for me.

To tell beforehand or allow it to be a last-minute surprise?

If they’re still small, a little prep beforehand without actually giving it away is key…

  • Try not to make a big deal out of it. “There might be some shots when we go to the doctor’s.  Sometimes there are, sometimes there aren’t. Everybody gets them.  They hurt for a little bit, but they’re good for your body.”
  • There are some good books out there that review a typical doctor’s visit in a nonchalant way. We read this Berenstain Bears book before our visit!IMG_7288
  • Engage your child.  Have them bring their “baby” or “Lovie” and their doctor’s kit, so that they can perform their own check-up.
  • Treats, treats, treats!  Bring them, talk about them right before you tell your child about the impending shot, show it to them, and for goodness’ sake, give it to them right before they’re about to get the shot!

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you may try to do to prep, because your child is most likely going to scream like a banshee.  And your heart’ll be ripped out because you were the one restraining them while allowing someone else to hurt them (or that’s what their eyes will be pleading with you as they get pricked by that ridiculously long needle!)  Try not to be too hard on yourself.

Try to remain strong during the process & afterwards.  If your lips are quivering along with hers after she’s done, she’ll lose it.  Guaranteed.  If you continue to baby her about having received the shots, the band-aid, any bruising or pain she’ll think it’s a big deal and the next dr’s visit will be a rough one, or at least trying to get her there will be!

Even if they scream and cry, be sure to tell them that they did a great job and were very brave.  If there is any biting or kicking, that’s a different story… (A friend of mine’s kid started kicking the nurse even before she had come at her with the needle and then when she did come near her to administer the shot, the kid bit her, hard, in the arm. I think this is a serious no-no and that proper/improper behavior should be made clear to a child, by the parent, prior to the visit.)

Whether to immunize or not…

this is ultimately your decision as a parent. I just advise that you do A LOT of research on this subject matter before you make your final decision.  There is a lot at stake here.  Not just the health and well-being of your “baby”, but also of other “babies” out there, who may have weakened/compromised immune systems due to health complications.

Quit your day job

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1 year ago today I was having multiple “panic attacks” per day just thinking about my job…the stress was unbelievable.  And I stuck with it because I felt as though it was the best course of action; financially, the flexibility & the proximity to home.

Looking back I wonder why it took me so long to get out and regain my joie de vivre!

If you are feeling anxiety about your job ask yourself some key questions:

  • Do I like my job?
  • Do I like my boss?
  • Do I like my co-workers?
  • Is it the people?
  • Is it the culture of the company?
  • Is it the tasks involved with the job?
  • Can I change how I feel about it?
  • Is it me or is it the job?

If you think it may help, talk to your boss about the stress level, schedule, compensation as there could be ways to improve the situation.

If you’re experiencing crippling anxiety about your job, losing sleep, feeling sick with dread about Mondays, getting depressed or feeling bad about yourself…  TIME FOR A NEW ONE!

If your job is intolerable, you should leave, but

…try not to quit before having something else lined up, as you will never feel more confident and be more irresistible to potential employers during an interview when you are currently employed…

…and don’t burn bridges.  Don’t complain to colleagues or take it out on them. Be a professional.  Continue to put in 100% even if you know that you will be leaving. It’s a small world and you never know when you may run into these coworkers in the future!

Don’t worry about your decision to move on.  It is so much more important that your health, state of mind, and relationships be the priority.  When they are, all else falls into place!

Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why?

Another year older, another year wiser.  But, the wiser you get the stupider you realize you are.  Like that?  I just made up that last part!  But, it’s the conclusion I’m coming to as I get older.  And supposedly “wiser”.

Knowledge is not what you can remember, but what you cannot forget. -Anonymous

Be curious…

Ask a million questions. Ask your parents. Ask your teachers. Ask your friends. Ask your doctor. Ask the librarian. Ask your boss. Ask your colleagues. Ask google.

What does that word mean? How do you cook that? What does that taste like? How does that work? Who invented this?

Don’t be afraid of asking dumb questions. Don’t worry about asking a question you should already know the answer to. Your short-term memory can hold up to 7 things at one time, but for only 20 seconds! It takes a couple of times to hear something before it really sinks in.

