Thursday, June 30, 2011

I had to share

Found this on Pinterest (which I am obsessed with now and will be a whole other post) and I sadly relate to way to many of these:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I ate today

Riveting title for a blog post, right?

Sometimes I get weird cravings for things and I have to have them like yesterday. This explains why I drove to the grocery store during evening rush hour today for a can of beans.

But first, let's talk about lunch. When I was 16, I went to the beach with four of my best friends and one mother. That makes five teenage girls and one mom living in a trailer on the beach for a week. Did I mention that the week before the trip, my best friend (who was there) confided in me that she was a lesbian? Oy, awkwardness. Yes, we almost killed each other and nearly drove the mother crazy. Luckily (she thought) she was a cool mom, not a regular mom (bonus points if you know what that's from). Anyway, we drove to this little restaurant/stand on the beach each morning for breakfast and got what were called Sunrise Bagels. Big chewy bagels with a thick layer of cream cheese, a big slice of tomato and some dill. So good! For some reason, eleven years later, I got a craving for one today.

I slimmed mine down a bit with a whole grain "Bagel Thin" (like a bagel with the middle sliced out, only 100 calories). I think maybe Thomas's makes them? I also used reduced fat cream cheese and used fresh basil and cilantro in place of the dill. I may or may not have also put some bacon bits on it . . . It took all of my willpower to take this picture with my phone before inhaling it.

And then, my weird dinner craving. Last weekend we went to a cookout hosted by one of Frank's employees. The guy and his wife are Turkish, and her mother lives with them. So the mother cooked all this awesome food for the cookout, which included tabouli and some kind of bean salad. I couldn't get this stuff out of my head, it was that good. Seriously, if I could eat one kind of food ethnicity for the rest of my life, it would probably be Middle Eastern. I will eat anything that is loaded with garlic, lemon and olive oil. I decided that I needed to eat this tonight, so like I said, I drove to the grocery store during rush hour.

I don't have a recipe so I kind of just guessed on flavors and it turned out awesome, though i'd like to get the real recipe sometime. I just bought the instant boxed tabouli (if you're not familiar, it's a salad made of wheat bulgur and other things) and added chopped tomatoes, olive oil, lots of lemon juice and onion.

For the bean salad, I combined a can of cannellini beans and a can of navy beans, drained. I mixed in olive oil, lemon juice, fresh minced garlic, chopped vidalia onion, parsley, and a bit of salt. Oh, and some celery for some crunch. I went absolutely crazy with the lemon juice and garlic. I'm going to smell like a garbage truck. But it was worth it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lesson learned.

I got a text today from Frank saying that his older brother had a heart attack this morning. He's okay (if he wasn't, I'm sure I would have gotten more than a text, ha) meaning he's alive, but he'll be in the hospital for a few days while they run tests and decide what to do. He was having chest pains for a few days and thought he had a heart attack early this morning, so he went into the hospital. Sure enough, there was a 99% blockage in the main artery to his heart. They put a balloon to open up the artery but i'm not sure what's next. He's young, in his early 30's, and has three kids and a wife.

Frank's dad died of a heart attack several years ago, and he was way too young. Heart disease runs on both sides of his family so it's not something we can ignore. It's awful that this happened to his brother, but it was a wake up call to me that we're not doing enough. Frank works out like a beast, but that's not enough to prevent heart disease. When I cook, we eat pretty healthy, but we're in the habit of going out to eat on the weekends and usually at least once during the week, including Tuesday night wings and beer. He has night class two days a week and has gotten into the habit of taking frozen diet meals for dinner. Sure, low in calories, but packed with sodium. 

Being a widow at a young age is not an option for me. Sorry, it's not happening. But that means that I need to seriously change the way that I feed my family (aka . . . the two of us). Eating healthy during the week and then pigging out on the weekends is not good enough. There are too many times were we say "we'll eat bad just this once" but we need to realize that EVERY meal counts. I wish I could say that I love health food and hate fried foods, but i don't. I love ALL food. Particularly greasy, salty fast food and sweets. But I'm a grown up now, and I need to realize that just because you want something doesn't mean you can have it. 

Right after I heard about his brother, I called our family doctor and scheduled a physical for Frank and told the doctor we wanted to talk about early heart disease testing so we can stay on top of things. I also did a bunch of research online about preventing heart disease. I knew most of these things already, but i printed out a list of rules to stick on the refrigerator, so that we're always reminded of them. Here they are:
  • No excess salt
  • No red meat 
  • No fried foods
  • No bacon :(
  • No chips/cookies etc. that contain "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredients
  • No egg yolks
  • No cold cuts
  • No hot dogs or sausage
  • More fruits and veggies (5-10 servings per day)
  • More whole grains
  • No more than 2300 mg sodium per day
  • Avoid tomato juices, soy sauce, buffalo sauce etc (sodium)
I found all of this information from the Mayo Clinic web site, so i'm taking it to heart. This doesn't mean that he can never have another burger again, just that we need to seriously limit these things. Feel free to call me out if you have kids, but I'm thinking that it will actually be easier to eat healthy when we have kids because we won't be going out to eat as much and we'll want to set healthy examples for our kids. I'm also thinking about relying more on vegetarian meals and plant-based proteins. Neither one of us are willing to go full-veg, but reducing the amount of animal fats we eat can only help. 

