"Love My Way, It's a New Road"

Archive for April, 2020

Food Pics – Round 3

I am having fun with this!  Maybe there is an inner food blogger in me.  Anyway, this week is a recipe I pulled together myself.  I had an idea and went with it.

eggplant stack

Eggplant Stack

I had a lovely eggplant and was doing a week of plant-based meals.  I wanted something rich and Italian, so I thought about Eggplant Parmesan.  Here are my steps:

  • First I salted the eggplant and let it sweat off its water. All the experts say this is the best way to keep the eggplant from turning into mush. I don’t have much experience with eggplant, so I went with their advice.  Which was wise on my part.
  • Then I dredged the eggplant in multiple steps:  flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.  I let them rest a little.
  • I baked my eggplant for maybe 20 minutes (I honestly don’t remember).
  • I layered everything:  tomato sauce, then baked eggplant, cheese (ricotta and mozzarella), eggplant.  I used a toothpick to hold it all together.
  • More tomato sauce on top and then I baked it.  I forget how long I baked it.  Maybe 30 minutes.  Good grief, I will never be a food blogger because I can’t even remember how I put this together.  I didn’t save the recipe that gave me some guidance on the eggplant.  I winged it for the most part.

Anyway, it was delicious!  I had some Texas Toast to go along with it.  I made 4-6 stacks with that little eggplant and it was better each night.  Yum.

Home, Sweet Home

I have another big project rattling around in the back of my head.  Do I buy a townhouse/condo?  Yes, an HOA or condo association can be fraught with peril, however, I also personally do not want too much maintenance.

I was reluctant to purchase a home after my divorce for several reasons:

  • Since 2013, when I was divorced, I thought the South Florida real estate market was too high.  Too frothy.  I had the money back in 2013 to buy, but the prices were too much of a stretch for me.
  • Plus I really wanted flexibility.  I still value my flexibility, and I did move quite a bit since 2013.

Now I am thinking about retirement and going through the thought process of having my housings costs stabilized and reduced by the time I retire.  If I can pay off the home and only have the HOA, real estate taxes, insurance and routine maintenance, that could keep my overhead fairly constant.  I do recognize that all of those costs aren’t fixed and one big unknown is the HOA/condo fees.

The age, type of real estate and demographic of the neighbors are all key factors in determining a suitable property. If the majority of the community are snowbirds, that would not be ideal for me.  Part-timers could potentially be far more resistant to adequate reserves and maintenance.  If common areas include clubhouses and golf courses, are there enough homes to spread the burden of these facilities?

What would be my ideal home?

  • One-story – no stairs.  If a condo, there must be an elevator if the unit is not on the ground floor.  I don’t want any mobility issues if this is my retirement home.
  • 2 bedrooms minimum.  Maybe 3 if the price is right which would give me room for a decent gym.
  • Nice open floorplan with a good kitchen.
  • I don’t want a postage sized kitchen or tiny bathroom.
  • Speaking of bathrooms, I find the big ones with the huge tubs and shower to be a waste of space.  Give me a good shower and no tub.
  • A garage would be fantastic.  Just a 1-car.
  • I really want a little bunker so if a hurricane is coming, I can bring my outdoor stuff inside, stick my car in the garage, close my shutters and leave.  When I am older, I don’t need to be in the aftermath of a storm.  Yes, I may need help checking it afterwards, but that can be arranged.
  • Speaking of hurricanes, I don’t want to be too close to the beach.  It looks appealing, but the aftermath of storm surge is awful.
  • I want a view — a lake, nature, whatever, but not a parking lot.
  • Some nice amenities like a pool and gym.  The gym isn’t necessary but would be nice.  Walking paths are important.  I love a morning walk.
  • Nice neighbors and activities

I am willing to renovate.  I have no fear of construction and have the experience both personally and professionally to handle a substantial amount.  Swing those hammers.

My thought process is to continue saving every penny possible so I am ready if the opportunity arises.  I think home prices will begin dropping over the summer as this new normal settles down on us.  If they don’t, that is fine.  I don’t mind having a robust rainy day fund.

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Wait a minute – there are stairs!  Photo by Adrien Aletti on Unsplash

 

Victory Garden

I was inspired by Cindi’s posts about homesteading and a Victory garden.  I have a small balcony, and it gets great morning sunlight for 5-6 hours a day.  I have been researching what I could grow both in my apartment and on my little balcony.  Florida summers are brutal for vegetables, but there are some things I can do.

I want to start slow and easy.  If we weren’t in a pandemic, I would be checking some Dollar Stores and Goodwill looking for cheap containers.  Gardening is never at the top of my list, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money until I figure out if I am willing to stick with it.

