The Age of Discontent, a theory.

In the wake of yet another senseless mass shooting in California, when we’ve had yet to recover from the horror of the attacks in France…. I felt many things.  First and foremost a deep, deep sadness that seems to have become a way of life in this nation, perhaps the world.  I felt anger of course, especially when I heard that these people had a six month old daughter that they left with family to go and carry out these acts.  What?… What compels someone to do such a thing, let alone leave behind that legacy to your six month old child?  A legacy that she will have to live with the rest of her life?  A legacy of horror and make no mistake about it, terror.  Regardless of race or religion….anyone who commits these acts upon humanity is a terrorist!  My heart bleeds for this child. My heart bleeds for this nation, for this wayward world of discontent.

As a parent, you worry incessantly about everything that affects your child’s life, no matter how old they are.  But I think back to my own young adulthood in the 80’s and wonder…. what’s changed since then exactly?  I mean, my family worried about things of course, but never in all the time I was growing up did they ever worry about if I was coming home.  Now…. every single time a loved one steps out the door….. We all worry.  There seems to be no place safe any longer.  It can happen anywhere….. at anytime.

And I got to thinking……  What are the answers?  Are there any?  Is it a gun issue?  I don’t necessarily think so.  As a nation, in the unsafe world that has become commonplace, being unable to defend ourselves….. definitely not an option.   I believe it is an issue of discontent.  As a nation, as a race, as a world in general.  There are more people out there who are generally unhappy with life.  It has become like a poison that has infected our society and caused us to lash out at those around us.

Think about it…. from the people who have worked like dogs their whole lives to achieve “The American Dream” only to have it ripped away from them in the job market.  The way people are so callously tossed aside after giving a company their undying loyalty and find themselves suddenly with nothing left to believe in.   Discontent.

I’m not sure the “American Dream” even exists anymore in this country, when you have kids coming out of college who can’t get ahead because they’re drowning in student loan debt before they ever get started living.  Discontent. And you can’t even come out of college and be sure of a job either, unlike our parents where college pretty much guaranteed moving up the ladder from where their parents started.  Discontent.

People out there working two, even three jobs just to keep their families fed and roofs over their heads….  They’re tired and they have no time to enjoy the family they’re working so hard to support.  Discontent.  Hell, you can’t even GO to your job anymore without constantly having to sell yourself, better yourself, up-sell something to someone that no one wants….. Employers expect more, and more, and MORE from their employees….. and if they don’t get it…. bam, your replaced by two other people standing in line waiting for your job.   Hmmmm, discontent perhaps?   You can’t go to your job and DO your job anymore!  It’s all about being constantly micromanaged at every turn.  And people wonder why people “snap”.

Our society breeds discontent.  It’s all around us.  Everywhere you turn.   Just in the everyday things such as the prices going up for everything from groceries to fun extras that people can afford less and less of.  The prices keep going up, but guess what…. the quality keeps going down.  Why?  Because every corporation is more worried about their bottom line than the product they’re actually producing!  This breeds discontent.  Discontent from the workers who know the products are less than they should be, yet they’re working harder to produce them because they are in fear for their jobs.  Discontent from the consumer who buys the product, only to have to replace it five years later!  It used to be that America especially, took great pride in making a quality product that lasted like the entire lifetime of a family for the most part.  Shit, our parents had washing machines, and refrigerators our whole lives growing up….. which explains the horrific color schemes like Harvest Gold that we had to endure looking at our entire childhoods.   Now, your lucky if your washing machine lasts 10 years!  It’s pathetic!  Do you think this breeds discontent in the world?  Frustration perhaps?

Now, I am not suggesting that a faulty refrigerator is the cause of a mass shooting.  But what I’m saying is the cumulative aspect of all of these things is enough to drive a discontented people.  Which leads me to my next topic….. Mental health.

You now have a breakdown of people’s psyche.  People are more anxious, depressed and unhappy.  Now, if your lucky enough to have healthcare, perhaps you can receive treatment for your issue.  If so, you are very fortunate.  But many, many people cannot.  I suffer from both anxiety and depression…. I also have healthcare….. the issue is, in order to get treatment….. the constant co-pays can drive you into bankruptcy court.  Not to mention the stigma that still exists regarding such matters.  People don’t want to be depressed…. They just want to go to work, pay their bills, feed their families and maybe have a few niceties in their home before they leave this world.   Not too much to ask for right?  But more and more people are not able to do those basic things.  Thus…. depression, defeat, anxiety set in…. all of this equals…. you guessed it….Discontent.