I'm going to try to start cooking more, and packing Frank's meals for while he's at work and school. I'll post good recipes in here as I find them. 

Have any more tips for me?

Monday, June 20, 2011

This is embarassing.

I was out on my deck today, introducing Wilbur to his new baby pool. He's kind of afraid of water (possibly from the time I made him sit on a noodle with me in the middle of a freezing cold lake) so I wanted to build him up to it. I threw in a bunch of toys, but that wasn't enticing enough. Then I threw some treats in and let them sink. He would try to stick his snout under the water to get them but the water surprised him every time and made him blow bubbles out of his nose. So naturally . . . I started video taping with my iPhone and realized i was saying, "Good boy! Show your daddy how you can blow bubbles with your nose!" When I realized what I was doing, I slapped myself. Thank God none of our neighbors were out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wedding Weekend

One of my very best friends got married last weekend and it was beautiful. Seriously, I don't have any regrets about my wedding but this is the first time that I went to one where I thought "I wish we had done that". Both the wedding and the reception were outdoors under tents, and luckily the weather was perfect. The ceremony was non-religious (something Frank and I wished we would have done, but his family probably would not have liked that) and Adam's (the groom) best friend married them. They introduced them a long time ago, so they wanted him to be the one to do the honors. We were a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to keep a straight face (we're also good friends with him and thought we would die laughing) but he did an amazing job and it was so sweet and meaningful. I looked over and Frank's eyes were filled with tears, so that totally set me off.

The reception was at the zoo! Even though we weren't allowed to go around and look at the animals, they brought a few animals to us. There was no shot-dollar dance, no bouquet toss, no garter toss, no YMCA or all the other annoying things that you're subjected to at weddings. Just dancing all night! Shannon (the bride) managed to make it elegant and sentimental without following every annoying tradition. Also, instead of a cake they had a giant tower of DONUTS. Pinch me. Anyway, I was glad I brought my good camera, because I got some unforgettable photos. 

Uh yes, Picassa obsessed. And I realized I accidentally used the same photo twice but I was too lazy to go back and fix it. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's in Your Garden?

Well I might be the last blogger on earth to discover the awesomeness of Picasa, but better late than never. Seriously, this might solve my problem of absolutely dreading uploading tons of pics for a blog post, because now I can just throw them all into a collage. So . . . that means that I might get around to the rest of those Italy posts, ha.

About a month ago, we (okay, I) decided that I wanted a vegetable garden. And like most of my projects, when I get an idea in my head I have to do it five minutes ago. I figured it would be simple, just dig up the ground, mix in some topsoil and throw in some plants, right? Wrong. Turns out that the first six inches of our Western Pennsylvania soil was solid clay, and below that was solid rock. Frank dug up as much as he could and then . . .. it rained. It rained for probably a solid two weeks. And then we had a rectangular pool of six inches of water. We changed route, decided that the garden needed to be raised. So imagine us bailing out buckets of rainwater from a giant mud pit. Then taking all the HUGE clumps of clay and grass that Frank had broken his back to dig out, and throwing them back in the pit to start over. We were coated in mud and crawling with worms. Oh the worms.

We went to Lowes and bought some boards and managed to create a 12' x 6' frame. We were seriously impressed with ourselves. About 40 bags of manure, top soil, and peat moss later, we had our garden. I seriously doubted that anything would grow, considering the quality of the soil underneath the new stuff we added. But . . . check it out:

Things are growing! We have tomatoes, peppers, beans and three varieties of lettuce growing. The lettuce and some strawberries are the only things that are ready to eat so far, but everything else is growing so well. (There's also a little nest of baby birds built under our deck. I'm trying to photograph them ever few days as they grow.)

Everything about summer makes me happy, but I eat so well when I have access to fresh vegetables and herbs. I go out in the morning and snip off a few leaves of mint and mix it in my water for the day. Yesterday I made an omelet and mixed in some farmers' market tomatoes and a fistful of my own basil and cilantro. Amazing.

Speaking of farmers' markets, I've become a bit obsessed. I have two markets that I try to hit each week and neither of them are that close to where i live. There are several that are closer, but they aren't as big and don't have as much to offer. My favorite things to get are strawberries (farm strawberries taste nothing like grocery store ones. The tinier they are, the sweeter) and snap peas, which I eat raw like candy.  Here's todays lunch:

Veggie burger (spicy black bean) with salsa and sour cream, snap peas, and strawberries. Now if I could only eliminate the pizza and beer nights, my diet would totally be in check.