I would like to grow:  tomatoes (of course), both zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, spinach.  I would love to eventually add cantaloupes, pineapple and strawberries.  I think I will start easy with lettuce and tomatoes for the summer.  Florida is a winter vegetable area, so if I am successful and motivated, I will add some more in August.  I am thinking about some vertical options to maximize my space.

Seeds might be a challenge.  Burpee is out of everything I want.  I might have to venture to Lowes or Home Depot.  My admin was telling me I can get tomatoes with fruit for $10.  Ugh, going to the store?  Really?  Stay tuned and I will let you know how I proceed.

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Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

The Amazing Taz

Taz turned 30 this week. I also have to brag about my amazing daughter. She was selected for one of the most prestigious fellowships for her specialty.  It was her first pick and it is an amazing achievement, but then again she is an amazing woman.

I was reflecting over the weekend about her birth and decided it was time to jot down my memory of her birth.  It has moments of sheer hilarity.  I was 26 years old when she was born.  My life at that stage was

  1.  married for three years;
  2. I had just started a new job as an administrative assistant for a lovely father/2 son company that would wind up launching me in my profession for the next 25+ years
  3. we had just purchased our first home

Within 2-1/2 years, going into the future, I will survive a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew, switched to my then-new profession and come to the realization that I had a very shitty marriage to a guy who is a good provider and dad.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  This post is about Taz’s actual birth – all 36 hours of labor.  Yep, 36 hours of contractions less than 3 minutes apart.  OK, OK, hard labor was only about 8 hours.

The first mild contraction was while I was fixing tacos for dinner.  Taz had the decency to be extremely punctual and start labor on her due date.  I paused as I was cooking and thought, “I think that was a contraction.” Then I looked at my tacos and thought, “Shit, I am eating my tacos and I’ll tell then husband (TH) about the contractions afterwards.”  Good call.

We timed the contractions carefully.   When they were 2-3 minutes apart, we hustled to the hospital and got sent home in rookie disgrace with instructions to go see my OB in the office at noon. WTF – I am having a baby, people.  You think I am still going to be in labor for 12 more hours?!

We showed up at noon ready to proceed directly to the hospital.  Nope, he checks me and sends me home AGAIN.  I asked the doctor how I would know it was time.  He described it as a band tightening across my stomach like an Indian sunburn— remember those? I blanched but asked if I could eat.  Food is always key, isn’t it?  Sure but keep it light.

Around midnight it was time once again.  TH had the brilliant idea I should take a shower before we left.  Yeah, I should have done it earlier because full fledged contractions in the shower was no picnic.  Plus I really had not slept much at all for 36 hours at that point.

At this point my water had not broken.  We get to the hospital and I am admitted.  Hooray!  We are having a baby! Taz was born when hospitals had just introduced the concept of birthing suites, which were really expensive.  I was cheap, so my labor was in a room with another young woman.  I was not a good roommate. They timed these roomie situations so each patient is at different stages.  My roomie needed to push.  What a sissy.  As her hubby and nurses urged her to push, she kept crying she couldn’t.

Meanwhile I am in active labor with no epidural.  The anesthesiologist had an emergency (more on that later), so I was having strong contractions every 2 minutes while watching the movie, “The Hindenburg”.  Yes, I am a blimp trying to explode watching an actual blimp explode.  The irony of this was hilarious….afterwards.

After 20-30 minutes of listening to my roomie whimper and cry that she couldn’t push, I was done.  The Hindenburg, no drugs, her whimpering… I loudly said something along the lines of “Suck it up, Buttercup, because you are having a baby one way or another.” That brought my labor nurse hustling over with a gleam and chuckle in her eyes.

I was scolded, however, I loudly replied that roomie’s baby was coming so she might as well stop crying and push.  I think I added something along the lines of “I will shut up when I get my epidural.”

I ended up having the highly desired epidural for only about 2-3 hours.  When the anesthesiologist finally walked in, I was all over him.  “Where have you been?!” Keep in mind it is about 3 or 4 am.

He did have a legit emergency.  A woman who had no idea she was carrying twins went into labor early and had one baby naturally and the other via C-section. I never knew you could do that!  She was my post-labor roomie.  Very nice postal worker who was stunned about the whole situation:  twins, early delivery — wow.

Anyway, the epidural was heaven and I dozed off for a little while.  I had the room to myself because the nurses didn’t dare give me another roommate.  Meanwhile my TH was holding court in the hospital cafeteria.  How do I know?  Because there is a friggin’ video of him holding a cup of coffee and laughingly toasting me.  Something to the extent of “while you are rolling around in pain, I am here!”.  Asshole.