Hello!  This is not rocket science people.  We are a nation/world of discontented people.  No one can open their mouths anymore without offending someone!  Give me a break!!   When did this great nation become such a civilization of cry babies??  Everyone is entitled to an opinion and a voice….. yet, slowly that too is being stripped away from us.  Here’s the thing…. I don’t have to agree with your opinion, but I can respect it…. maybe even learn from it!  That’s what this nation was built upon.  If you can’t agree…. Then damnit, agree to disagree and move the hell on!!   Not everything needs to be agreed upon all the time.  And just because I disagree with your opinion, doesn’t mean I can’t still call you “friend”.  A lot could be accomplished in this world if people didn’t make everything an issue!  Pick your battles people!

Listen…. I don’t pretend to have the answers here, I really don’t.  But the thing is, if we as a people could just maybe go back to our basic understanding in say….kindergarten…. Basic human kindness, tolerance, sharing, use your indoor voices, no hitting…. that sort of thing….. Then maybe there could be hope for us as a human race.  You go to your corner, I’ll go to mine.  I’ll share my meal with you, you wash my car for me.  If we took care of each other like humans…. do unto others as you would have done to you…. that sort of thing.  I know it sounds idealistic, I really do.  But if we treated each other with respect and respected each others boundaries instead of attacking each other.  If we listened instead of judged, we’d go a long way in helping the mental health situation in this world.  If more value were placed on our employees and the pride in our ability to prosper as both a nation and an individual were embraced, then maybe we could breech some of the discontent in our world.  Settle our differences with these very basic values again…..

Then perhaps…. just maybe….

And let’s not forget faith….hope… and love.  No, God isn’t going to fix this….. but through his people, his believers…. that is how he gets his work done.  People have taken him out of the equation….  But whoever your personal God is, that deity should be based on those very basic principles….

Faith… that tomorrow will be a better day.

Hope… that the world will still exist, in a better place for our children.

… And Love, that we should love one another… help one another, fight for life together and not against each other…. and Love for all living beings…. and basic human life.

Namaste ♥

 

 

 

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The Many Joys of Summer♥

So, it seems Summer is fully in swing and along with it are the many, many farm stands along the roadsides with a gorgeous bounty of fresh produce.  Recently, the husband and I were out and about and stopped at one of our favorite restaurants.  On their menu was this amazing, rich and fabulous Corn and Shrimp Chowder.  I just HAD to try it, I’d always wanted to make such a thing, but my husband is opposed to corn making an appearance on anything other than a cob.  So, this was my chance to experience this delicacy…. without his complaints.  He also does not eat shrimp, so I was two for two 🙂 .  This chowder was SO amazing, I immediately had to search through my recipes to find mine.  I figured, at worst….if I had to eat it all by myself, there was always the freezer!

This is one of those recipes that would be a great accompaniment to a nice summer salad or something that comes off the grill!  I did not add shrimp to my soup, but I do have some set aside for tomorrows leftovers 😉 .  It perfectly compliments the seasons best corn out there right now.  So, without further adieu…. Here’s the recipe….  I’ll walk you through the steps at the bottom.

Summer Corn Chowder

8 ears fresh sweet yellow corn, cleaned and kernels cut raw off the cobs.

2 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Bacon drippings, drained from 5 slices of bacon

5 slices of bacon, cooked till crisp.  Reserve 2 tbsp drippings.

1 medium sweet onion, diced. (approx. 1 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup flour

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced.  Depending on your taste preference and size of cloves.

5 Cups Water

1 32oz. Carton Chicken Broth

1 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut into medium dice.

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 Bay leaf

Salt and Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

1 Cup Low Fat Half and Half (Land O’ Lakes.  You could use full fat also)

1 Tbsp Honey

Chopped fresh chives

Shredded Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese for garnish.

In a large Stock pot over medium heat, melt butter and bacon drippings.  Add Onion, and cook slowly until the onion begins to caramelize and brown slightly… appox 8 minutes.  Add in the flour and garlic, cook a minute or two.  Slowly, whisking gently…. pour in the 5 cups of water.  I find it best to do this in increments, whisking after each addition so as to avoid lumps.  Then add the carton of chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add in the Corn kernels, potatoes, thyme and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and bring back to a light boil…. reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove Bay leave.

Transfer approximately 4 cups of the chowder into a large bowl or measuring cup and with a hand-blender (stick mixer) puree the soup until smooth.  Return the pureed mixture into the pot with the rest of the chowder, then stir in the half and half and honey.

To serve, sprinkle each bowl with fresh chives and shredded cheese of your choice.

wpid-20150726_143759.jpg wpid-20150726_144252.jpgOur ingredients to this divine soup are pretty straightforward.  Nothing complicated.  Which makes it super fast and easy to prepare 🙂

wpid-20150726_145137.jpg   Bacon…. needs no introduction…

wpid-20150726_144419.jpg wpid-20150726_144858.jpg wpid-20150726_145055.jpgThese are the three stages of the caramelizing of the onions…. the third picture is where we add our garlic and flour.  Saute a minute or two to cook out the flour taste a bit.

This is the stage where we slowly add our water, while whisking gently.  You wanna do this in increments so you don’t get any lumps.  If you’ve ever made a white sauce or gravy, this step is a no brainer to ya! 🙂 If not, just trust me when I say, don’t rush this process.

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See how the sauce thins out, then thickens up.  That’s what you want.  wpid-20150726_145823.jpg Now we add our dried thyme and bay leaves, salt and pepper….  And our chicken broth 🙂

wpid-20150726_145450.jpg  Bring this mixture up to a boil and then add in the star of the show!! Our corn and potatoes.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the potatoes are tender. wpid-20150726_150000.jpg wpid-20150726_150053.jpgRemove the bay leaf.

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Transfer about 4 cups of the chowder to a deep bowl or a large measuring cup.  We are going to puree this until smooth and add it back to the soup pot.  wpid-20150726_152339.jpg wpid-20150726_152255.jpg wpid-20150726_152431.jpg wpid-20150726_152538.jpgNow it’s time to finish the soup.  Add in the 1 cup of half and half the 1 tbsp of honey.  And don’t forget that luscious bacon you crumbled up…. throw that in too!! 🙂 🙂

And your ready to serve with fresh chives and shredded cheddar or pepper jack!

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This soup is so good and it tastes just like fresh summer corn is supposed to taste.  It’s light and perfect with an easy summer meal on the patio with a nice glass of white wine 🙂

I really hope you like it!

Thanks for stopping by.  Namaste ♥

A Letter to the President ♥

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you today about an issue that is very perplexing to me as a citizen. Now in the grand scheme of things concerning the world today, my problem may not seem very important. But in my world Mr. President, it’s all I can think about. See, I am a 47 year old disabled stay-at-home Mother of four beautiful children who are my world. The issue that concerns me is this. I cannot collect any disability benefits. There are no provisions for me. I have nowhere to turn.

Let me give you a little back story. I did work prior to my getting married and having children, however that was some time ago. I knew about the condition that now disables me, but at that time I had no idea it would disable me. I have SEVERE degenerative double scoliosis. It is progressing at an alarming rate and the two curves in my spine are now at 70 degrees and 71 degrees. This progression has occurred over the period of about 6 years. This condition is causing me an alarming amount of pain and discomfort as well as breathing and possibly cardiac issues which I need to be assessed for at this time. I find it difficult to get through my normal activities throughout the course of the day.
Now, I had no idea that this condition would progress at the rate that it has, no one told me. No one warned me. Going into my life, raising my children, I always had pain…. but you learn to live with it. Your main concern is your children, not yourself. So no one monitored my condition. Unfortunately, that may have not made any difference anyway.

