Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Take 2, Thanksgiving Recipes from the Queen of Take-Out

Flashing back (with some minor edits) to my Thanksgiving Recipes from the Queen of Take-Out post!  Still incredibly relevant and hopefully helpful for any of you last minute ladies out there.  You are not alone!  If you can make 1-2 edible dishes I say you've done great.  Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.  XO Shannon
I am without a doubt the Queen of Take-Out.  On a good week I cook once, maybe twice a week.  And by cook I mean heat something up.  D and I actually use the term "I made dinner last night" to refer to who picked up take-out. 
Last week I was in our neighborhood taco shop two nights in a row picking up dinner.  That's not an anomaly folks, it's par for the course in this house.  In my twenties I really tried to learn to cook and to enjoy the art of making a beautiful meal.  In my thirties I've learned to accept certain things about myself, and luckily D has too.  

There are however a few times a year where we get our acts together and either host a dinner or make a big meal for ourselves, Thanksgiving is one of those times.  Over the year's I've found that making a few REALLY simple homemade dishes is enough to leave me feeling perfectly fine with buying the rest. 
Today I'm happy to share my super simple Thanksgiving recipes as well as a few of my favorite store bought items here with all of you.

Image and recipe via
First up, cranberry sauce.  It amazes me how many people still buy canned cranberries.  Cranberries are by far the easiest of all the Thanksgiving side dishes to make.  Bonus points because they makes your home smell amazing.  I've been using this recipe for years now only instead of orange juice I add apple cider and have never been disappointed. 

Image and recipe via Today's Parent
Next up, the potatoes!!!  Undoubtedly my favorite part about Thanksgiving dinner.  I've been making cheddar mashed for the last couple of years and love the added flavor and saltiness the cheese gives them.  I divert slightly from this recipe and boil my potatoes in chicken broth.  I also use salted butter instead of unsalted.  It's Thanksgiving after all, live a little. 

And what goes better with potatoes than gravy.  My mother-in-law makes the best, but when you live on opposite side of the country getting together at Thanksgiving isn't always in the cards.  I've searched high and low and have found the next best thing.   Goodbye canned and powdered gravy, hello William Sonoma Turkey Gravy Base!  It's amazing

Image and recipe via The Endless Meal
Now onto the veg.  Sadly I went 33 years without trying brussels sprouts.  Now that I have, they're one of my very favorite veggies.  Like most people, I prefer them roasted, and like most people, I think adding bacon to just about any dish takes it to a whole new level.  Unfortunately or fortunately, however you chose to look at it, D won't eat them so I get all the sprouts. 
Dar will be enjoying Birds Eye Steamfresh frozen corn.  One year I tried buying corn on the cob and taking the kernels off so that he could have a fresh veggies too but no such luck.  Let's just say that corn is not at it's prime in November. 

Image via William Sonoma
As for the pies, no way, no how will you ever find me in the kitchen with flour and a rolling pin.  My advice, find a great bakery and order your pies early!  This year we'll be having traditional pumpkin and pear with cranberry crumble from Bake Sale.  

Rolls, store bought.  So is the stuffing, Stove Top.  Stuffing is one area I would definitely love to improve upon.  We've tried stuffing the bird, but it always comes out soggy.  If you have an easy, fail proof stuffing recipe, please share!

And lastly the piece de resistance, the turkey.  The fate of the bird lies in D's hands (how nice of me, ha!).  He actually really loves being in charge of the turkey.  In past years he's even done a pre-Thanksgiving "stunt turkey" so that he can try a new recipe or methods of cooking.  One year he opted for a cajun bird.  Hot damn that thing was packed with flavor and not in a good way.  Thank god it wasn't our Thanksgiving Day bird.   
Over time injecting the turkey has won out and he's learned to keep it simple with just butter, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.  If you haven't tried injecting a turkey you should give it a go.  We've had this injector for about 5 years now and it works great.
Whatever you do, don't let cooking a big Thanksgiving dinner stress you out.  Know your limits, make a few great homemade dishes and relay on the experts to help with the rest!  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Update- My Eyes

Funny thing.  When you think you're going blind and you find out that you're not, at least not yet, anything less than that seems totally cool.  I imagine that's how you feel when you hear the words "you have cancer".  Initially you freak the fuck out, and rightfully so, but then you realize that there are far worse things that could be happening to you.  I mean hey, you're not dead right. 

