Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'm Gonna Like Me

I don't remember when it was exactly, but a few months ago I was reading an article about how research has proven a link between teenage depression and Facebook usage. (I am sure you could still run the search for it on Yahoo News.) As I read it, I remembered thinking, "how sad that our younger generation has such a skewed view of both friendships and reality!"

Fast forward a few months, and you might be able to compare me to a few of those teenagers.

As lame as that was for me to admit, I have to confess that it's true. Though I wouldn't necessarily say I am "depressed" because I use Facebook, it has been a cause of some gloomy moments for me, and I have had to check myself when I want to jump to some hasty conclusions about my friends.

(Warning: The lame admission trend is about to continue...)

I love how Facebook has kept me connected with so many true friends or family members that I would otherwise be too busy/lazy to keep in touch with if they weren't all in one place. But I also hate the crazy, obsessive person it can create in my own private thoughts from time to time.

The other day, I caught myself looking at the top stories displayed on my Newsfeed page and I began noticing these really extreme numbers for their comments and likes. My initial thought was, "Holy crap! That chick's got a lot of friends! Good for her!" But as I let my mind rest on those numbers later in the day, I almost got a little jealous.

I have to tell you frankly (because honestly at this point, there is little left to lose!) I got a little peeved. I couldn't help but question, why can someone post a status along the lines of "I have decided to cut some people out of my life; it is time for me to make a change" and have 27 people click "like" and I can post something like "I'm pregnant! I am adding another person into my life!" and 12 people "like" it? How can a person post a picture of their breakfast and have 30 people "like" it and I can post a picture of my kid on the moon and only have about 4 people "like" it.
(These are purely hypothetical, by the way. I am neither pregnant nor have my children been to the moon--in real life anyway. Sammi has quite an imagination;))

These questions spurred on additional questions:
Do my friends not like me as much as I thought they did?
Am I not as interesting/funny as I think I am?
What makes that other person more likable than me?
OMG!!! Am I really obsessing over Facebook this much?!?!

And as painful and embarrassing as it is for me to reveal how trivial I have been about all of this to you, in my heart of hearts I know a lot of you can relate on some tiny level. At the very least, don't you get a little excited to see that someone actually has "liked" your status or left a cute/supportive comment? I read another article that said the average person with a smart phone checks it about 34 times a day--and each viewing takes about 30 seconds or something outrageous like that. (I think I saw this on CNN.) "Why?" you may ask... Because people's brains respond positively to seeing a notification either that they've received a new email or have an update on their Facebook page. We like having the visual affirmation that people "like" us!

Thankfully, Facebook has been a relatively new trend for me, and I am able to catch myself when my brain goes a little too far.
Do my friends like me? Yes. In fact, my friends will continue to like me in spite of this pitiful blog! And they don't have to "like" me all the time to prove it.
Am I as interesting/funny as I think I am? Probably not :) But I make myself laugh and that should count for something.
What makes that other person more likeable than me? Nothing. Their friends all have smart phones and are habitually checking their Facebook page lol
Am I really obsessing over Facebook this much?!?! Yes, weirdo. Stop it now. Better yet, pick up your phone and schedule a date to meet up with a friend!!!

Sammi has a book that says: I'm gonna like me because I'm loved and I know it, and liking myself is the best way to show it.

I know I am loved--even if I am not always "liked."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If at first you don't succeed...

...try, try again next month :)

Tonight I tried round 2 of entering the Better Homes and Gardens Prize Winning Recipes contest--this one didn't work out so great for me :)

The theme was "Burger Love" with the goal of creating a new take on burgers (to go along with a summertime issue next August.) I loved everything I put on my burger except my burger patty (haha!)

You see, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could craft a new burger from ingredients I almost always have on hand, so I made a patty out of 1/2 lb of ground sausage and 1 lb of ground venison...
--Okay, you caught me. I was just too lazy and too cheap to run to the store to pick up something specially for tonight!--

But in my defense, I mixed the venison with the sausage with sound logic in mind. Because venison is an extremely lean meat (it is almost impossible to make a burger patty out of pure venison without it crumbling--at least in my experience), I thought that the pork sausage would help hold the patty together and give the meat a bit of moisture (aka-delicious, fat-flavored goodness.) Well, while my patties did hold up incredibly, they were a bit drier than I would have hoped for. I think this also had something to do with my cook time. I was hesitant to take the meat off the grill pan early because both sausage and venison don't have the luxury of being served up a little rare like beef does.