And it will really sink in if you participate in a discussion around the topic, or try to teach what you just learned to someone else. You’re able to retain 70% of what you say if in a discussion & 90% of what you say and do (cooking the recipe or play-acting a scene from history or teaching someone).

Unless you’re riveted by the topic, most human beings only have an attention span for 20 minutes.  That means while your teacher continues to lecture after 45 minutes, all you’re hearing is “yadda yadda yadda”!  So make certain you ask questions, have a conversation with the teacher, your classmates, your family, etc about what you just learned and try to teach it to someone else.

Dig. Dig deep. Don’t just skim over the surface of things without understanding. Even after you ask the question, find out more to the answer. Do research. Look it up. You now literally have a million resources at your fingertips with the internet….

Book Clubs – Yea or Nay

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So I got an invite to join a book club 2 years ago and was beside myself with joy.  I mean, BESIDE myself!

Finally!!!!  I had been “selected” to join this inner sanctum of female intelligentsia.  I would be participating in invigorating, thought-provoking conversation that would challenge me, and leave me pondering the philosophy behind every work of literary genius I would be reading!  Right?

Not quite…

Here’s what the reality of belonging to a book club turned out to be for me:

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  • A lot of “Oprah Book Club” like books.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  It’s just that I probably wouldn’t choose to read about 85% of those.  And therefore, out of the 25 books I’ve had to read while with this group, only 4-5 were worthy of mention and will stick with me. That’s less than 1/5th of the books I’m reading that I’m enjoying!  Yikes!
  • The books are mediocre at best; mediocre writing, mediocre plot. Forgettable.
  • Majority wins as to which books are selected every 4-6 months to read for the next 4-6 months.  Unfortunately, the majority likes using the NYT Bestseller list as a bellwether of great literature.  I’m sorry but I knew before I even opened the book that I wouldn’t be interested in the sequel to The Art of Hearing Heartbeats when I’d only considered that book to be ok.
  • Not enough time to read as it is…so I have found myself getting frustrated reading a book for the club that I’m not interested in/don’t like, when I’ve got a giant backlog of books I cannot wait to get my hands on!

But you still need to join one if the opportunity arises.  “WHAT?” you say.

Well, the perks are:

  •  that I’ve met a wonderful group of women,
  • with a great diversity of opinions;  the discussions can become lively, which is exciting.
  • And I am forced to read books I wouldn’t have normally, and have found a couple of gems that way!
  • And I’ve discovered new authors, too, which is always fun.
  • And I get a night out with great women, glasses of wine, cheese platters and a book discussion.  Which frankly, any book discussion whether it be lively or not, whether it be about a book you like or not, feeds the soul.

At worst, you’ll read some books you don’t love.  At best, you’ll meet some great people from your neck of the woods, discover books/authors you wouldn’t have & enjoy some intelligent dialogue!

Below are a couple of links to try out to find something in your locale:

http://www.readerscircle.org/
http://bookclub.meetup.com/

and of course, your local library and other local town libraries offer book clubs, too.

Who needs Hallmark?

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To love is one thing…to be loved is something…to love and be loved is everything. – Anonymous

Back when I was in high school, a million years ago, nothing was more exciting than getting a note passed to you in class!  From a guy you liked.  From your boyfriend.  It didn’t matter what it said, how long it was, how legible the writing.  It was the thought of it.  The anticipation of reading what it said.  The Bobby Brady fireworks!

And the love letters that came after high school…I’ve kept them all, in a tote under my bed.   Shhhhhh…..

I am not so certain that you get the same effect when you email, facebook, tweet or text your love note.  There is no sense of permanence to these methods.  (Although, this is the fallacy. People think they can write & send whatever they like via cyberspace and that deleting it will get rid of the “evidence”, forever.  Not so much.  It’s etched into the archives.  Don’t be fooled!)  It’s not as personal as a handwritten message. There’s nothing tangible.

When was the last time I printed out a text or email thread of a meaningful conversation?  Ummmm, never?  You?

Sad to think that all kinds of beautiful love stories could be lost to future generations because there will be no handwritten word passed along.

Leave a love letter.  Or at least a love note once in a while.  To keep the spark alive!