Taz was the first grandchild so EVERYBODY was there.  While I had been home, we kept getting folks calling and my TH could not understand why I didn’t want to talk to anyone.  At the hospital we had TH’s three siblings, their spouses, his parents, my mom and stepdad.  I did appreciate all the love and support, but I just didn’t want to see or talk to any of them.

Finally it was time to push.  After a couple of tries, the labor nurse tells me that it will go better if they turn the epidural off.  OK, I am ready.  Turn it off and let’s rock.  The next hour was a lot of work.  Somewhere, I don’t remember when, my water finally broke.  TH is hovering and completely useless.  He kept flittering out to smoke and update the family.  Finally it was time to move me to the delivery room.

Birthing suites are fantastic.  Because moving me when I was trying to push a bowling ball out of my lady parts did not go well for several reasons:

  1. My bed got stuck.  Due to my aforementioned outspokenness with my former roomie and no subsequent replacement, we had spread out and the result was somehow my bed not having enough space to roll out.  After ramming into several objects including a wall, we finally made it into the hallway.
  2. TH made everyone pause in the hallway so he could get his gown and booties on.  My nurse had to park me in the hallway to help him.  Everyone is yelling  telling me not to push.
  3. Finally we get to the Delivery Room and they tell me to shift over to a delivery table.  Are you serious?  Move?  I did.  I have no idea how.  Once again, birthing suites are phenomenal.

I am on the table, my doctor strolls in and the anesthesiologist returns to hook up my epidural for the final moments.  I recall asking the anesthesiologist how much he was charging for this superfluous anesthesia.  He stammered and I then instructed him to adjust the mirror so I could see my baby’s birth.  The rest of the room was laughing.  I was highly entertaining.

Taz’s birth was then straightforward.  She popped out with only a minor episiotomy and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.  That mirror was handy.  I saw the cord and immediately started clamoring.  My doctor had deftly flicked the cord off, but too late.  I had seen everything.  He immediately assured me the cord had been very loose.  Taz’s color was that dark red purplish color that is perfectly normal, but I am a new mother, so what do I know?  I know about blue babies.

“Is she blue, is she blue?  What is her Apgar score?”  My doctor reassures me that all is well.  He was right all was well.

Here we are 30 years later and Taz is quite the accomplished woman.  I am such a proud mama.  Happy Birthday, you beautiful, amazing woman….

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Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash

 

Food Pics – Round 2

It’s Saturday, so I am back with another Food Pic post.  This week features hits and a fail.  One hit was making pickled onions.

pickled onions

Pickled Onions

They are incredibly easy and add some crunch and zip to a meal.  Once again, my girl, Beth, over at Budget Bytes had a simple recipe that took me a few minutes to throw together.  I cooked my onions a little because I like them a little softened.

Then I had my fail.

quinoa

Looks are deceiving

 

This is a quinoa salad with roasted cauliflower and ground beef.  Both the cauliflower and ground beef had been cooked with taco seasoning,  I added some tomato, avocado and romaine lettuce for a packed bowl.  The dressing is a combination of salsa and Greek Yogurt.  The cornbread was made in a cast iron skillet.  Looks great, right?  Tastes fabulous.  So why the fail?

I have discovered that quinoa and I do not agree.  My stomach hurts so much about an hour after eating quinoa. Apparently this is a common side effect.  I don’t even know where I got my quinoa recipe (probably Budget Bytes, but this is not a negative reflection on Beth).  I do know I soaked the quinoa and that is suppose to help.  Nope, it didn’t.  It played havoc with my digestive system in other ways, but I will spare you details. I ate this several times before it dawned on me that the quinoa was the culprit.  Sometimes I can be a little dense.  Note to self:  no more quinoa.

However, it wasn’t a complete fail because the cornbread was fabulous.  The cast iron puts a nice crust on the bottom that is divine.  I found a recipe that uses Greek yogurt and I let the batter sit for at least 10-15 minutes to give it a chance to rise a little.  I have to cut the batch in half to freeze some immediately or else I keep noshing on it.

Anybody else have a problem with quinoa?  Now who will take the rest of my quinoa?  My poor tummy….

 

 

Easters Past

I have never been a religious person even though my mom’s side of the family was Southern Baptist and Evangelicals. I never liked Easter when I was growing up because 1) I was somehow seemingly always sick (hay fever, allergies, etc) 2) I hated hard boiled eggs at the time 3) Easter outfits and church were not my thing.

