Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Faith, Magic and Memories - Because It's The Cup

There are times in your life when everything falls into place so perfectly, it's as if fate, destiny and even God have a hand in the process. 

April 11 through June 11, 2012 is a period of magic memories, frozen in my mind as firmly as the ice my beloved Los Angeles Kings skated on en route to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 45 years.  Twenty games. Sixteen wins. Me sitting in Section 116, Row 11, seat 3 for every single game played at home. Watching with tears in my eyes as my team celebrated an achievement only a select few can ever claim. And later, touching the unique piece of sports history that now carries their names forever.

There was a lot going on in my personal life before that 60 day period of magic began. I was starting the most important project of my career at work, which involved me traveling out of town. My significant other and I were trying to figure out how to overcome 2,800 miles of distance and bring our lives closer together. So many things threatened my ability to follow every game, most importantly the ones I could attend in person.

The one thing I remember most distinctly was my conscious decision to put everything in the hands of fate and accept whatever happened. There was no point in worrying about things I couldn't control, so I'd simply roll with the punches and have FAITH it would all work out. Fate rewarded me with a work schedule that cooperated and memories that will last a lifetime.

Today, the Kings start a new journey to defend their championship. The road towards The Cup is already different this time. The NHL played a shortened schedule after a labor lock-out erased half the season. My significant other is now a permanent part of my life, we have a new seat location up in the rafters, and this time my work schedule caught up with me. I already know I'm missing the first two home games of the Kings first round schedule -- and I'm strangely at peace with that. Because I trust, just like last time, that everything will work out exactly the way it's destined to be. 

Go get that Cup back, boys! GO KINGS GO!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dermatology for Dummies: The Journey Continues

A year ago I made my first trip to the dermatologist to have a mole checked out that just didn't look right. I learned a had a very treatable basal cell carcinoma that cleared up in 30 days with a topical cream medicine. I also learned that 80% of skin cancer patients have another problem spot turn up within a year of their original diagnosis.

Today, I discovered I might be one of those 80%.

Compared to the last one, this one is TINY -- barely twice as big as the head of a pin. However, my doctor is concerned about the color so she'll cut out a little chunk and have a peek under the microscope while my stitches are healing. If I'm lucky, it will be nothing or can be treated quickly with the same kind of medication I used last time. If not, at least I caught it early.

Someone pass me more sunscreen....

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Life Lessons Learned From Easter Eggs

This past Easter weekend I dyed eggs for the first time in many years. The PAAS box called out to me from an end cap during my weekly shopping at Target and I thought to myself "Why not?" I must admit I was attracted to the shiny letters on the box that said "SPARKLING GLITTER." I guess, like many things, PAAS has improved with age because those kits never included glitter when I was a kid.

Reconnecting with an activity I remember from my childhood reminded me that everything I did that seemed like "just fun" back then actually contained some important lessons I unconsciously carried into adulthood.

Here are a few of the lessons "adult me" remembered that apply not only life, but eggs too.

Be prepared for things to get messy. 

Don't worry about whether something will go wrong, get spilled, break, or fall over. Assume it WILL happen. That makes it much easier to laugh your way through the experience and work through it. As the Bounty paper towel commercial says, "Life is messy. Clean it up."

Have the patience to let things develop fully.

Much like the color of dyed eggs gets richer and deeper the longer they soak, many things in life get better with time. Don't try to rush the process. Savor every moment of the experience while you can. The end result is worth the wait.

Not having a plan doesn't mean you won't be successful.

One of my very favorites eggs is the light blue, mottled looking one in the picture above, second from the left. After I had at least one egg dyed in each solid color, I was trying to think of ways to incorporate several colors on one egg but didn't have a specific method in mind. I took that egg and literally went from color to color, soaking different parts of the egg for various lengths of time before giving it one last overall dunk in another color and coating it with leftover glitter. The colors were so nuanced that it looked different from every different angle of light that touched it, a tribute to the value of artistic freedom and improvisation. I fell in love with it a little.

Good things happen when you're willing to be flexible and think outside the box.

The PAAS kit contained on small bag of white glitter (shown in the photo to the left), not nearly enough for the amount of sparkle I wanted. Then I remembered a stash of unused colored glitter I had stored with some scrapbooking supplies. Add a few plastic bags and I had all the glitter I needed to make the sparkly eggs of my dreams.

Imperfect is beautiful. 

