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There comes a time when you really want to spice up your life a bit.

  • A new haircut that makes people you know recognize the voice, but not the person
  • An ensemble that makes others stop and stare with admiration (and a tiny tinge of envy)
  • A statement of declaration that makes others smile in awe or stand in applause

I don’t have a chance with any of those options.  At the most, I’ve seen people staring at me, scratching their heads at any of the three attempts listed… or when I attempt all three at the same time.

Now that’s a sight to behold… like a car wreck you just can’t stop watching.

So I look for my spice in a completely different way – dinner!

For my latest foray into the world of spice, I’ve been trying to replicate Chipotle’s Barbacoa meat.  Why?  Because I like it.  And its so expensive to go out to eat. And I just wanted to prove that I’m smarter than a piece of meat.  Also -

- It’s succulent.

- It’s unique.

- It’s really tricky to figure out with the conglomerations of flavors that are present.  Doggonit, it wasn’t as easy to discover the secret as I thought it would be…

But I would not give up.  So help me.  If it was the last thing I ever did, I would conquer the gauntlet thrown down at my feet!

Yeah, I threw it.  I know.  But sometimes you just have to prove a point, even if it was to yourself.

After a number of valiant tries which required my family to endure the “not quite there yet” meals, I did it!

The one ingredient I was missing?  Chipotle chiles.

Who’d have thunk it, right?  Maybe that’s how the restaurant got it’s name? :)

Seriously, the chiles completely make the dish work.  Not jalapenos. Not roasted red peppers. Chipotle chiles in adobe sauce.

So if you are ready for some down right delicious and kickin’ burritos (or burrito bowls – hey, it’s your meal!), then grab this printable recipe that is as easy as pie (easier really) and make it with all your favorite fixings.  Seriously, it’s stinkin’ easy as it all goes into the crockpot and a few hours later, you have a mouthwatering meal that will have you spotlighted as the “it” cook, with a flair for taming spice to epic proportions.

Oh, and don’t forget to make the lime cilantro rice.  Not much extra effort and it really pulls the whole thing together.

You might as well add these things to your shopping list if you’re really trying to have the whole Chipotle experience:

  • large flour tortillas
  • pinto beans (my preference)
  • black beans
  • lettuce
  • salsas of varying heats
  • cheese
  • sour cream
  • guacamole

Chipotle Barbacoa Burritos

Ingredients

    • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 4 teaspoons minced garlic cloves
    • 4 teaspoons cumin
    • 2 teaspoons oregano
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 3/4 cup chicken broth
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 3 tablespoons lime juice
    • 3 -4 chipotle chiles in adobo *Do not skip!  Must have to get the right flavor!!  Easy to find at a Hispanic Mercado.
    • 4 -5 lbs chuck roast

Directions

  1. To make the adobo sauce combine vinegar, limejuice, chipotles, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt and cloves in a food processor on high speed until smooth.
  2. Remove most of the fat from the roast and then cut into large chunks (approximately 6).
  3. Pour oil into a frying pan and sear all sides of roast on medium-high heat until browned.
  4. Place meat into crockpot and pour adobo sauce over meat.
  5. Pour in the chicken broth and add bay leaves.
  6. Cook on high heat 6 hours or on low all day.
  7. Remove bay leaves.
  8. Shred meat with forks and place back in crockpot with juices.

Now fill your burritos as you chose and prepare to receive the accolades for a job really well done.  (And bring an army.  This recipe will feed quite a few mouths!  (It works wonderfully for leftovers too.)

Rocks Star Green Beans

Do you want to get your kids to eat their veggies and praise your goodness at the same time?

Well, have I got the answer for you!

Enter Rockstar Green Beans, the dish where there will never be enough to go around and green will be their favorite color on their plate.

This side dish needs to be made with fresh green beans, and since we’re still in summer, it’s the perfect time to throw them together. It’s a fabulous winter dish, too, but fresh from a farmers market? Yowza!

My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Full disclosure: I just “make” this dish. No measuring, no exact times. I just wing it. But for you, I’ll write it down and pretend its an old family recipe I’m shaing with you.

So if it’s too “something”, feel free to mess with the recipe to make it your own.
Here we go!