Anyway, since I felt like my main component was not up-to-par, I chose not to send this recipe in. However, I saw no reason why it shouldn't make it onto my plate for supper tonight.

Not bad for a Tuesday night, right? By the way, if you are ever looking for a different way to dress up your burger, top your (BEEF!) patty with fried mozzarella slices, spinach, and slather your bun with a dressing made from about 1TBS mayo and 1tsp sun-dried tomato pesto (to be shared equally among all burgers, of course.) Perdy good.

So while I was bummed about my botched burger, it is hard to be completely down in the dumps. For one thing, tonight I taught myself how to make fried mozzarella slices. (SCORE!) But mainly, I realized that I have come a long, LONG way from being the girl in college who only knew how to make Cheerios and thought you were supposed to heat up canned tuna in the microwave (oy...yes, I know, disgusting.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, no, my pie did not collapse in the freezer. Here's the finished product:

And now to wash it all down:

(Just kidding! I couldn't resist lol)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Easy as Pie

So it seems that everyone I love is still on a New Year's high and making commitments for a better 2012. I think I have even made some baby steps in that direction. In the past few weeks I have stayed true to my resolution to drink more water--and even made an unexpected commitment to cut out Diet Coke to aide me in that process. I have also been running regularly every week in hopes to knock out my first 5k by the end of next month. I was on a role making such healthy choices for myself that I decided I should continue the streak and take the next positive step toward checking off my New Year's Resolutions...let's make a pie!

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to enter the BHG recipe contests. I have been a Better Homes and Gardens subscriber for YEARS and have always saved the contest articles from past contests thinking "I should do this!"...but then I never did. This year I'm gonna!! (Why not?! It will give me a nice break from the corny dogs and chicken nuggets I fix for my children the rest of the month.) This month's categories are pies and burgers. Tonight I tried my hand at the pie.

And not just any pie--summer pies--summer, fruit-filled pies. I gotta tell you, this was probably the hardest category for me to start off on. While I do consider myself to be one of the "most-improved" cooks I know, I am certainly not a baker. And truth be told, I don't really like pies all that much. *gasp!* I know that probably sounds pretty un-American of me, and I apologize for that... no I don't. In fact, I am not that big on sweets of any kind--with the exception to that being cheesecakes and Blue Bell ice cream.

That's why I decided to try a frozen pie. It could give me the ice-creamy texture that I like and still fit the bill. (And honestly, who enjoys baking in the summertime?! Or in El Paso in January when it's still 72 degrees outside?!) I once tried a pie that was SO easy and I loved it: the Neely's Frozen Lemonade Pie. (You can look up the recipe on Food Network's website. I am too lazy to hyperlink crap... that's not how I roll on this blog!) It is so fluffy and creamy and sweet without being too sweet (the lemon helps a lot in that department.) But clearly, I couldn't just submit this recipe. First and foremost because it is not my original recipe, and secondly, because it is not fruit-filled. But man did I ever come as close to copy-catting their recipe as I could when I developed my original--Frozen Strawberry Limeade Pie. (Sounds summery, doesn't it?)

Here's what you need:

For crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons butter, melted

For Strawberry Limeade Filling:

1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
One 12-ounce container whipped topping, thawed
3 fluid oz-(half a can) of frozen limeade concentrate, unthawed
Whole strawberries for garnish

Here's how you do it:

Before you begin:

In a small sauce pan, cook the sliced strawberries with the 1 cup granulated sugar over medium-high heat until it becomes thick, bubbly, syrupy goodness--about 5 minutes (I promise, I almost stopped making the pie at this point and just ate the fact, I made a little more just so I could have extra on hand lol)

After you are done cooking the strawberries you will need to transfer them to the refrigerator so the syrup can chill completely. (Everything needs to be cold going into the filling or it won't work.)

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In medium bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs, sugar and the melted butter until combined and resembles a mixture that looks like this:

Then pour the mixture into a pie plate and press firmly along the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. This is what you'll get:

For the filling: (aka-the fun part.) In a large bowl, add the sweetened condensed milk to the whipped topping. Gently fold them together until combined, making sure to keep the mixture light and fluffy. Add the limeade concentrate and continue to gently fold. Finally, fold in the chilled strawberry syrup. Be careful not to stir or overmix or then the mixture will turn to liquid--that's not what we want. You still want it to look fluffy. Pour the filling into the pie crust. It'll look about like this.