I dropped this egg when I first tried lowering it into the dye with the little dipper tool in the dye kit. I heard a slight crunch but it looked OK when I pulled it out to check for damage. So tried again -- and I dropped it again. Another small crunch. When the same thing happened on the third try, I left it alone and moved on to the next egg. By the time I went back to retrieve it, the shell had turned a stunning shade of turquoise, except in the spots where the egg cracked. The cracks formed a pattern that looked almost like a flower. It was the most beautiful accident I'd ever seen.

There is one other important lesson I learned from my egg decorating adventure. Even if an egg isn't perfect enough to decorate, it still has a purpose. Anyone hungry?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kitchen Adventures: Repurposing A Restaurant Favorite

Anyone who has eaten at Red Lobster remembers one thing about their meal regardless of what they ordered. The famous Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits are a taste of heaven!

I've seen lots "recipes" online to create them at home, many posted on Pinterest (one of my favorite places to find new recipes). They all look authentic enough, but a little research on the Red Lobster site confirms most are copycats.

Then I ran across this recipe on The Yooper Pasty Facebook Page that takes a copycat version of the biscuit mixture and turns it into a loaf! I got inspired and decided to give it a try.

Dry ingredients
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

 Wet ingredients
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons of butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan with oil. In a bowl, whisk together the first 5 ingredients. Carefully stir in cheese cubes until covered in flour mixture, this will help prevent your cheese sinking to the bottom of your loaf of bread.

In a different bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Fold the wet mixture into the flour and cheese mixture, stir until just combined, do not over stir.

 Spread the mixture into the loaf pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and then remove from pan. Allow to cool for one hour before slicing and serving.

So it came out beautifully! I especially love that you can see yummy little spots of melted cheddar cheese.

So nice looks are great, but the "Put your money where your mouth is" question is always the same -- HOW DOES IT TASTE?

It was good, but not a dead ringer for the Red Lobster biscuit flavor which is more garlickly.  I guess that's proof positive the real recipe is in fact a secret. Converting the biscuit recipe into a loaf also makes it lose a critical element of the biscuit appeal -- WARMTH. In order to cut properly, the loaf needs to cool so you don't get the joy of that straight out of the oven, melt in your mouth goodness the biscuit delivers.

On the whole, it's definitely worth doing again, although I'll probably just make the biscuits and experiment with the recipe a little. But before my next attempt, I think I need a trip to Red Lobster to make some flavor notes on the real thing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Plan

As 2012 was drawing to a close, I was overwhelmed. I had been traveling a fair amount for work, was dealing with a new slate of priorities at home AND struggling with the financial and scheduling issues we all face around the Christmas holiday.

For the past 8 years, no matter how expensive it was or what a time crunch it presented, I always flew cross country to visit my family on the East Coast during the holidays. But this year, everything in my budget, my schedule and the part of my heart and soul in search of well being were all screaming the same thing -- "Don't do it." So in spite of feeling a mountain of guilt over not being able to be everything to everyone once again this year, I gave in and listened to my inner voice. I stayed home.

I could blame my decision on the cost of airfare or a ton of other factors, but the truth is that staying put is what I wanted. It was also the best way I knew to give myself a much needed break and some time to think about what I really wanted to accomplish in 2013. That kind of time with my thoughts is something I haven't given myself in a really long time. I knew in my heart it was the Christmas gift I needed more than anything.

The past year brought some big changes in my life, probably none bigger than my boyfriend moving across the country to be with me full time after almost 2 years of long distance relationship. The experience of merging our lives more deeply helped me realize my goals and plans had changed significantly. I was no longer living just for myself. There are so many things we want to enjoy and experience together. To make them happen, I needed to stop living life by the seat of my pants like I had been for some time, going wherever the wind took me. I needed a new set of priorities and a new plan for my life. I needed time to think about how to do it.

So I took two weeks off work and stayed home. I did some fun things locally but didn't make any travel plans. Instead, I did a lot of thinking, made a lot of lists, considered tons of possibilities, and ultimately figured out what I wanted from life in 2013. In the process, I realized something very important. I hadn't really "listened" to myself in a very long time. As soon as I slowed down my constant "doing," I found the clarity that has eluded me for a very long time.

Every year I've aspired to have a "life plan" for the future but it always ended up sitting on my to-do list well into spring, never to be completed. I am proud I finally changed that. Now I can't wait to make great things happen!