Here’s the problem with our system Mr. President. A stay at home Mom is not recognized by the Social Security system as a contributing member of our society. I have done, what I believe is the most noble of all professions. Or, it used to be. I stayed at home to give my children my full-time attention. I have raised four contributing members of society who are thriving and doing well in the world. Because I myself come from a broken home, I never wanted my children to have to fight for my attention. Although, that happens anyway when there are four of them.  As I’m sure your aware Mr. President, studies have been done to determine how much a “stay-at-home Mother” is worth from a financial standpoint….. And it’s well over $100,000 per year. And yet, because I didn’t “pay into” the system long enough and have become disabled during the course of raising my children…. the system has discarded me.  I am basically a “displaced worker” without any refuge. It hardly seems fair Mr. President. They “acknowledge” that I am disabled because my condition is legitimate…..However, they do not care because I do not “meet the necessary criteria” needed to establish me as so in the eyes of the government. And because my husband makes over the limit of their financial guidelines, I do not qualify of SSI either. But what they fail to realize is that, I am an individual who HAS contributed to society. I am a Mother, I am the CEO of this household, I am a person who cannot contribute to my own household financially because my disability makes it impossible for me to be on my feet for long periods of time, and to do the physical tasks required of the job.

The other issue with this Mr. President is, I have tried to work. But the only thing I’m qualified to do is retail work, and in the job market we live in…. no one will hire me anyway. I’ve been out of the workforce too long, and there are 10 other people behind me who can do all the tasks required of them that I cannot.  So,why would they hire me? Please understand, I am not looking for a ‘hand-out”.  I originally only applied for disability under my doctors advice. I did not want that title put on me. But I soon realized that my condition warranted the title and my hope was, that if the government gave me that title, then the workforce would have to comply to it. They could not force me to do jobs that I could not do. They could not force me to work the number of hours they wanted me to work, only what I was capable of . Not only that, I had hoped maybe for rehabilitation of some kind…. maybe a chance to return to school to further my education. Alas, I have no provisions.

To the government…. I do not exist. I do not understand how this can happen to women in my position Mr. President. Have I not done a noble service to my country by raising my children to be educated, to be contributing members of our society, to be well-adjusted adults?  I mean, how much is THAT worth to the society we live in considering the horrible things happening in the world today? Why is this not considered putting my time in? Where are my provisions as a woman who has done my job well? My husband has worked to support us all these years, paying into the system that denies me. I am unable to help him dig us out of debt. I am unable to help him, and it’s not fair. This is about my basic human dignity Mr. President. And all women in my position who wake up one day and realize there’s nothing out there for us. I didn’t “plan” on being disabled Mr. President…. I “planned” on returning to work doing something when my kids were old enough. And now, I cannot. I cannot go back and “earn” my work credits because I cannot hold down a job for any length of time because it becomes too painful for me to do so. So what do I do? Who do I turn to Mr. President?

I believe you have made so many changes President Obama that have benefitted our society. I voted for you. I think you are the President who looks at people like me and wants to make a difference. I would have written with this topic sooner had I not been WAITING nearly three years for Disability to answer my plea. I had no idea that this was going to be the outcome for me. I do not know what to do, or where to turn. So, I am turning to the leader of this great nation to look at my “tiny” problem and maybe address it and make a difference. Or perhaps, help me make a difference for the other women in my position?

I thank you for your time Mr. President.

Sincerely,

Tiffany J. Vitucci, Disabled Citizen who wants to make a difference.

Life and Spinach Dip ♥

Well, it’s been about a month since we lost our beloved Maggie….and something kinda crazy happened.  Remember I said that I believed God sent her to us at just the right time?  Well….in the wake of her loss, we’ve adopted a new girl.  wpid-20150406_105402.jpg  Meet Sadie ♥

She came to us from a shelter my son volunteers for.  We were not in the market for a new dog, however…. once she came home for a visit, we kind of never let her go back.   She’s a really sweetie♥pie.  Her personality was a really good fit for us, as she is very reminiscent of our young Maggie.  She is a Blue Pit mix, and is about a year old.  It’s been slow, but a month in, the other two dogs have finally accepted her into the fold.  No dog can ever “replace” another dog of course, she is her own being….. but, she kind of adopted us when she came to visit.  She won us over pretty quickly, so I guess this was meant to be her forever home.