Let your loved one know how special he is. How much he means to you.  How he makes your heart go pitter-patter, even when he’s not there and you’re just thinking about him.

Handwrite it.  Stick it in his lunch bag.  Write it on a post-it and leave it on the dash of his truck.  Leave it on the coffee machine for him to find on his way out the door.

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You’re so lucky to have him in your life and you think it all the time and may not always verbalize it.  But I’ll tell you what…these little tokens of affection speak volumes of your love!

I do not like green eggs…

and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.  – Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Does anybody out there like green eggs?  Is it appetizing when you see a hard-boiled egg with a greenish hue around the yolk? A plate of deviled eggs or an egg salad sandwich that have more green in them than yellow?

Yuck!

The dark green color around the yolk and the “off” taste occur when the egg is overcooked.

This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to boil the perfect egg, with a beautiful yellow-orange yolk, an easy to peel shell and minimal cracking.

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  • Start with room temperature eggs.  If they were refrigerated, let sit on counter 1 hour before cooking them.
  • Place desired amount of eggs in a pot that allows them all to be in a single layer in the bottom of it.
  • Top with one to two inches of cold water; at least an inch more when the pot is crowded.
  • Add 1 teaspoon vinegar (helps keep whites from running if shell cracks during cooking).
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon salt (helps prevent cracking & makes eggs easier to peel).
  • Place on stove and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Shut off the burner.
  • Place a lid on the pot and let the eggs sit on the burner for 12 minutes.
  • Place eggs in cold water/ice bath in another bowl to stop the cooking process.
  • All done!

A soft-boiled egg, where the white is fully set and the yolk is mostly set, but still a bit runny in the middle, would be prepared the same way, but would only stay in the covered pot for 6 minutes.

We have chickens and there are times where I had to steal an egg from right under one of my hens as she finished laying it in order to have enough for my deviled egg platter!  I can tell you from experience that these are the toughest eggs to peel, even with the salt added to the water. There are a lot of “tricks” out there to aid in the removal of the shells, but I have found that patience is best.  Crack the shell all the way around the boiled egg and let it sit in a bowl of water for 30 minutes.  And then peel it in the water!

I think their tractors are sexy!

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I was recently at a County Fair and saw someone wearing a t-shirt that read, Support local farms or watch the houses grow.

It gave me anxiety.  I started worrying that local farms might be an endangered species.  That one day I would be talking to my grandkids and trying to explain to them what it was like back in my day when the now extinct farms were providing us with their glorious bounty.  It made me want to shout out to anyone that might listen, “Farms=food! Buy fresh! Buy local! Support your local farmer! Know your farmer, trust your food!”

And thus the reason for this stream of consciousness…

I hope to pass on to my beach rose the importance of helping local farms and farmers.  The U.S worries more about lowly paid workers in Asia than how we treat and pay our country’s farmers! And our farms and farmers are hurting.

There are many ways to help them:

  • Grocery stores are starting to carry in season produce from local farmstands.
  • Visit a farmer’s market (According to NPR, “There were 8,268 farmers’ markets operating in 2014, up 180 percent since 2006.”).
  • Consider signing up for a CSA, community supported agriculture, where a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public.  Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

The above link will help you find your local farms that are participating in the CSA program.

CSA’s are awesome!  I have my own little garden at home & frequent the farmer’s markets often to buy my meats and veggies/fruits I am not ambitious enough to grow. But a friend of mine was going on vacation for 3 weeks and asked if I would like to partake in her “share” at a local CSA.  Here’s part of the email that came to me from the farm…

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The farm was pristine and the food was picturesque (see photos above).  I was allowed to take home a little carton of potatoes (about 6), a head of lettuce, a little carton of sunchokes (never had in my life, was so excited to try and found that they were lovely veggies that taste like water chestnuts), some bok choy, a red & yellow onion, carrots, a gorgeous head of lettuce, cabbage, beets, turnips, kohlrabi ( something else I’d never had which tastes amazing sliced thinly and sauteed in butter, like a much milder broccoli trunk) & a dozen eggs.

I didn’t even know what to do with my generous bounty!  So I made a mouth watering root vegetable soup. With bacon.

…more on that recipe later…