Ingredients

  • A mess of fresh green beans, maybe 1- 1 1/2 lbs
  • 2 Tsps olive oil
  • 2 Tsps dark soy sauce (maybe more)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Dried oregano

Snap the ends off the green beans, about 1/4 inch.

In a large skillet or wok, heat pan over medium heat. Add oil and turn pan to coat.

Add the beans, turning to coat them in the oil. Pour soy sauce over beans; turn to ensure distribution.

Add garlic. Inhale deeply and enjoy the moment.

Let cook for 8 minutes, turning every minute. I just made that number up. You want to have some “blackened” parts on the beans. If pan looks dry, add some soy sauce.

Sprinkle some salt and oregano over beans and toss.

They’re ready to go! It’s fabulous by themselves and with all sorts of meats – chicken (fried, roasted, grilled, baked), beef (steak, roast, burgers), pork (barbecued, roasted, grilled)… well, you get the picture.

And be prepared for complaining when they’re gone.

You might want to have some ice cream handy to stifle their disappointment.

 

Senior Living

The Girl is a Senior now.

A Senior.

In high school.

How can this be?  Just the other day, she was asking me to play princess with her and to blow bubbles outside.

Oh wait.  That WAS just the other day.

Good to know that some  things don’t have to change.

But a lot of things do.

This summer has been full of alterations:

  •  She’s 17, another birthday celebrated with a water war and a pancake celebration.  She loved her requested toffee caramel cheesecake birthday cake and her strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting too.  And she’s super stoked about her present this year: tickets for she and I to go see Wicked at that Orpheum.  We’ll make a girls’ night of it, dressing up, dinner and the show.  It will be epic!
  • The Girl has a boyfriend who lives in town, just down the street.  We are learning the art of trusting her to remain who she was brought up to be, sharing her time and heart with an outsider and enjoy her bloom and smile when she talks about him.
  • The Girl has a job now.  She works at TJMaxx and she loves it.  As one of our favorite stores, she works the home goods area where she is surrounded by all the things she loves – kitchen gadgets, pans, baking dishes and specialty food items.  She also loves the paycheck and having money to “do things and buy stuff”.
  • The Girl is getting her license very soon.  Yeah, she’s been a late license-obtainer, but she didn’t have need before now.  With the job and cold weather about to meet face to face, she’s going to need alternate transportation than a bike.  Plus, in her last trimester, she will be leave school the last two hours each day to mentor/work shadow with a psychologist in town, to see the backside of that area of studies.  Pretty neat opportunity!
  • The Girl has a leadership role on the Robotics team.  This summer, there have been a number of meetings about Robotics, the area for which she will captain, and leadership opportunities outside of the classroom.  On the opening day or the MN State Fair,  she and several other Blue Twilight members will host the STEM  Fair, a hands-on opportunity for kids to touch, play and control robots.
    This year, the team created an award-winning video about Team 2220 or Blue Twilight. (I have no idea why that is their name as it was taken 6 years ago when the team began. I have be assured that it had NOTHING to do with the Twilight book series.) In it, you’ll see The Girl talking about the team. (She didn’t know the video was being filmed. She showed up to a meeting one early Saturday morning, straight out of a shower and relaxed about the weekend time. Her teacher said, “The Girl! Head down to the Resource Room for a few minutes, would you?” There she discovered that she had been hand picked to be filmed and was placed on a stool and given the opportunity to talk about whatever she wanted to talk about concerning Team 2220. What you see her saying is on the spot talk. Not bad for a Saturday morning, off the cuff discussion! She said she wish she had known. She’d have done her hair or at least put on blush.) :)

  • The Girl and I, along with her boyfriend and his mom (who I adore!) toured our first college this week.

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    The Girl wanted to see the University of Minnesota since it has one of the best psychology departments in the area.  It was a fabulous tour, detailing so much about the school that I didn’t know.  There are boundless opportunities available to her, as well as some scholarship potentials as a girl in the Robotics area.

    (Her ACT was pretty high, but she’s taking it again to see if she can’t eek out a higher number to get to that next level of scholarship potentials.  One point will make thousands of dollars difference.)

    It’s the first of a number of schools she would like to see.  I would rather her attend a Christian college, but this is one of those times where I think what I want won’t be worth the battle to win if it will cost me her friendship or belief that I support her.  I have to remember it’s her life, and I know that God can use her well no matter where he places her, even thought I don’t want her to go.