One more thing. I know I'm like, the last person to jump on this bandwagon, but I made kale chips finally. I was a little intimidated because the last and only time I tried kale, i burnt it and it was disgusting. The recipe is easy, and you can find variations of it all over the internet, but what I did was wash and dry the kale, cut the tough inner stem away, and rip it up into bite-size bits (think the size of a potato chip). Then I tossed the kale in about a tablespoon of olive oil (maybe a little more . . . ) and some seasoned salt. I spread it out on a pizza pan (I figured the holes in the bottom of the pan would help air circulate and dry out the kale) and baked it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (check it around 10 to make sure it doesn't burn). The result is totally totally crispy, oily and salty but you feel less guilt because you're eating leafy greens. I will be doing this every week!

What's your favorite summer produce? Share your recipes with me!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Epic Birthday/Anniversary Weekend

Can i just say, that this summer is shaping up to be completely amazing already. We have been blessed with some truly beautiful weather lately, and it has almost made waiting out winter worth it. This weekend was Frank's 28th birthday (yesss, he's older than me again!) as well as our 3 year anniversary. We took full advantage of the mid 70's and sunny weather.

On Friday (his actual birthday) we started the day out with presents and then a shopping trip to exchange some of said presents because I suck at picking out gifts. I was supposed to by the Adidas marathon shoes but accidentally bought the trail-running version. We came home in the afternoon, packed up some sandwiches, chips, and beer and then headed downtown with the usual suspects for our first Pirates game of the season. The tailgating, as always, was the best part. We realized by the fifth inning that baseball is basically the most boring sport ever.

Frank recently switched his allegiance from the Pirates to the Phillies. I think he's doing it just to get a rise out of Pittsburghers. For the most part, Pittsburgh people hate Philly, and many of them have never even visited the city. My sister lives there and we love Philadelphia. Bonus points if you understand his shirt. It says "Yachts on the reg."

With the birthday boy and a few of my brothers in law.

The Phillies hat totally matched my outfit, I feel like a traitor!

These are the new kicks I got Frank, once we exchanged the wrong ones!

The next morning, we headed out to see our 5 year old nephew, Zack's, tee ball game. It was hilarious to see all these little kids' first foray into the world of team sports. At the beginning, they would be eager to get out there and hit the ball, run the bases. But as the game went on and their patience started to wane, they would start to get whiney and clingy, and mommies had to go out and stand with them in the field. Its funny how they can seem so grown up one minute and then morph back into toddlers when they get tired. I kept thinking about how I used to rock him to sleep and give him his bottles when I babysat. How did he turn into a little boy?

On Saturday, after watching Zach's tee ball game, we decided on an impromptu trip to Lake Erie to get away for our anniversary. It's only a couple hours north of us, but I had never been there.

(Frank couldn't figure out why there was a straw attached to his Rockstar. Then he realized that it probably had something to do with the fact that it was hot pink and obviously marketed to girls . . . )

Lake Erie is so big that we could almost pretend we were at the beach.

My husband :)

3 years strong!

After lounging on the beach for a while, we drove around the town and then headed to dinner. We picked a restaurant that was on the beach, called the Sloppy Duck. The food was delish and the view was incredible. The best part? The duck pond in front of the restaurant that housed their mascot ducks. They even had their own little duck house, complete with a heat lamp and a little black and white TV that showed vintage Donald Duck cartoons!

Even though we were stuffed, we headed to Erie's annual Wild Rib Festival. There was not much to do around town, so we figured we would just walk around and listen to the live music and check out the local scene. It smelled so good, we kind of wished we had come there for dinner!

The trophies people had won were pretty ridiculous. Barbecue chefs from all over the country came to show off their goods.

The next morning, we got up and headed about 30 minutes east to one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Chautauqua. When I was growing up, we came there every summer for a week-long vacation with my family. My mom went there when she was little and my grandparents went there when they were first married. We stayed at the same spot every year until I was 18. Sadly, we stopped going. My grandma was getting too old to take the heat and all the cousins were starting to get jobs, and get married, and we could no longer find a week that worked for everyone. I really hope that one day we get it going again.

Anyway, I got kind of emotional when I saw the lake for the first time in almost ten years. So many childhood memories came back and I kind of wished for that simplicity again. But I was so excited to show all my favorite spots to Frank!

I miss this place.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy birthday Wilbur!

I still have a bunch of vacation posts to write, but I thought I'd interrupt them for a very important event: Wilbur's 3rd birthday! We're not sure when he was actually born, since we got him from a kill shelter and they didn't have any of those kinds of records. But when we adopted him (two years ago yesterday) the vet said he was anywhere from 6 months to 18 months old, so we went in the middle and said he was 1. So we use the day we brought him home as his birthday. This also marks our two year anniversary of being homeowners (yes, i wasted no time getting a dog asap!).  Wilbur spent his birthday weekend doing his favorite things, sleeping, chasing the cat and even enjoyed a few licks of vanilla ice cream. On Monday night, we took him over to his two girlfriends' house (the neighbors) where he got to play with all his friends. Also in attendance were another neighbor's GIANT PUPPIES (we're talking over 150 lbs) which are some type of St. Bernard/Mastiff/Sasquatch mix. I'm not sure what he'd do if he met a little dog, since all his friends are GINORMOUS. So much fun, low quality cell phone pics to come. Until I can get around to uploading the pictures (which are on my husband's cell, who is at work), you can gaze lovingly into these amber green eyes: