About Me

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I am a multifaceted woman, living with intention and passion. I always see the glass as half full (ok, almost always). Currently into: jewelry design, glass beadmaking (aka lampworking), visual journaling, cooking and web design everything. Things that bring me great joy: my family, friends, Scrabble, British period pieces, Shabby Chic, Austin, TX, mini art tiles, autographed cookbooks, chocolate, Chianti, pedicures and beach glass. I don't "do" and/or dig: dishonesty, guilt, intolerance, unkindness, drama and goat cheese (it's a long story, but I love all the other cheeses!) So you now have a teeny tiny little picture of me, with a few warts thrown in. Welcome to my world!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pinch Me!

        I Am Done!!!

Feeling very Rocky-like...
     After going back to college to prepare myself for a new career in web development, I'm finally finished. In two and a half years, I've taken 50 credits (give or take), worth of classes, spent countless hours reading textbooks, taking notes, researching topics, completing homework assignments and class projects, and studying for quizzes and exams. I won't lie, it was hard. Really hard. I think it was the hardest thing I have ever done. It required many sacrifices, not just on my part, but on the part of my entire family. I missed my kids’ concerts, soccer games, conferences, holiday events and more. Many times, my family ate meals out of cans, boxes or the drive-thru. I spent more time with my laptop than my family. I spent many late nights working on school work, up way, way, waaay past midnight, getting by on just a few hours of sleep. I shed a good number of tears over code, sometimes privately, sometimes not. My husband, who owns his own business and already works well over 40 hours a week, picked up the slack, how, I'll never know. My parents, extended family and friends were tireless in their support of my endeavor, offering encouraging words (many times on facebook) and forgiving me a multitude of times for not visiting, not returning calls and not staying in touch outside of school breaks. I missed birthdays, get-togethers and sadly, several funerals as well. I neglected my flower and vegetable gardens along with a lot of home maintenance. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
     In the end, though, I accomplished what I set out to do. I gained a new skill set and got a job doing what I love. Actually, I got a dream job. I went in to interview for an internship and left with a job I couldn’t wait to start! I’ve been feeling like the luckiest person on the planet lately, but when I think about what it took to get to where I am right now, I have to say, I contributed a lot to that “luck.” I worked incredibly hard (harder than my first time through college, in all honesty), made many sacrifices, stayed determined and kept a positive attitude throughout this adventure. Unlike my first time through college (when I was a very young adult), this time around, I knew what I wanted, what I was working for and where I wanted to go with my future. My eye never left the prize, not once. I often said, “I’m on a mission,” and I meant it. Still, I do feel very lucky that NMC offered the web developer program, that my husband was so supportive, that I was able to rewire my brain to think like a coder, and that the company that hired me exists in my town and needed someone like me when I needed a position.

     I am done... and so incredibly thankful and joyful!!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baking Bonanza Snow Day!

Carrot Muffins

     It is my youngest daughter's birthday today AND the second snow day of the school year. The kids have MLK Day off on Monday, so a four day weekend for them! I, of course, start back to class at the local community college on Monday. Needless to say, I have been in the mood to get my baking "on" and spent the afternoon making muffins and a raspberry "jellyroll," something I have never made before. My kitchen is nice and toasty, and the house smells just divine. I'm lucky my kids like to eat my cooking/baking (usually), and hope to freeze some of the muffins for breakfast and their lunches for the next couple of weeks.
Raspberry Jellyroll
     My oldest son saw all the food porn on facebook and asked if we planned to go for a long run after eating all these goodies, and I had to laugh if he thinks we will eat ALL of this in one day! If you want the recipes, just click on the caption, except for the Blueberry Bran muffins, I'll add it to the end of my post, that one is not online. I also modified the Carrot Muffin recipe by substituting 1/3 cup melted butter, 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (full fat) and 1/3 cup vegetable oil for the corn oil. It took an extra 10 minutes for them to bake due to my modifications, so keep that in mind.
     With all the snow, gingerbread sounded so good, I had to find a recipe for gingerbread muffins. I modified the recipe I found to make just a third of the batter, since I wanted to try them first before making so many. Although the flavor is excellent, I let mine go an extra 5 minutes since they did not seem close to ready at the original time. However, 5 extra minutes was probably 2 minutes too long, they were just a little dry. However, a smear of butter will fix that. My birthday girl loved them though, without any butter or glass of milk. The Gingerbread muffins did not include a glaze, but I added one. It is just the juice from half a lemon mixed with enough powdered sugar to make a thick glaze, really simple. Just be sure to stir until there are no visible lumps of sugar left. Drizzle while muffins are still warm, but not hot.

Gingerbread Muffins with Lemon Glaze
     The Raspberry Jellyroll was something I have never attempted before. I had no concept about how to do this, though I have admired them for years. This recipe was posted on another blog, Cook Can Read, using a recipe from Martha Foose, a lovely chef I had the pleasure to meet at the Epicurean Classic a few years ago. It is from her latest cookbook, A Southerly Course. Its actually her Blackberry Jellyroll recipe, but I did not have blackberry jam on hand, so I used raspberry jam instead. I had to push it through a strainer first, in order to get rid of all the seeds. I have to say, I am pleased as punch at how it turned out! I added some fresh blackberries, which I did have, and whipped cream. It was sublime. The cake is light, flavorful and a perfect foil for the jam. I can't wait to make this again, though I will try to use blackberry jam next time.
Blueberry Bran Muffins
The hardest part of making the jellyroll was beating the room temp eggs for at least 6 minutes on high, which is the minimum that Martha suggests. I beat it for 7 minutes and then quite a bit more after adding the sugar. Other than that, the ingredients are simple and the directions are easy to follow. If you have never made a jellyroll before, I urge you to give it a whirl. One last tip though, beat the eggs in a medium to large bowl, they seem to triple in volume.
     The Blueberry Bran muffins are the healthiest muffins I made today. I have made these before, usually during blueberry season though. They have wheat bran, whole wheat flour, and applesauce in place of butter or oil. I love these for breakfast with a glass of milk. I modified the original recipe to include some lemon zest, cinnamon and an extra 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries. I have made them with frozen, and they turn out just fine. Here is the recipe if you are so inclined to make them...

Blueberry Bran Muffins                   Makes 12 muffins
Preheat oven to 375°F

1 ½ C bran (I use wheat bran, but don’t see why you couldn’t use oat bran or another type)
1C milk (I use skim)
1 egg lightly beaten
2/3 C brown sugar
½ C unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt (could try vanilla, lemon or blueberry I bet)
1 tsp lemon or orange zest (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
½ C whole wheat flour
½ C unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
½ tsp salt
1 ½ C fresh blueberries (original recipe calls for 1 cup, but I like a LOT of blueberries in my muffins!)

·         Combine bran and milk in medium bowl and soak for 10 minutes.
·         Combine egg, sugar, applesauce (or yogurt), lemon (or orange) zest and vanilla in a separate bowl and then add to bran and milk mixture.
·         In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining dry ingredients: flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
·         Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix until just combined.
·         Gently fold in blueberries.
·         Fill lined or greased muffin tin.
Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick or knife inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.

Happy Baking Y'all!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wrapping up 2011

Christmas Light Show Extravaganza
     Here we are, on the precipice of 2012 with just a couple days left to 2011. Since it has been quite some time since I've updated my blog, I am going to do a year-end wrap up, and then jump right into the new year, all fresh and shiny! I have a small journal that I have used as an address book for at least 20 years now, and I occasionally make journal entries, usually right around this time of year. Unfortunately, I have just about run out of pages to write in and will have to transfer all the "good" addresses to a new journal soon. There is something about this time of year that makes me want to take stock and review the last year, writing it down for posterity, though I don't even know if anyone other than myself will ever read it. I know I am not alone in this, I know many other people write letters (my father-in-law), recount the year's happenings in a pretty and roomy Christmas card (my mom) or blog. However, I struggle with how much to write and where.
     In my journal, with pen or pencil, I write the highlights, hitting mostly the highs, just touching on the lows, careful not to write anything that might hurt one of my kids in the future, should they happen to read it. With this blog, I am also careful not to step on toes or write anything that I would not want everyone in the world to read, because you just never know who will end up reading your blog someday, really. So as I look back over the year, how important is it that I am totally open, in my journal or here? Do I want to look back at bad feelings or miserable situations in 10 years? I don't think so. Why don't I think so? Because when I think back on all those things that were such a big deal 20 years ago, things that hurt me or got my blood boiling with rage (yes, rage sometimes), I find that I am so over them and look at them as so insignificant and silly, I wish I had not wasted any emotional or mental time on them. Really wishing I had had the maturity to let so much of it just go and not affect my life so much at the time. But I suppose that is part of gaining wisdom, living long enough to reflect on days past and  being able to put things into perspective in a healthy way, letting go of anger and resentments that steal away our ability to focus and enjoy the good things in our lives. I think I am most grateful that I can now recognize similar situations when they arise and no longer let myself get lost in negative emotion, but have learned how to process what is really upsetting me and figure out what I need to do to let go or move on to a better place.
      Don't get me wrong, I am no saint, I still have to process difficult things, vent and explore why they are upsetting to me or why someone I care about did something that was hurtful, cruel, unkind or deceitful, but I don't have to think about it 24 hours a day, for days on end, which is incredibly freeing, believe me. I am also thoughtless, even cruel sometimes, and I can be very blunt, but if I catch myself or if someone else does, I try to apologize and make things right. But I am human, as we all are, and I cut myself slack the same way I cut others slack, because you just don't know what is going on. Like icebergs, we just see the tip above the water and have no idea how big it really is beneath the surface. And don't get me started on boundaries, I could write a book on setting personal boundaries. But, obviously, I have digressed...
     So I don't include a lot of details of personal or family turmoil. People and situations change, I've lived long enough to see it for myself. Instead, I choose to record those things that I will be happy to read about in 5, 10, 15 or more years, those things that will make me happy to remember and that will make my family happy if they ever read them. Besides, there is enough negative, shocking and crazy on TV these days with all the reality shows, I just couldn't compete with all that!
     Which brings me to my year in review, or at least the last several months. I have to start with my survival of this past semester of classes. Object Oriented Programming (OOP), SQL Database Management, JavaScript and Drawing I. Passed them all, hallelujah! SQL was my least favorite, though it was taught by one of my favorite instructors. Databases are so valuable, but I am happy to have an understanding of them and have already accepted that it is one area that I will always have to hire out, and that is OK. Drawing I was quite a surprise. I can actually draw, no really, I can! All my life I have believed that because I could not
"color inside the lines" as a kid, that I could never learn to draw well. If anyone reading this has ever dreamed of learning to draw, listen to me now and go register for a drawing class. It kept the right side of my brain active and very happy, so much so that I am taking Drawing II next semester. I may scan a couple of my drawings and upload them later, but no promises. I loved OOP and JavaScript, though both were extremely challenging. Overall, I had a very good semester and am further committed to becoming a web developer.
     Maybe you are wondering about my new grandson? Grandpa and I went to visit in August and fell in love, as I knew we would. He is the most adorable baby on the planet and I wish my son and his family lived so much closer! We saw him again in December when my daughter-in-law came for a visit, but it was too short of course. At least there is such a thing as Skype and my son sends me pictures and videos right to my phone. You have to love technology! He'll be 6 months in January, time is just flying by.
     We added a new lion head bunny, "PJ," to our family but lost our beloved pet bunny, "Stella," this year. So far, "PJ" is pretty well traveled. We have taken him on a couple of road trips this year and he has been a trooper. Luckily, he is only 3 1/2 lbs, so he is easy to take along for a few days. He has also become a house bunny, which sounds funny now that I write it. Apparently, if you want to move a rabbit to the outdoors, you have to start in the summer, so they have time to develop a winter coat by the time the colder months roll around. We started too late and the vet said "no." Which means we have a rabbit in our living room for the winter. We let him out often and love to watch him hop and leap around the room, he is very cute.
     I spent less time cooking than I would have liked, but the summer was so hot and humid, the kitchen was the second to last place I wanted to be (outside was the very last place I wanted to be). School was so busy, no time to cook this fall or winter either, except for a couple days when I had a couple extra free hours, but those were rare. But I had a lovely time putting on a high tea baby shower for my daughter-in-law in June, picking strawberries with my husband and making freezer jam and making my own Italian ragu meat sauce for the first time. I missed my kitchen, but it isn't going anywhere.
     There were some great new discoveries this year including:

  • Pinterest (a social networking site that lets you "pin" images from all over the web
  • Google Chrome Developer Tools (OMG, love, love, love!!!)
  • Polish Market downstate on Dequinder and 15 Mile Rd
  • New Dim Sum restaurant "East Lake" in Rochester, MI
  • Conte crayon and canson paper
  • Google Chrome browser (can't live without it now!)
  • Polish mushroom cream cheese (Bagel, cracker, butter knife)
  • Words With Friends facebook word game
  • Fennel (new favorite veggie, I think that was this year)
  • Local pasty truck and local falafel cart
  • Southern Sweet Tea!
  • TV shows -- Bones, Torchwood and True Blood

I think it has been a healthy, productive, inspiring, exciting and overall excellent year...hope next year is just as great!