Thursday, May 31, 2007


Just saw this and all I can say is wow. Every young girl should see this!


Panzanella is Italian bread salad. Doesn't it look so juicy and delicious?

Panzanella (recipe serves 6):

8 oz. day-old bread (you can use French or Italian bread, but I prefer using Rustic Loaf - Panino Rustico - which you can find at Italian food stores or specialty bakeries)
8-10 medium-size, really ripe, juicy tomatoes that are about to burst
1 small red onion
20 fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons of best-quality olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

First, prep the tomatoes: Slice them in wedges, place them in a strainer over a bowl, salt them generously, and let them sweat it out. The juice will run into the bowl (you might even want to squish the tomatoes a bit with your hands to get more juice). While you're waiting for the tomatoes, cut the bread into 2-inch slices. You're going to take that tomato juice and cover the bread with it in a shallow bowl or casserole. If the juice doesn't completely cover the bread, go ahead and pour a little water in, so the bread gets thoroughly covered by juice. Let it sit, soaking up all those delicious juices, for about 5-10 minutes or so. Then, squeeze the juice from the bread, leaving just a little in there, so the bread is nice and spongy and squishy. Then crumble the moist bread into a bowl.

Next, chop the red onion into delicate little slices, and you can do the same with the basil. It's also fun to add a chopped cucumber or maybe some shaved Parmesan cheese for extra deliciousness. Throw those all in a bowl with the tomatoes. Add your olive oil and vinegar. Add the bread, then take off your rings and really squish it all together with your hands (you should be feeling really Tuscan about now). Finally, season with salt and pepper to your exact liking.
Isn't that so easy? After it's finished, I usually refrigerate it for 30-45 minutes, covered, before serving so the juices really get in there and mix around (if you do this, re-squish with your hands right before serving). Oh! And, if you don't have any day-old bread hanging around, here's a trick: Slice your bread, then set your oven to 'low' or 'warm' and put the slices directly on the racks for about 10 minutes. The bread should get nice and stale without getting too toasty.
Not usually a kid friendly meal, but for a fun date night yummy. Try serving it with prosciutto-wrapped slices of cantaloupe and honeydew. Then for dessert take some really ripe strawberries, cut them in half and coat them with balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour then enjoy. My mouth's already watering.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Just got done with my job interview for the City of Surprise. 150 people applied for the job, they interviewed 24, then narrow it down to 8, which will be called for a final interview on Tuesday. Yikes! Looks like I have lots of competition for the position and many who are looking at taking a step down to just get rid of their commute like me. So I was slightly humbled today at the numbers and I have taken stock not to let myself get so caught up in the fact that I have a degree. Whew, glad that part is over though. Thought that I would post some photos from my last photo shoot. The lighting is off but the only time they could get everyone in the same place was mid morning so we worked with it. It was lots of fun, but I really want to re-shoot the parents alone to get some good ones of them all relaxed and in love.
I'd like you all to meet some of my favorite people on the planet! These are the Flemmings, all 8 of them. I just adore this family and all the fun they have together. Genna has such a wonderful way about her and she has been so kind to me. She shows up with fresh baked bread and always has a smile on her face. I love her laugh too, it's just so warm. She is the easiest person to talk to and her kids are so lucky to have such a wonderfully patient mother. She is just in her element with these kids. Her hubby Kelly is the most awesome guy too. He has been a huge factor in both my husband's and my life over the past 2 years. He is so gentle and just loves his family so much. Their house is so full of the Spirit you can't help but feel all warm when you leave. So here's to the Flemings and all 80 little piggies going to that market. Hehehe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wonderful Wednesday

After a stressful day slaving away at work I came home to my DH and we finally made the time to go sign up for our cards here. I was so excited running around looking at all the cool things I can borrow for free. I finally ended up with this and I can't wait to start it. Then I came home to meet with my visiting teachers and was the recipient of a wonderful message about our faith and how to strengthen it through small and simple actions. Then We got a call from one of my favorite people in the whole world and now we have a double date night to see this on Friday and I can't wait! Then I cozy'd into watch the season finale of my favorite show and finish up my cards for tomorrows card club night. Where I saw a preview for this movie I can't wait to see. And the evening was well rounded out with the wonderful information the she won it all! Yes all in all a wonderful Wednesday night.