As a parent, I still celebrated Easter but we morphed it into more of a family pool party. My Ex was one of four kids, so with just his family and their kids, we could have a rollicking party. I always got all the kids pool toys. We has a fun egg hunt in the yard. It was noisy, wet and loads of fun. I remember those parties fondly. They were a lot of work, but so worthwhile.

One recent memorable Easter was the year I surprised Taz. Easter and her birthday coincided. Her future MIL suggested I come up, so we conspired together and completely surprised her. It was a lovely weekend.

Today my Easter is just another quiet day on my balcony enjoying the breeze and fresh air. No pool, no beach. Just the fond memories of Easters past. And I am fine with that. I have talked to all my loved ones and they are well. That makes this a lovely day.

I have been to Rio de Janeiro twice. What a magical city.

Hippocratic Oath

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If you have never read it, it is worthwhile reading during these times.  Medical professionals make very solemn vows.  I pray for them all to have the strength, health and courage to continue on.

 

Food Pics – Round 1

I have been cooking constantly since living alone.  I am a batch cooker.  I like to make several things usually at once and nosh on that for most of the week.  Cooking during the week infringes on the short window of free time I have in the evenings.

Sometimes I take pictures of what I made just because I want to.  Then I realized what the heck will I do with these random pictures.  Oh, I know!  Post them on my blog.  Here we go with links to the recipes and my review.  I found so many pictures that I am spreading them out to once a week or so just for fun.

This first post will be cheese grits in honor of my Southern roots!  Twice I have made a big pot of cheese grits and paired them up with a fried egg or shrimp.  Yum!

fried egg cheese grits

Fried Eggs & Cheese Grits

I grew up being pretty picky about my eggs.  Scrambled was the only way I could eat them although I would eat them fried if I had plain grits and toast.  After half a century, I will now eat them boiled, fried, poached — I have really branched out on my egg preparation.  Scrambled still remains my mainstay.  What I did with this was make some cheese grits, sauteed some spinach and fried an egg.

What I did learn through my fave food website, Budget Bytes, is to fry an egg, you have to do it at a medium heat and be patient.  Me, patient?  Uh, no, but I learned.  Actually this recipe above came from Budget Bytes.  I tweaked it a little for me.  I like sauteed spinach for breakfast and usually brighten it with a little vinegar.  This was yummy and rich.

Since I made such a huge batch of cheese grits for one person, I wanted to have some variety, so I decided to some Shrimp & Cheese Grits would be a nice splurge.  I followed along with this recipe but since I didn’t have ham, I used bacon.  We all know that things are better with bacon.  For some reason, I love the spinach and grits combo.  It adds some color and zing.

shrimp grits

Shrimp & Cheese Grits

That is it for Food Pics Round 1.  It is nice to write about something as mundane as food.  Brace yourself, more Food Pics Posts in the future.

True Colors

I sent Taz and her hubby an Easter card.  Here’s what I wrote:

Oftentimes it is during times of struggle that we learn more about ourselves and our relationships.  It also peels back the layers and shows a person’s true self. The two of you are showing your bravery, love, humor and so much more.  Stay strong and know that you both are cushioned and surrounded by the strong love of your friends and family.

Their friends and family are rallying around them.  One of Taz’s BFF from high school works for a name brand spirits company.  She sent a serious care package of top shelf vodka.  Others have laid their hands on precious Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer which they have sent to Taz.

After listening to Taz talk about her decontamination protocol, I sent her 15 pounds of baby wipes.  I scored big at Target at 8:00 am this week.  I was allowed one package, so I chose the one with 750 wipes inside.  She uses a hospital disinfectant as she changes her scrubs, but she is wiping her face and other things with Neutrogena wipes because that is all she has at the moment.  That freaked me out which then caused the Target run because I feel like I have to do something.  I have offered hand sanitizer made by a local distiller because she can add it to a spray bottle to spray on the wipes.  She demurred saying that what I was sending was what they needed.

But the message I wrote to them applies to all of us.  How are we handling this crisis  shows our true self.  I am still trying to control and contribute, so I attack it with gifts and actions.  Thus far I have:

  • Sent oranges to Taz, my parents and my son
  • Bought and sent Taz disposable coveralls and safety glasses I found at Home Depot
  • The aforementioned 15 pounds of baby wipes for Taz
  • Bought the Hunter a rice cooker for Easter because he needs one
  • Bought my son an Instant Pot to perk him up for Easter.  He needs a little boost because he has been inside for so long.
  • Bought 6 cloth masks from three different sources – some for me, some for loved ones

The above is all my retail actions because I am an over-buyer, so if I can buy something to fix a problem, look out!  This doesn’t even include all my grocery shopping so I can huddle up at home, my DIY hand sanitizer for me and more.  For morale support, I am

  • Talking to friends and family at least every other day.
  • Helped my dad register for grocery curb side pick up and delivery with his local grocery store
  • Discussed financial options with my son on various scenarios he will be facing.
  • Talked to the Hunter about his business and his situation
  • Emailed cousins about their situation (including the ones who just lost my uncle).