I say that last line jokingly.  In the midst of Complete Panic and Fear I read an article that said the only thing worse than death was going blind.  The person who wrote that article should be killed.  Joking again.
It's taken me months and months and months to get to this point.  To the point where I can kid about such things.  To the point where I can talk about my eye condition without tearing up.  I tell you the words baby steps have never meant so much.  
Since January I've experienced a wide array of emotions and states:
Complete Panic, what the fuck is happening to me!
Fear, lots and lots of fear.  Most of it irrational.
Denial, this is not happening to me.
Sadness, like in I've never felt so sorry for myself.
Desperation, I'd do anything if things could just go back to the way they were before.
False acceptance
More false acceptance
Avoidance, ignore it and it will go away
Empowerment, this will not stop me
Preparing for what's to come
As you can see from the list above I still haven't found real true acceptance.  I know it will come though.  In the meantime I'm currently hanging out teetering back and forth between Ignore it and it will go away, Empowerment and Preparing for what's to come.
I’ve been in worse places!  Anyways, I’ve come a long way from where I left you back in May (here, here) so I thought it was time for an update.  Let's do this list style shall we.
1. I'm still not driving and I have accepted the fact that I won't be anytime soon.  After 2 more payments my car is going back to the dealer.  
In January when things were fresh and new Dar and I decided that we would give my brain a chance to adapt to the floaters (that actually can happen) and that we would wait until the end of August to assess my driving. 
August came and went and I still wasn't comfortable behind the wheel but I couldn't let go of the car.  In my head hanging onto the car meant that I would drive again.  The car was merely a symbol though.   
Prior to recent events my greatest fear was always losing the privilege of driving.  I've had to work hard for my license.  Unlike most people I didn't start driving at 16.  I think I was 20.  Since then I've had to meet regular requirements like behind the wheel driving tests, full reports from my eye doctors etc..
There's more though.  The harsh fact is this, losing sight and losing independence go hand in hand.  That's a tough pill to swallow my friends. 
Giving up my car doesn’t mean that I will never drive again, but not driving again means that I have to rely on other people to get me where I need to go.  Having a car doesn't change that and I haven't been a driver for 10 months no so it's about damn time I let it go and SAVE SOME FRICKEN MONEY.   
2. The vitreous floaters have not gone away, either have the veils of blurriness or the flashes of light.  I'll have a few descent days where my sight is almost where it was before all of this happened but then BAM.  On Sunday for example I ran out of our home office in a frenzy because I thought a giant bug (like 3 inches and super black) was slithering across the carpet.  I insisted there was something there and made Dar search the room.  There was nothing. 
3.  For about 6 months I didn't tell anyone outside of a very small circle what I was experiencing.  There were lots of reasons for me wanting to keep quiet.  Mainly I was in denial.  I also didn't want people to feel sorry for me.  Ultimately though I didn't want to be vulnerable at such a vulnerable time. 
In the last few months that's all changed.  I wouldn't say I'm shouting my challenges from the rooftops but I am definitely opening up more and more when appropriate.  It's been pretty magical actually.  I'd like to show you what I mean by that…
Picture someone you don't know very well (really do this ok).  Maybe it's someone you work with, someone you see at the gym, someone who lives down the street etc.  Whoever this person is, they're someone from outside of your inner circle. 
I know you have ideas about this person.  How they are.  What they're like.  From the outside looking in they may seem like they live a pretty charmed life.  Or maybe they seem nasty and you think to yourself, man they must have a miserable home life. 
The point I want to make here is this.  You don't really know anything about the person you're judging yet you’ve managed to develop ideas and beliefs about them.  Beliefs based on very little, opinion really.
This is where the term "everyone has their stuff" comes in and why it’s so important to keep in the forefront of our minds.  The person you were imaging just now, they're going through something.   
What I've learned through all of this is that people (especially the ones outside of your inner circle) want to see you without your armor on.  It helps them to relate to you, to be more accepting of you, to be more understanding, more empathetic.  I’m pretty confident that if you opened up about whatever it is you've got going on in your life right now to the person in this world that you think judges you the most, they wouldn't dare hurt you.  In fact they'd probably want to help you and it would change your relationship for the better.  I know this because it recently happened to me.   
I've gained so much support from literal strangers because I've been brave enough to share my story and to be vulnerable.  I've been inspired by people who in turn have opened up to me.  It goes against all of our natural instincts but if you can take the leap it really can be life changing. 
4. I went to visit to the Braille Institute of San Diego.  The point of this trip was preparation.  Until my visit I really had no idea what types of services or aids were available for people with low or no vision. 
While I was there I bought a few magnifiers to help me see better (real magnifiers, not the crap you buy on Amazon).
I played with some really cool high tech gadgets that are truly incredible and ridiculously expensive!