Monday, May 21, 2007

.......................and really bad eggs..................

This morning I am as giddy as a school girl. Yes I can hardly contain myself and it’s all over a man who doesn’t even exist. Jack Sparrow will be joining us again for 3 more hours of glorious entertainment. My favorite guy in the entire world (besides my hubby of course) will be gracing a theater screen near you this Thursday and I am actually bummed that I can’t take the day off work to be with the man. I don’t know what it is about Mr. Depp that just makes me want to cuddle up in comfy flannel pj bottoms, a cozy sweatshirt and hug a large bowl of popcorn. He is so talented to me and I always find myself amazed at the performance he gives in each of his movies. I always see the actual character and never Mr. Depp playing a character. I think it is the Literature major in my that loves how he can make the story come to life so well; like the book had just unfolded in my head for all to see. I really enjoy escaping into the world created in the story and discovering a new character. Well before I melt into a puddle I will close this entry with my favorite Johnny Depp flicks. (Some of these are violent so use your own judgment if you choose to partake of these theatrical delights)


Well this salad is not a no-cook salad, but the small amount of stove time is worth the culinary spoils. This is actually lifted from my husband collection of culinary masterpieces. He has an amazing way of blending yummy flavors into something crave-able. Enjoy.

Szechuan Chicken Pasta Salad
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut in thin strips3 tablespoons light soy sauce1/4 teaspoon sugar1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes2 tablespoons sesame oil1/2 pound vermicelli, cooked according to package directions1/2 cup chopped green onions1 cup finely grated carrot1 cup seeded and grated cucumber1 cup seeded and thinly sliced red pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drainedShredded red & green cabbage
Dressing (recipe follows)Crunchy Chow-mein Noodles
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1. In glass bowl, mix together soy sauce, sugar and red pepper flakes. Add chicken strips, turning to coat; cover and marinate in refrigerator 20 minutes.
2. In frypan, place sesame oil over high heat. Add chicken strips and stir-fry about 5 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned. Remove chicken from frypan and cool.
3. In large bowl, place vermicelli, chicken, green onions, carrots, cucumber, bell pepper and bean sprouts; toss gently to mix well. Pour Dressing over mixture and stir until well coated. Refrigerate 30 minutes, arrange onto a bed of shredded cabbage and sprinkle with sesame seeds & crunchy noodles.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Dressing: In small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup water, 6 tablespoons light soy sauce, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar and 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wish me luck.........

...........and some prayers wouldn't hurt either. I applied for a new job with the City of Surprise today. It would be a step down in duties but a small step up in pay and I would no longer have a commute!!!!!!!! I would also have a better chance at a true career path with actual potential to use my degree. I have know for a couple of months that this position would be coming around and I just really felt that it would be the right move for me. So after some seriously talking with DJ and lots of prayer I decided to take the plunge and open the door. It's strange how I've become a person who doesn't really enjoy change. This from the teenager who re-arranged her room monthly and needed to throw short term classes into a semester to shake things up or I would get bored over the 18 weeks. I think the whole responsibility thing may have started to set in :-)

Monday, May 14, 2007

DJ's visual DNA

He couldn't resist doing his own so I thought I would share with you all DJ's visual DNA.

Visual DNA

Saw this on Amie's blog and had to do one. Super Fun!

Bring on the yummy summer salad

This is one of my most favorite salads in the whole wide world! I serve it on greens or a wheat roll. I can never keep it around long enough to taste it the next day but I'm sure that it would save well if you have leftovers.