Now onto the makings of Spinach Dip!  By now, most of us have at least one good spinach dip recipe in our arsenal.  However, every time I make this dip, I get requests for the recipe.  It’s insanely easy, I’m almost embarrassed to share it.  But this is such an easy and versatile recipe, I figured….. Hey, why not give you another one to add to your box of tricks!  It helps to add that I’ve also done some other fun things with this recipe that work really well.  First of which is to make the dip as usual, and mix with shredded chicken for an a little heartier dip.  Another recipe I’ve devised, is to add the dip to cooked Penne Pasta, throw in a cup or so of shredded Mozzarella….because….WHY NOT?!!  And then bake for an extremely delightful dinner casserole….to which, you could also add diced cooked chicken breast!

So, now that I’ve sold you on the recipe…. Let’s get to it!

wpid-20150426_114611.jpgFirst off….the ingredients are pretty simple and straightforward.  We’re talking simple ingredients that are easy to find.  Artichoke hearts in water preferably, some garlic, some frozen spinach.  I’ll list the entire recipe ingredients at the end of the post.

wpid-20150426_114712.jpgWe have some frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained.  wpid-20150426_115236.jpg Some standard chive and onion cream cheese.  I usually use the light version, however they didn’t have it.   And our Olive oil Mayo.  wpid-20150426_115114.jpg

wpid-20150426_115330.jpg   So, let’s plop this into a good sized mixing bowl.

wpid-20150426_115453.jpg Add our Romano cheese and schemer (that’s the technical term you know… )  that all around until it’s mixed well.

wpid-20150426_115715.jpg wpid-20150426_115815.jpg And for this recipe, instead of hand mincing the garlic, it’s just easier to use the good old garlic press to get the job done!

wpid-20150426_120245.jpgwpid-20150426_120351.jpg  Now let’s add the SQUEEZED dry… thawed, chopped spinach to the mix and really mix it thoroughly.  If you don’t, you’ll end up with big globs of spinach in the mix and on your cracker!! And no one wants that!!

wpid-20150426_120409.jpg Now let’s add in those diced artichoke hearts in the mix.  SIDE NOTE:  I’ve also been known to add in about a cup of diced roasted red peppers to this dip if I have them on hand!  Which… I don’t… but, you get the idea.

wpid-20150426_120919.jpg wpid-20150426_121347.jpg Finally, just plop this mixture into a 2qt. , lightly oiled baking dish…. and then sprinkle the rest of your Romano cheese over the top.  Whola!!  Now, pop this into a 375 degree oven for about half and hour!!   And TRY to control yourself!!

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This dip never seems to make it through the night at my house!  My husband has been known to put it on everything he eats!!  Baked potatoes, pasta, sandwiches…. not ice cream though….he only puts peanut butter on that!  Hahaha!

Here’s the Recipe:

2 Pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry.

2 Cups diced artichoke hearts, in water.

2 containers (8 oz.) Chive & Onion cream cheese, light.  (reg. is fine too.)

1 C. Olive oil mayonnaise (you can sub plain Greek yogurt to lighten this up further)

2 cloves fresh garlic, pressed in a garlic press

1-1/2 cups grated Romano Cheese (Romano is just my preference, Parmesan works great too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients, reserving 1/4 -3/4 cup of Romano cheese.

Spoon into a lightly oiled 2 qt baking dish.  Sprinkle the reserved Romano cheese on top;  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

Serve warm with crackers, pita bread, or fresh veggies!

Variation:  Change it up a bit with roasted red peppers diced – approx. 1 cup.

Or add 1 cup each….Crumbled Feta cheese and Diced Kalamata olives for a “Greek” touch!  Squeeze a little lemon juice into the mix also!

Hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!!

Thanks for checking it out….

Namaste ♥

The Story of Maggie ♥

So, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything.  Life tends to get in the way of my creative ability to form words and sentences.  We’ve had a lot going on since my last post…. one of those things being the loss of our dear Maggie.  Maggie was a sweet and gentle soul who came to us at a very special time in our lives. wpid-2015-03-23-15.04.59.jpg.jpeg

I sometimes feel that animals are re-incarnated humans sent back to this earth to watch over and protect us.  If that is the case, I’m not sure exactly which human she was to me, but she was very special.  Maggie was a rescue dog….. and at the time she came to us, I was beside myself trying to raise four kids and a very stubborn, non-trainable Beagle puppy.  See, I’d wanted the kids to have a dog very badly…and I’d done my homework researching the Beagle to exhaustion.  It did me no justice. Trust me.  Mind you, my youngest child was 4 at the time….and this dog was beyond stubborn.  She would not housebreak.  She was rambunctious.  She was constantly HUNTING!!  And worst of all, she was mean to my children.  I was literally beside myself.  I’d given it 7 months, and many tears….and still, I could not get her to cooperate.