I discovered that yellow lenses help with sensitivity to light.  I learned that there are classes and resources to help me with things I never imagined I'd need help with.  Some things made me uncomfortable.  Some things I'm not ready to experience yet. 

I was so proud of my strength throughout my visit until I got to this space.

Each painting might as well have been a Mona Lisa.

Watercolor, clay, pottery, all done by those with little to no sight.  I was in tears the minute I stepped foot into this sun drenched space.  In that moment I felt hope.  Aw inspiring, completely consuming, hope. 

I don't know where I'll be six months from now.  What condition my eyes will be in or how I'll feel about what I'm experiencing.  I do know that while it might not always be pretty I will be ok no matter what happens.  I leave you here on a positive note.  All the best my friends.  XO

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

One Dollar, One Idea and One Story at a Time

For my birthday this year I received a gift that literally took my breath away.  It brought tears to my eyes too, happy tears.  The box arrived on the 29th.  I remember because I was heading out the door to the mall to get my makeup done for the Taylor Swift concert.  Something told me to open the box before I left so I sat down on the doormat and I tore into the brown packaging.  Inside a framed antique map of Paris. 

One of the most meaningful gifts I've ever received.  This gift symbolizes a dream that will one day come true.  It made me believe in myself. 

Last year I started talking about taking a trip to Paris but I quickly brushed the idea off.  I'm not the kind of girl that goes to Paris.  Paris is expensive.  Paris is so far.  Silently and subconsciously I was telling myself Paris is for girls who are loved. 

It took the map for me to see that I am the kind of girl who goes to Paris.  Having someone else believe in my dream made me believe it in more.  I guess I needed validation.  Without question this trip seems overwhelming.  How will I pay for such an extravagant trip?  Dar and I take expensive vacations but I think I want to go this one alone.  This is my dream after all, not his.   

To help me not be paralyzed by negative thoughts and questions I've started saving one dollar at a time, or rather $40 at a time  It's a small amount but it easily goes unnoticed and over time will get me to Paris. 

Dreams get tossed aside because they feel too big, too overwhelming, unattainable.  We're so used to getting things we want right away that the idea of saving and working for something seems defeating.  I hate that.

Paris isn't my only dream, there are others. 

If things go according to plan (which I've recently learned doesn't always happen) Dar and I will be retiring from our full time jobs in the next seven years.  He'll be 50, I'll be 45.  When financial freedom is finally upon us, I dream of running my own business. 

I've been an entraperanuer since I was five.  I ran countless lemonade stands and packaged and sold mistletoe at Christmas.  I even owned and operated a neighborhood newspaper with a buddy.  Aren't we cute?

It's in my blood.  I have ideas.  I have plans. 

I also have some pretty big responsibilities that I can't neglect.  For the next seven years I need to earn and save as much money as humanly possible so that our dream of retiring is a reality.  There is no freedom if this goal is not met. 

We're so close but sometimes the thought of waiting seven more years is infuriating.

In the meantime I try to satisfy that hunger by writing down every single idea that pops into my head.  Every business name.  Every service possibly imaginable.  For now this is how I keep my dream alive.

Then there's the dream that's always been there.  The dream I think a lot of us bloggers share.  I want to write a book.  I have a story to tell, we all do.  I want to write about my challenges and about how they've molded me.  More than anything though I want to write about how I'm learning to break the molds to become the person I want to be. 

There are two things stopping me.

1. At 36 I'm still figuring it out.  I'm on the brink of something big right now.  A growth spurt of sorts.  I can feel it in the air and in my body.  I know whatever it is I'm about to learn will be pivotal.  This won't be my only growth spurt though.  How can I write a book on overcoming challenges and living an inspirational life if I haven't yet learned all there is to know?

2. I understand that there will have to be some back story but I really don't want to focus on the past.  I've worked incredibly hard to move away from it and only recently do I think I've finally broken free.   With that said, it might be too soon for me to write this book. 

My main objective is to inspire.  I want to prove that despite great challenges it is possible to be a whole person.  A happy person.  No matter what life has thrown at me I've always been able to learn and to grow and be an example and an inspiration to others. 

I'm just kind of talking this one out with you all right now while I work to figure out how to get started. 