Tuck that puppy into the freezer to chill overnight (or at least for eight hours.)

So there you have it. Mine is currently still sleeping. But so long as it hasn't collapsed by morning, this is the recipe I will submit. (I will post a picture of the finished product to Facebook tomorrow if you're interested to see how it turns out.)

Now I know you're thinking, "what the heck am I supposed to do with that extra half a can of limeade?" Here's one solution I came up with for you...

Strawberry Limeade Punch:

In a food blender, liquify about a half cup of strawberry syrup. *You know you made extra too ;)* Then, in a 2-qt pitcher, combine half a can of limeade concentrate, the 1/2 cup liquified strawberry syrup, and half a can of vodka. Then fill the remainder of the pitcher with your favorite lemon lime soda. Stir together. Serve in a glass over ice.

And I know you're also thinking, "What the heck can I do for 8 hours while I'm waiting on my frozen pie to be ready?" Here are some ideas I have for that as well:
-Do a lot of crunches and floor exercises, because you are about to eat a pie.
-Hop onto Pinterest--I always seem to burn a lot of hours quickly that way ;)
-Take a nap

Bet you can't guess what I'm doing while I wait...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Farewell to Diet Coke

So one of my New Year's resolutions was to try to drink more water. As I have made the attempt to commit to that resolution I have stumbled upon a certain truth...If there is coke available to drink, I will not choose water over coke. So rather than kick myself for my own lack of self-control, I have decided to remove the obstacle that stands in my way.

But in this die-hard country fan's mind, every hard good-bye deserves a song. And I thought, if Toby Keith can make one about a red solo cup, why can't I make one about my diet coke?! (Boy, do I ever have too much time on my hands! Nathan, come home soon. Come home real, REAL soon.)

So without further ado, (or much ado about nothing, dealer's choice,) here goes:

(ps. If I could play guitar and sing this for you, I totally would. lol)
So sweet Diet Coke, you’ve long been my friend
But sooner or later it just had to end
And lately it has come to my attention
That you are making me fat.

Sweet Diet Coke, you’re way too addictive
The headaches you cause need medication (prescriptive)
Your acid’s eating my bones; I call that vindictive
Diet Coke, you can kiss my a**. Woo!

Sweet Diet Coke
You have to go.
Please leave the party. Please leave the party.
I love you sweet Diet Coke. But you have to go.
Just leave the party. Yeah leave the party.

Now I really love how you bubble and fizz
But you see, Diet Coke, the simple truth is
If I needed a fix I could just drink a smidge…
…a glass…no, a case of beer.

But I have to admit I’ll sure miss that sound
When I pop the top and chug those first few gulps down
And your color---yes, the sweet amber brown
--No wait, that’s also my beer.

Sweet Diet Coke
You have to go.
Please leave the party. Please leave the party.
I love you sweet Diet Coke. But you have to go.
Just leave the party. Yeah leave the party.

Now I've tasted your zero and tasted your lime
And cherry and vanilla, from time to time
But you cannot seduce me; you can’t change my mind
Diet Coke, we are through

Sweet Diet Coke, please understand
This isn’t forever; we will meet again
With an occasional burger or pizza—but then:
I might reserve you for mixings with whiskey... or rum... or coconut rum...Who am I kidding? Can I please get another beer?

Sweet Diet Coke
You have to go.
Please leave the party. Please leave the party.
I love you sweet Diet Coke. But you have to go.
Just leave the party. Yeah leave the party.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Stacks

My son is a tiny engineer. His favorite game in the whole world right now is "stack." He will stack anything. (Blocks, legos, books, crackers and chicken nuggets.)
Occasionally, he will try to stack things that negate the laws of physics. Most of the time, these attempts don't pan out. (Balls, crayons, Barbie dolls--sorry son.) But every once in a while, he will work something out that totally surprises me, like the time he managed to stack an empty 2 liter onto an empty milk jug.
Tonight as I watched my son attempt to "stack" lego towers on top of his sister's head, I began thinking about how my life has been stacking up for me lately.

I tend to pile a lot of responsibilities onto my plate at the same time. As if taking care of house and home with my two preschoolers while my husband is deployed wasn't enough, I still hold volunteer positions for two different organizations, and I wouldn't be opposed to taking on another. My weekdays are usually booked pretty solid with the kids' classes, errands, playdates, and meetings, and it looks like I will be using my weekends to check off the items on my New Year's Resolution list :)
Call it hasty, overzealous, or whatever you like...I just like to be busy, and I have a really hard time sitting still.

However, I have watched my "towers" topple over after I've stacked them too high. Take, for instance, this holiday season. I was trying so hard to give the kids a happy Christmas even though Daddy was gone that I turned into one of the who-characters from the Dr. Suess stories. I did more baking than I've ever done in years past. I made cocoa from scratch on several occasions--something I've never done ONCE while my husband was home. I decorated the entire house inside and out (fun putting it up...not so much taking it down.) And I planned a three week trip back to my hometown in Dallas--three weeks away from home with two small children: NOT RECOMMENDED. I cannot tell you how many times I broke into tears last month trying to create "happy" Christmas memories. We all survived this Christmas-on-steroids, but I think in the future I will scale it down a bit.

I've also seen myself attempt to pile things up that negate the laws of physics, and therefore, hardly get off the ground. My semi-recent failure as an FRG leader and grad student with a newborn baby is a testament to that.

And once in a blue moon, I surprise myself at what I can keep standing. I still can't believe that I completed my degree right after having Sammi. (Might be my one crowning acheivement that I reflect on when I'm feeling down about myself.) I was also initially really worried about how I would handle this first deployment. And while there have been a few shaky moments, overall I'm holding steady :)

With all of the variants that come into play when talking about construction, it seems to me, your stack only has a standing chance if it is built on a solid foundation...glad I found the rock.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Yesterday I revealed to you my New Year's resolutions. Let me tell you right now, as of yet I cannot play guitar, I did not sing karaoke, I have not run a marathon, I still owe a large sum of money on my student loan, I have not entered a BHG recipe contest (first one due on the 24th--burgers and pies,) and I have not taken a vacation with my husband. I should also let you know that I almost did not sit down to write this blog today, I was on Facebook for at least half an hour, I didn't yell as much as I wanted to (but I did succumb to the urge a couple of times today,) and I went to a birthday party and a dear friend had me over for dinner--so I probably didn't do so well in the junk food department.

I did drink a lot more water today, so that's something, I guess.

I know that, realistically, no one would expect me to have any major updates to share. But I have to admit, I did feel a little disappointed in myself that I didn't. I think that growing up in an age of instant gratification, I just expect things to magically happen for me right away. Where the heck is a Staples button when you need one?!

And since I have begun admitting things...

Does anybody else ever feel like they're competing with everyone to acheive their resolutions first, or is that just a "me issue?" My entire Newsfeed at one point in the day was chock-full of people owning up to their claims to workout more, or lose weight, or maintain their blog... and all I could think about was "Man, am I a slacker! It's 9:30 in the morning and I have yet to hit the gym or upload a bunch of pictures to my blog. And I'm pretty sure that I have gained 5 pounds in the last three weeks--not lost them!" Watching everyone else step up their game should motivate me, and it does a bit, but I have to say it also makes me feel a little disappointed in myself that I can't keep up.
Tomorrow I think my status update will read: Had a great, creamy, sugary cup of coffee this morning. Went perfectly with my cheese danish. Geared up and ready to sit on my butt and watch The Wiggles with my munchkins.
...Yep, that one's a keeper.

So in sum, day 2 into my 2012 journey, I am still the same old me--only slightly more hydrated.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Year

Happy 2012--how the heck did it get here so fast?!

It has been a long while (nearing a month!)since I last wrote, so I figured now was as good a time as any for a fresh start.

I love the idea of New Year's. A new year--a starting point for a new adventure. Some people might even argue that it's a chance to start over completely--out with the old, in with the new. Whatever the case may be, I will be the first to jump on that bandwagon. If nothing else, I like the idea of making an effort to better myself. Many people make a (meaning one single) New Year's resolution. Weeks ago, I created a document entitled "Resolutions" that I saved to my desktop, and I have been listing out my New Year's resolutions as they've come to me.

Here's what I've got:

-Learn to play guitar: I've wanted to do this since I was sixteen. Aside from my family, there is little else that I love more in this world than music. I will sing anywhere--in fact, today, I caught myself singing aloud in the Commissary, and it was not a quiet hum. I was unknowingly singing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" in front of the Oscar Mayer deli meats like I was a karaoke rockstar. I only became aware of my volume when the lady a couple aisles over from me joined in at the chorus. (True story...I wish I was lying!!) I would love to be able to play guitar so I can tame the crazy song bird in me :)

-Sing karaoke: Because I've never done it, because I have always been too chicken to do it, because it looks like fun, and because I feel like I should probably sing to something other than my shower wall or my steering wheel--lest I should unknowingly bust out in song at another embarrassing venue.

-Run a marathon: Everyone has their exercise goals...and I am no different. I have always been fairly good at trying to keep up a regular exercise regimen. That being said, I still have areas where I would like to improve. Since running is my go-to workout, I figured it would be a good idea to set a practical goal to aim for. I will start with a 5K and would like to try a half marathon. My uncle just completed his first full-marathon last year, and I have to admit that if I see another picture of him running the marathon, I might just be motivated to keep up with that old man :)

-Pay off student loan: There is nothing more frustrating for me than to pay money at the beginning of every month for my education. Don't get me wrong...I am so proud of myself that I got my degree and am happy that I have it. But it is a huge kick in the pants to know that I'm still paying for something that I started buying nearly eight years ago. (Wow. That just made me feel old.) Time to pay off this debt and start putting that money into an account for something more practical---like a motorcycle. (lol)

-Enter BHG recipe contests: I am by no means an award-winning cook. Truth be told, I've only recently began cooking things that I would feel comfortable serving my friends. But being the BHG junkie that I am, I always dog-ear the pages for the prize-tested recipe contests and think, "I should try this!" Of course, I never have. But I am going to this year! If nothing else, I will be getting more creative in the kitchen--I might even get lucky once and come up with a winner...maybe...perhaps...probably not, but I'm gonna do it anyway!

-Vacation alone with my husband: Once we survive our first deployment, I don't think a person in the world would argue that we don't deserve some time alone for ourselves. Nothing too fancy or too long. Just an opportunity to reconnect and take care of ourselves for a change. (Not that we don't love taking care of our munchkins just as much!)

-Blog more: Blogging has been a wonderful release for me. I have always enjoyed writing, but I've never been particularly dedicated to it. (Grad school nearly sucked the will to write right out of me!) I started this blog on a whim, and I am so glad that I had that one night where I couldn't go to sleep after watching Julie and Julia :) It has given me an opportunity for quiet reflection and a chance to clear out all of the thoughts that get jumbled up in my head each day. It's like a diary that I share with my friends, (and perhaps even total strangers) but I really dig that other people can identify with and relate to my simple musings. I especially like to know that I can make people laugh at my gives me an opportunity to laugh at them as well. If I've never said it before, thank you for caring about what goes on in my head enough to read this. I resolve to make this a more prevalent part of my 2012.

-FB less: Not that I won't Facebook ever, but if I had a nickel for every wasted minute I spent on that site...I would have a lot of nickels...possibly enough to pay off my student loan...

-Yell less: My son and daughter should be able to hold me to this resolution...or bring about it's demise. Time will tell.

-Drink more water: I have had this one on my yearly to-do list for about 4 years running and I always fall back into the coke habit. Well, not this year, buddy! I will be pushing for H2O like I'm the Water Boy.

-Eat less junk: Because if I'm doing the water thing, I should probably go full-circle with the food thing. That and I really don't like when my kids fight over who gets to eat the last Dorito that they found on the floor...

-Enjoy life more: Today I woke up with Montgomery Gentry's "Lucky Man" playing in my head. (It's like my country version of "This is the day that the Lord has made.") He's got a line in there that says, "Even my bad days ain't that bad"...and I know that's the case with me. I complain when appliances break or when my preschoolers...act their age. But there are so many moments in my life where I am able to think about just how lucky I am to be where I'm at and all of the great things that have come out of my sometimes-not-so-great decisions/attitude/actions. I've been given a pretty fair hand, and I just want to play my cards right. (And I think completing the resolutions on this list will do well to aide me in reaching this one.)

So there they are. I think it would be cool to try to document a few of these resolutions on the blog as the year goes on to track my progress. And if I don't, feel free to yell at me. Everyone needs an accountability partner. And let me know if you want me to yell at you to help you keep yours...oh wait. I'm supposed to start yelling less... :)