Off and on during this time, my husband kept telling me about this stray dog who kept hanging around his shop where he worked.  He kept telling me how sweet she was, and the guys were feeding her and she was really a “nice looking” dog…. because, you know….Men can’t say….”oh, she’s pretty….” Haha!  So, anyway…. every day, he’d come home and tell me something about this dog.  And I was in tears every day because I could do nothing with the dog we had…..and of course, getting rid of her would break the kids hearts….so, I’d have that to contend with.  So, it was a difficult decision to make.

So, one night….I’ll never forget it…. it was a cold and rainy Friday evening…. He says to me…”I’m going down to find that dog.  I’m gonna clean her up and find her a home.”  I’m like….”Uh, okay??”  And so, he did.  He brought her home on that cold, rainy night and put her in the garage.  He comes in and says….”Come out and see her.”  So, I did.  The first words out of my mouth were….. (and I’m sorry Maggie ♥) “That is the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen.  That dog is going to eat my children!!”  My husband laughed, and proceeded to ignore me.  He promptly cleaned her up the next morning….after making sure she was comfortable in the garage for the night…. and took her to the vet for a check-up.  She was about 9 months to a year old the vet said and in good health.

For quite a few weeks, she lived in our garage.  It was funny how my husband wasn’t really making any attempt to “find her a home”.   Now, it was late August, and it was still comfortable out, even though it had been cooling down in the evenings already.   I went out to visit her periodically….  But I had my hands full with the four kids under the age of 8 and the psycho Beagle I was still trying to domesticate.  So, my husband quietly took care of her, and updated me on her progress.  He would bring her in the house occasionally to visit.  Just to see how she behaved.  Ironically, being a dog who lived on the streets….she was extremely domesticated.  She sat and lazed happily and gazed upon my children.  Meanwhile…Bella, the insane Beagle was running around her in circles like the Tasmanian Devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoons!  My youngest daughter would crawl up to Maggie with her “blankie” and proceed to take a nap…. under our constant supervision…and after Bella had been banished to her crate.

That was a turning point in her relationship with us as a family.   It was becoming apparent to us that one of the dogs was going to need a home…..and it was beginning to look like it wouldn’t be Maggie…. ♥  Another telling incident was when Bella was literally attacking Maggie’s face…. it started out as play, and then began to turn ugly.  She drew blood on Maggie’s lip and Maggie quietly put her in her place with a rather large paw, nudged her out of the way…and proceeded to ignore her.  That was the point when we knew Maggie was the dog for us.  She outweighed Bella by about 50 pounds and had a lot of girth over her.  She could have literally snuffed her out with one bite….but she didn’t.  My daughter literally rode her around the living room like a pony, and Maggie happily obliged.

It was official.  Maggie had found her Home.  And Bella, had to go.  We did find a good home for Bella by the way, the people who took her had a farm and other Beagles for her to run free with.

Through the years…. Maggie was a wonderful dog who loved everyone she met….and much to my husband’s delight….loved food!!  She was a constant fixture at all family functions that happened at the dinner table.  She did not like the sweeper.  She walked happily and calmly on the leash….. and woofed loudly when visitors arrived.   She provided us as a family, 14 years of constant companionship… and she was my children’s first pet.  She also mothered our two other dogs who came to us later….Tinkerbell our Chihuahua and Izzy our Toy Fox Terrier.  And she was a good Momma…. wpid-20150323_150616.jpg wpid-20150323_150743.jpg wpid-20150323_150713.jpg