Fruited Curry Chicken Salad
· 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - grilled and diced
· 1 stalk celery, chopped
· 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
· 1 small apple - peeled, cored and chopped
· 1/3 cup golden raisins
· 1/3 cup seedless red grapes, halved
· 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
· 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
· ½ to 1 teaspoon curry powder depending on your love of curry
· 3/4 cup mayonnaise
· Salad greens
1. In a large salad bowl combine the chicken, celery, onion, apple, raisins, grapes, pecans, pepper, curry powder and mayonnaise. Mix all together, tossing to coat. Spoon onto bed of salad greens & the salad is ready to serve!

The monsters under my bed

I have been running away from these fears for quite sometime, so I decided to put them down in writing so that I can start to confront them. I am just so exhausted trying to keep up the pace while these fears are chasing me faster and faster. So here we go……
Employment: After 6 years of marriage I had this expectation that we would be secure in our jobs. While I have been employed in the same company for 6 years I have the same level job as I did before I earned my degree. I never thought that it would be so hard to find a fulfilling and well paying job but I find myself constantly boarded in this job that everyone always tells me should be so awesome. Then there is DJ’s frequently changing job (not of his own doing) so that he has never moved out of the starting pay range in any job. We are still struggling when I had hoped we would be more settled. This has caused such stress that I literally have had two major nervous breakdowns. Each week we hold our breath to find out if he will get his full 40 hours and we get to go buy milk that week or if he will be short hours and we have to decide what bill will be late. I know I shouldn't’t but I often find myself in such a state of envy for those women around me who are able to stay home and raise their children and whose husbands have those wonderfully stable jobs. I would love to know that feeling in this life but I truly fear our struggle will continue for quite some time.
This brings me to my next major fear………..
Motherhood: I truly fear we will never be blessed with a child. I know that I cannot bare a child but I still held such hope of adopting a baby that I almost felt no need to grieve for the loss of a biological child. But this constant financial insecurity has dampened our dreams of adopting since the fees are over 10K and I obviously will not be able to stay home so we will need childcare, which we can’t afford. I wish that money was not such a tool of the devil and we were able to live in a society where hard work really paid off. I don’t want anyone to think I’m money hungry by any means, I just crave. All I have every wanted is to be a good wife and experience the joy of motherhood, and I fear that these simple desires are never going to be fulfilled due to our circumstances and it scares me right to my core.
My health: I have been truly paralyzed this year with all of my health issues. The last time I remember being healthy I was 15 years old and this is the first time I have felt like I may never feel healthy again. I actually dread my appointments because each time the Dr tells me something new that is wrong. I now take 7 pills daily, a shot twice weekly and my insulin resistance has me on 300 units of insulin daily. This year I have been in hospital 4 times, had 2 CAT scans, a stress test, vein ultrasound, sleep study, breathing test, skin allergen test and lung scan; and it’s only May! I feel like my doctors only want to treat my symptoms but not help me with the problem. My weight has gone so out of control that I feel like I can not get it back under control again. I worked so hard to get it off and then all heck broke lose and I find myself at the heaviest I have been in my life. I truly for the first time have a fear that I will not live a long life. At 27 that reality is so chilling that I often feel like my depression is coming back and I know if I succumb to the depression this time I may not have the strength to pull out. I am so thankful for my husband at these times because he is so patient and loving and he never shows me his frustration when I’m barely holding on. It is also times like these that I am glad I have a calling that involves daily work so that I can keep myself busy when I begin to feel like crawling into bed. I am proud of my ability to stave off a depressive swing this year and the fact that I have not surrendered to my Dr.’s pressure to go on antidepressants. But the fear that I will never be healthy has been chasing me all of this year.
And lastly…………………………
Friends: I hit a couple of huge walls this year and while I sat there with the phone in my hand needing to reach out I discovered that while I have many acquaintances I don’t have friends who I can just lose it with. I have been the rock for many when they call and are falling apart, and I have never felt nor do I now that I was being used or put on because I thrive on being needed and in the grips of someone else’s crisis I can pull everything together and refuse to let go until the situation is taken care of completely. I know that is why I’m the first to be called when a husband cheated, a baby was lost, a fiancĂ© left, a sibling past away or a mother was diagnosed with cancer. And I have never felt it a burden because our whole purpose in this world is to help each other no matter what is going on in our lives, service to our fellow man/woman is the answer to all my other fears and I know this. Maybe that is why it was so devastating to have come to the reality that all of these people I have always viewed as my friends only called on me when they needed me then I would not hear from them again for months. Emails would go unanswered, calls not returned and rushed conversations where I tried to share a need I had but was quickly turned into me helping them again. So I sat there holding my phone realizing my deepest fear had confirmed itself; I don’t have any truly deep friendships, no siblings, no one I can call and just lose it when needed. I fear that I will not have that kind of companionship and it troubles me more then any other fear I have written down here today. It is truly the largest of the monsters under my bed where I sweep my fears at night.
Now I have not written this to throw a pity party or because I felt like wallowing for a while. I have been praying a lot about how to fix these problems and conquer the fears now that I have fully identified them. I know we are told that journaling is necessary to grow and better ourselves so I have felt like I needed to journal these fears & put them out into the universe so I can hold myself accountable to overcome them fully. I have many blessings in this world; I know of them and am truly thankful for each and every one of them. I just crave the feeling to be free of these fears and needed to take the first step to try and stop running from them.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Here comes the Heat!