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Where has the time gone?

It’s gone just as it should, allowing me to love this sweet thing and to have the blessing of being called her friend.

The Giver

This statement most likely won’t come as a shocker.  I’m probably going to say something you’ve known, but never felt the need to say out loud.

I’m pretty much a self-centered being.

There.  I said it for you.  You can breathe easy now.

I have a hard time not seeing how things apply to me, seeing the broader picture without any regards to what role I may play in it.  I’ve been that way forever and a day, I’m ever so sorry to say.

Probably because I’m the baby and, well, the world really does revolve around me.

I hope to change for the better, but a good friend just said to me this past week, “Once you reach 40, you really don’t change.”

Well, that bites for me… I’m 2 years past that expiration date and gaining more.  That means I’m pretty much hopeless and beyond repair.

It kind of sounds like the movie quote from Sleepless in Seattle.

Co-Worker: It’s easier to be killed by a terrorist than it is to find a husband over the age of 40!

Annie: That statistic is not true!

Becky: That’s right it’s not true, but it feels true.

Not really applicable to my point, but it still makes me laugh out loud. I need to see that movie again.

Anyway(s), my friend my be right.  I may not be able to make drastic personality changes easily this late in life.  I may be am self-centered, but I have at least one redeeming quality that I think may help me counteract this huge character flaw.

I am a giver. I give because it’s one way for me to show affection.  It’s also a way for me to remember that it’s not all about me, that there are others in this world who need as much (if not more) love as I do, that I do have something to offer to the world.

I like giving in all sorts of ways.  And to be honest, though I will do it in a heartbeat for those that I love, I’ll give to strangers too.

Time – If someone needs something done, I’ll do it, even if my time is at a premium or if it’s a task I really don’t enjoy.  A friend needs me?  I’ll drop stuff to talk or sit in silence if that’s what they need.  A person looks lonely?  I’ll look them in the eye and ask about them.  A neighborhood child wants to sit with me on the swing and talk about their day (when I’m reading my book), the book is gone and the child has my attention. You need a bounce board to talk things through just to get a grasp on things?  I’m your girl.  You need me to make a call on your behalf, I’m all over it… after I talk myself into it.  You want to just shoot the breeze to know that someone is there for you? I’m all ears.

Possessions – One lesson I heard early in life really stuck with me.  If you give something to someone, consider it gone.  You will not harbor feelings of resentment if it’s not returned and you’ll feel really good about the relationship over all.  When it is returned, it’s a nice little surprise that makes you smile.  I have a pretty easy time giving “my” things to others.  Plus, I feel really good about being able to help someone if they needed it.  (Don’t ask for my coffee maker, though.  I’ll tell you no. Sigh. But then I’ll feel guilty for being selfish and try to figure out  how to get you one.  I’m a mess.  Just don’t ask for my coffee maker and all will be well… for me, at least.)

Respect – This offering should be easy for most people, but it’s not.  I cannot tell you how many times I see people treat others with such disrespect and feel awful for the rudeness displayed. Why do most people think they are better than everyone else?!  It’s so simple to treat others with a bit of respect.  I say thank you to the person who opened the door for me, even if he’s done it every day.  I thank the waiter who served at my table and hope they feel appreciated for the service rendered.  I even thank others when they take the time/energy to thank me! (Silly, but thanks are so scarcely rendered, I feel that I should thank the thanker to acknowledge that I heard with a responsive heart and I liked it.)  I’ve learned the names of my bus drivers and cafeteria/store employees and talk with them when I’m in their care.  I smile at others when walking down the hall, looking them in the eyes to let them know that they have been noticed.  I’m not saying I’m a pro at it yet, but I believe I have a small portion of it under my belt.

Talents – If you need help and it’s something I can do, I’m on it!  Heck, I’ve been known to be on it even if I hadn’t a shred of talent for it.  But that’s how you learn, right?  It’s all about helping however you can to relieve someone else’s burden. You need a meal?  I’ll make it for you.  You need a meeting set or a liaison for a tech/work request?  Just say the word.  You ask for ideas on how to tackle a situation?  I’ll try my darndest.  Raising money for charity?  Here, sell these treats to make some money.  You need a pair of hands to move things, I’ve got two and a willing heart if it will help you.