One pending action item is to donate blood.  The US is having a blood shortage, so I will be heading to my local organization to donate blood.  It will be for Taz and all the other healthcare workers out on the front line.  I plan to continue donating throughout this shit show and perhaps longer.  I just heard an NPR story about a 90-something woman who donated 20 GALLONS over her life time.  She finally stopped in her 80’s because the blood bank convinced her she had done enough.  Now that is a worthy contribution.

True colors, my Dear Readers.  We are having the moral, physical, psychological, relationship test of a lifetime.  All of us will have low moments, but who will have a shining moment?  Will all of us do what we can to help?  Will we quarantine and be bored out of skulls to save the greater good?  Will we be supportive of loved ones and neighbors?  This is our test.  I am hoping for a better than passing grade. How about you?

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Maybe I Will, Maybe I Won’t

Some days I feel like my job is secure and then on other days I feel at risk.  This week I alternate those feelings daily.  I haven’t had much to do, so that gets my brain churning…I wrote this earlier this week, but today I feel like everything is fine.  Who knows?

Somehow I feel like I will soon be free.  Free of my job, free of responsibilities, free of ties to South Florida.  Will I embrace this radical change or will it terrify me?  The Hunter called me and said he thought of me first thing this morning.  Thought of me and the fact that I am probably going to lose my job.  I told him that I was at peace with it.  I can’t control it, so I am not worried.  I have enough saving and unemployment to make it to the end of the year without touching my retirement money (or what’s left of it).

My dad and my BFF are also in the “uh oh, you might be laid off”.  I get it because some days I think I am and some days I feel secure.  We should start a pool — everybody picks a day for when Maggie gets laid off.  LOL.  Just a little gallows humor, folks.  I would rather laugh about it because I am an ugly crier.

My Ex, on the other hand, is a hot mess.  I had asked my son how his Dad was doing.  We snickered and shuddered at the thought of if this pandemic had occurred when all four of us were still living under one roof.  My Ex cannot fathom that he is losing it all.  His office, his assistant, his clients, his business.  It is all going, going, soon-to-be-gone.  He wants to maintain what he always has had.  Uh, yeah — who doesn’t?  He is planning on getting married New Year’s Day (or Eve?) of 2021.  If his fiancee can handle him like this, she is either a saint or a sucker.  I would be completely insane.  He waivers between being worried about his own health (as well he should since he is a smoker with COPD) and the economic implications of this prolonged quarantine. Uh, duh, aren’t we all?  However, he frets and worries and snaps because he wants to control the situation and that is definitely not happening.

My Ex is also complaining about the high cost of my son’s graduate school program now that it is being offered only online. Of course he’s complaining because I know my Ex and he has virtually no emergency savings and a whole lot of debt.  That’s just how he rolls.

I talked to my son about his surfing of this pandemic tsunami.  I suggested that school was the best place to be and to keep his unpaid internship for as long as possible to continue to have some semblance of work experience. He should graduate mid-year 2021 I believe.

We had a candid conversation about finances. I told him that I was fine and would be fine.  I told him to take advantage of his student loan program because that would be a steady source of income.  Also, his school has been good with grant money, so I am sure if he asked, they would scrap up some more $$ for him.  I need to talk to him about that because his dad may have to back off his monthly payments.  I believe his dad is paying his rent and half his health insurance (roughly $1200/month).  I am sure my clever son has already thought of that.  He is a planner and a saver.  He will be fine, but it does warrant ongoing conversations.

As for me, I could soon be free and adrift.  What to do, what to do?  I think having choices will be good.  What won’t be good is this over-sized unemployment population and the area of my expertise will be hitting rock bottom at the same time.  I am thinking about taking my stimulus money and spending it on a professional certification.  That might help me in the job market.  On the other hand, maybe it is time for me to finally become the writer I have always dreamed about.

However, let me also pause and be incredibly grateful that I have a job.  A good, stable job with nice people.  Payday is Friday, so I am quite fortunate.  All this bravado about if I get laid off is just bravado.  Being in the job market today would be awful, let’s be serious.  I would have to struggle to keep everything I have worked so hard to reset.  So today I am very grateful for what I have.  Grateful indeed.

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Photo by Thanuj Mathew on Unsplash

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