Well we are going to hit 100 degrees this week and that means that summer is beginning to unpack her bags for the long stay here in the valley. I have been preparing the house with some insulated curtains and training the husband to have all windows closed by 10am. But I fear that our A/C-less summer will not be as easy as we hope it to be. I suppose that I should explain the reason for such an insane action as AZ without A/C. We purchased our first home in Oct 2006, closed on November 18th and found out November 20th that DJ's employer (Wild Oats Market) was closing all the Henry's Farmers Markets, which Wild Oats owns, in AZ December 17th. So the management job that had nice pay dissolved before we were even moved in to the house. He was able to find a job with Fry's Foods (owned by Kroger) but back in the meat department as a cutter/clerk for less money with the hope of moving to front end management again in the future. Therefore our budget was altered radically so we could keep the house and some of the first things that were released from the monthly expenses were all forms of entertainment, extra electricity, and non-essential foods (I have been trying to feed us for $100/month). So far we have been blessed to make ends meet through the grace of God and much praying along with some very wonderful parents. We never should have made it since we have incurred $800 in hospital bills from Jan to April due to my new found asthma and the conflict that causes with my strong desire to be able to breathe. So hence my thought to share no-cook cool summer foods that are also easy on both the budget and waistline. WooHoo! So this week I have posted a salad, soup and dessert to make up for my lack of posting last week. Happy Eating!

Mexican Chicken Salad
3 cups cooked cubed chicken
15 oz. can corn, drained
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup thick and chunky salsa
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 cup oil and vinegar salad dressing
Salad Greens
Combine all ingredients except salsa, cilantro and salad dressing and toss gently. Combine salsa, cilantro and salad dressing in small bowl and drizzle over chicken mixture. Toss to coat. Cover and chill for 1-3 hours to blend flavors. Toss then serve over salad greens.
Serves 8

Gazpacho is a chilled vegetable soup perfect for summer entertaining.
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 cups vegetable cocktail juice
garlic croutons or sour cream for garnish
In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients except croutons and shrimp and mix gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to blend flavors. Serve chilled, topped with croutons or a dollop of sour cream.
Serves 6

Strawberries with Cream Cheese Filling
These pretty strawberries are cut to resemble flower petals then stuffed with sweetened cream cheese.
32 fresh whole strawberries, large
11 to 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons semisweet or milk chocolate, grated
Cut a thin slice from the stem end of each strawberry, allowing the berries to stand upright on flattened end. Place berries, cut side down, on a serving platter. Cut each berry carefully into 4 wedges, cutting almost to, but not through, bottoms.
Fan wedges just slightly, taking care not to break; set berries aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and almond extract until light and fluffy. Gently fold in grated chocolate. Using a teaspoon or decorating bag with decorative tip, fill the strawberries. If desired, sprinkle with a little more grated chocolate. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Makes about 32 filled strawberries.