Friendship – This offering is the easiest to give, but also one of the most costly.  Friendship offered is such a vulnerable gift and often it is left trampled on the side.  When you find others who will cherish it and treat it with respect, what a reciprocal offering it is!  Despite being trampled on again and again, I still offer it to others.  May my heart never harden to where I say, “What’s the point?”

Gifts – I love giving gifts! I know it’s not everyone’s love language, that gifts don’t really speak to them, but it’s one of mine for showing my emotions and heart.  The gifts don’t have to be big or expensive either. Completing an undesirable task for someone else is a small way to show you love someone. The gift of a pick-me-up when you know someone needs it is a small way to show I care.  A surprise batch of cupcakes for coworkers tells them I’m so grateful to work with wonderful people.  A card that says just the right thing (or better yet – a handwritten note) can touch the spirit and lift it up.  A handmade Christmas ornament says I’m glad I know you and here’s a part of me.  A cookie from a cookie run shouts you matter to me, enough for me to share my chocolate.   Well-sought out birthday gifts means I love you so much I dedicated time, thought, heart and effort into finding something that I hope will please you.  Creating a meal that you know is a favorite reminds the eater that she is loved.

Hope – Sometimes, all a person needs is a little bit of hope, a little bit of encouragement.  A listening ear, a word of advice if wanted (and an apology if it isn’t), a personal experience to relate when someone is struggling/suffering with something you’ve already endured, a smile and a bit of humor to encourage – these things cost nothing, but they are so valuable to the receiver.  Just getting someone to laugh with a well placed line is offering a bit of inspiration to help someone see if there can be lightness and laughs during their troubles, there will be again afterwards too.   Sometimes people ask why I’m so cheerful, so positive, so Pollyanna-ish; it’s because I have hope. And hope is something that can always be shared.  It replenishes as it goes.

My heart – Now this gift is the hardest for me to give. It’s so much more than offering friendship.  I’m friendly.  I’m fun.  I’m open in a really good way.  But that’s not all of me, not my full heart.   That’s just the first protective layering around it.  It that takes time, effort and lots of little moments of trust for me to build up enough courage to reveal the real me to someone.  It’s an extremely small number for those to whom I have shared my inner most self, with those who I thought could accept me still.  If I finally feel secure enough to share my heart, if I open up to let you in to see all of me – the good parts, the bad parts, the real parts that wallow in uncertainty or jitter with excitement, the parts that are chocked full of odd thoughts, real ponderings, or hidden dreams, then you have been given the most precious gift I can give.  What you do with that offering determines if the friendship flourishes with reciprocation or how long it will be before I offer it to someone again when rejected.  And once rejected, because I’ve given and given and given of myself to be accepted in the first place, it’s extremely difficult for me to let someone in again.  I have a hard time letting go not being good enough the first time around to want to start again.

Overall, there’s such a underlying joy in being a giver, in being someone who is known as having a kindness about her, to people of all walks of life, no matter the age, sex, race or social ranking of the recipient.  It fills me with a sense of worth, that I can make a difference in my small little world.

You want to know the thing that stinks about being a giver?

It’s usually not responded in kind.  

And that makes a giver, well, me anyway(s), feel as if she is being taken for granted, not noticed, unappreciated, someone who will always be around to take care of them no matter how I’m treated.

But that gets old after a while.

Every now and then, I’d like to be the recipient of the unexpected giving, let someone else take the lead.

  • I would appreciate it if someone would see behind the smile, notice when I need to talk and offer an attentive, listening ear.
  • I would treasure the opening of a heart – wide open and showing the ins and outs of fears and dreams.
  • I’d like to have a treat waiting just because someone knew I liked it.

Sigh. I’m sure those desires go along with my being self-centered in the first place.  It doesn’t have to be about me, right?

It’s a circle that I have yet to find a way to break.

We all know I am a piping hot mess.

Good thing God has nerves of steel and patience out the wazoo.  He’s going to need it. I

If after over 40 years I’m still struggling with it, He’s going to be settled in for a long haul.

Hopefully it’s easier to make that change than to be killed by a terrorist.