I've come a long way from the girl who wrote this more than a year ago.  Wish me well my friends.  All my love.  XO

Friday, October 16, 2015

I Just Can't Get Enough

I've been known to over-exaggerate but I assure you when I say I love, need, want a hundred different things a day that I mean that I love, need, want a hundred different things a day.  I'm a consumer and I'm easily excited what can I say. 

Insert clip of dog chasing it's tail here :)

Anyways, there are really truly special items/rituals that hold my attention.  That's how I know I love something.  When that happens I then have to tell everybody I know just how great such and such is.  This is the best blah, blah, blah in the entire world (see my zest for over-exaggeration). 

Today I wanted to share the things I just can't get enough of lately with you.

My Poppin pen.  How I only have one is beyond me. These pens write incredibly smooth and feel great in your hand.  I want all the colors.

Orly Nail Defense.  My nails were in really bad shape after 6 months of gel polish applications.  Gel is phenomenal for it's longevity but your nails really do take a beating over time.  I apply gel from November through the holidays and normally wrap up after our anniversary in April.  Sadly it usually takes the next 6 months to get my nails back in good condition.  This year however Orly Nail Defense had my nails stronger than ever in no time.  I can't recommend this product enough. sticker book.  I only bought my first planner in August so I'm very new to the planning world but I'm absolutely loving it so far.  My sticker book has made little things like haircuts and visits to the coffee shop so much more special!  This weekend is offering 20% off.  If you use a planner you should definitely pick this little book up, it's been so much fun. 

Sebastian Penetrate Shampoo and ConditionerI used Total Hair Care for years but thought it was time for a change.  After trying a few different shampoo and conditioner combos from Redkin I decided to give Sebastian a try.  I love this shit!!!  The volume after using these products is amazing.  My hair feels clean and smells great.  Bonus points for being able to air dry my hair and have it look fabulous.  This product is amazing and I can't recommend it enough.  

Free People booties.  The color, the leather, the comfort.  I can't get enough of these bad boys.  What more is there to say.

Aside from over cooking everything my second greatest downfall is the kitchen is not knowing how to season food.  Spices can make or break a dish.  I've been using Scotts Food Products Santa Maria and Lemon Pepper seasoning on everything from chicken to eggs to potatoes to roasted veggies and they've all turned out great. 

William Sonoma Oven Mitts.  Yep, I've got oven mitts on the list.  Dar and I had the same mitts for 11 years and I figured it was time to replace them.  These feel so fresh and the padding inside is incredibly cushy.  It's amazing how luxurious an oven mitt can feel when you've been using the same set for over a decade.

This only started three weeks ago but it's a habit I am so happy I've gotten myself into.  Dar and I work slightly different schedules and since I'm no longer driving, he drops me at work before he heads in.  I don't start until 8:00 so I have more than an hour to kill.  Until a few weeks ago I was a total nut and had been coming into the office and putting in an extra hour of work.  A lights can on and recently and I realized that my time would be much better spent at my favorite coffee shop either reading, working on Brass Honey or just relaxing.  It's been amazing and is the best way to start the day.

OBSESSED.  I picked up my Lettuce Be Friends tee in July and have worn it once a week ever since.  Same goes for the T-Swift concert tee I picked up in August.  New to the rotation is my Live A Great Story tee c/o.  I'm dying to get my grubby little hands on the green sleeved version.  The messaging inspires me and has ever since last November when I spotted this really awesome street art mere blocks from my office.  All three of these tees are incredibly comfortable, great quality and very me.  Dar teases that I only wear clothes with saying on them now.  What can I say, I love what I love.     

Free People bandeau!  I bought this in early August and am shocked as hell that I don't own it in every color.  I hate strapless bras.  I've tried them all and have NEVER found one that I don't have to pull up every 15 minutes.  This bandeau may not provide loads of support but when you're a B cup you don't really need it.  I constantly reach for this bandeau over a regular bra.  It's just so comfortable and the lace back is sexy as all get out.

I've never gotten more bang for my buck.  I wear these $27 shoes at least 3 days a week and have ever since I bought them in August.  They are so comfortable (minor break in period), look super cute and rocker chic and go with everything from a tee and jeans to a pencil skirt and sweater.  I LOVE THEM! 

What a crazy mash up of items right.  Everything from spices to shampoo and undergarments.  What are you loving lately?  I'd love to hear from you.  Have a happy weekend my friends.  XO.