It’s all about finding a silver lining. :)

Birthdays

I love birthdays.
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Yours. Mine. Some strangers.  I love celebrating with special friends and loved ones, finding little gifts that speak from my heart to theirs, telling them I’m so glad they’re alive. I am blessed to know them.

When sitting in a restaurant and waiters walk out singing their birthday song, I sing with them, mumbling some words  or “watermelon” if they get to the name part.

And I clap when they’re done too. (Not because they’re done singing.  That would be rude.)

I don’t understand why some people ignore or hide them.  Personally, I think birthdays should be a time of great celebration and joy!  I mean, you’ve circled the sun once more without kicking the bucket.

It’s the little things, y’all. It’s the little things.

And not only should they be celebrated the day of, they should be enjoyed all week long.  Especially if the celebrant is awesome and worthy of constant reminders of their specialness.

I tried to get my family to celebrate it all month long, but they didn’t think I was worthy of that much festivities.

Lazy bums.  I’m totally worth a month-long party.

But I’m pretty happy that my birthday was remembered in extra special ways.

First I got my favorite donuts – hand delivered by Paul.  One crispy apple fritter and one sugar twist. YUM!

My mom texted a happy birthday note to me… and then teased me that she was having great weather whilst I was not.  Hmph!

Then I headed to the bus, where one of my bus mates, Tamara, handed me a cinnamon sugar muffin and a card. (So unexpected and sweet!)

Oh, and it snowed in honor of my big day.

It was May, y’all.  I could have done without that gift.  I was looking for sun and 80°, but no such luck for me.  God thought that 44° and snow would suit me just fine.  Bah.  That’s okay.  My sunny personality made up for the cold.  I’m sure it did!

No, it did.

Quit laughing!

Most people at work were shocked that I came into work on my birthday.  If I had just stayed home, no one would have wished me joy or celebrated with me.  My personal celbrants were all at work or school.  Plus, I did have some tasks I needed to complete.

My team threw a birthday potluck for me.  It was awesome because they like to eat and I like to eat and it all works out for everyone! I took the makings for meatball sandwiches (which were pretty darn good, if I do say so myself).  But the treat I kept eating were the Rice Krispie treats.  They’re my favorite!  I ate quite a few and then asked permission to take some home.  I even shared with the kids… but that’s only because they found them before I could hide them well.

Bugger.

My boss was sweet and brought me a plant for my day.  (It’s not dead yet.  That has to be a record for me.  Of course it helps that the plant is sitting in someone else’s cube near a window, and I haven’t had to poison it with my sunny disposition yet.)  A fellow admin left a berber daisy for me.  It was beautiful, but it died by the time I reached work the next Monday.

Every time I got up from my chair, a new card or present was waiting for me.  That was a really nice surprise!

I had lots of opportunities to talk with my favorite at work – good conversations that were highly entertaining and exciting.  I love those conversations that are full of laughter, smiles, sighs of joy and contentment and utter silliness at times.  I even discussed some birthday wishes that I would have liked to have fulfilled!  It’s always good to dream big when you’re wishing…

And it’s amazing how much work can be left undone when you’re having fun.

At the end of work, I had a wedding shower to attend for a different team.  I packed up and took off for the event, only 30 minutes late from conversing with others and trying to finish what I left to the last minute.  I got almost all the way to the place for the shower only to discover that I had left my phone at work… which I needed to find out what bus stop I needed to make by when since I wasn’t anywhere near my normal stop.

I hoofed it back and decided that I didn’t have enough time to make it to the shower after that miss.  So I stuck around the office, talking, laughing and generally loving the time spent with my fellow worker until it was time for me to make the bus to head home.

When I got home, I was ordered into the car, heading out to a surprise place for dinner.  It was wonderful trying a new place called Loring Pasta Bar, where the food was fun and the live jazz band was smooth and entertaining.  Oh, and the May family met us there to enjoy the outing.

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After hurrying through dinner, I was rushed back into the car to head home.  There I was met with a house full of friends for a surprise party.  Paul had purchased a delectable dark chocolate cake and we popped open wine to usher in this new year for me.  There were lots of bantering, discussions and laughing going on as we looked at gifts and played games.  The little kids really got into the fun too!

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My day was lovely in every way.  One that went into the books as a really fantabulous memory.

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