When she became ill…  it was such a shock.  She’d always been so healthy.  She developed cancer….starting with a tumor that we’d had removed and she recovered nicely from.  However…a few months later, she developed more tumors that quickly spread and grew on her shoulder and front leg.  Soon, she had trouble walking…. and even though she was still “hunting” for food, it was becoming clear that her time was short.  My husband kept her comfortable as possible for as long as possible.  I helped where I could, for me it was just to painful to watch the light go out of her.   At first, she didn’t appear to be suffering, and as long as she was eating, we just couldn’t let her go.   Until one day, she had a pretty violent seizure.  I was alone with her when it happened, and I knew it was time.  We gave her the weekend to let all the kid’s friends say their good-byes.  See, she was their dog too… not only did she belong to us, but to all of our kid’s friends also.  Everyone who met Maggie, loved Maggie ♥  Including me…the person who thought she wasn’t “pretty” when I first met her….. which I later changed my mind about of course.  She was beautiful!  She was a Shepherd-Pit Bull mix….. and she had such a pretty face and personality to go along with it.  She was truly one of a kind.

I believe that God sent her to us at precisely that moment when I’d given up hope on Bella.  He knew how torn up I was about that dog not being the right fit for our family, and sent us the Perfect Dog!  And for 14 years, she was just that…. The Perfect Dog ♥   Rest in peace our Dear Sweet Maggie Girl.  Run free and chase those Squirrel’s!

Thank You for the joy you brought to our lives…..  Whoever comes after you, will have some big paws to fill!  But I’m pretty sure God has that covered….. ♥♥♥ wpid-2015-03-25-16.15.00.jpg.jpeg

Help ♥ Yourself

So… like just about everyone else on the planet right now, I’ve been battling an upper respiratory illness.  The kind of illness that starts out slow, and you think you might get off without too much downtime.  The kind of illness that sent my husband to the urgent care with a raging sinus infection and bronchitis…. Which I told him he had 🙂 Haha!!  Now, I normally pride myself on a very hearty immune system.  I usually don’t get hit with too much because I take pretty good care of myself.  I’m a firm believer in Diet and Exercise cure everything!  But this one, snuck up on me.  Now, I didn’t get the full-blown illness my husband did….but, it knocked me out nonetheless.  I usually get one illness a year that keeps me down more than a day.  Hopefully this was it.

Now, because I was forced to take it easy …which is never easy for me to do….. I got to thinking.  Thinking about what it is that prompts people to abuse the hell out of themselves?  We live in a society that breeds illness if you think about it.  Physical illness. Mental illness. Emotional illness.  A state of ….Hurry Up!!  Do More!! Do it Faster!! Add more to your plate!! Multi-task, multi-task, MULTI-TASK!!   It’s no wonder people are constantly looking for a magic pill for everything!!

Unfortunately…. there is none! 😦  Unless you consider that exercise is the best medication on the market?  And a well balanced diet.  Seriously.  Even recovering from my sickness, as soon as I started feeling human again, the first thing I did was some yoga.  Because of my back issues, I was hurting considerably from the coughing and the aches and pains of being sick.  Yoga….as much as I resisted….as much as I would have rather taken a nap instead…. Yoga….was my answer.  Now, did I feel 100% when I was done?  No.  But did I feel at least 50% better than I did going in?  Oh yeah!  And then I took a nap….Hahaha!

It truly amazes me how people resist the very thing that can help in almost every human condition.  Exercise…the natural Endorphin stimulator….your natural pain killer already provided by your body??  Why wouldn’t everyone take advantage of that?  It befuddles me.  I swear by it for pain management of the two nearly 70 degree curves in my spine.  If I didn’t….my condition would be way worse than it already is, my doctors have already told me this.

Another thing people say is….Oh, I’m too tired to exercise.  Surprise! Exercise….gives you energy!  Ta-da!! It’s magic!!  There are many times I literally have to drag myself through a routine….and am not happy about it….but, I force myself through it.  And guess what?  I always feel better than I did going in.  Now, if I am in fact very tired, the routine might me a less strenuous one…..but it’ll still help get me through my day.

I suffer from depression.  Guess what?  Exercise….stimulates your natural serotonin production.  Hello??!! Without it….I would truly be insane!  It is my #1 go to when I’m in a bad mood!  It literally, never fails me!! Never!

I’ve been battling my weight since I was a teenager!  When I was 15 years old, I lost over 85lbs!  I have successfully kept that weight off since that time through diet and exercise!  Through each and every pregnancy with my children.  Now, am I stick thin?  No, I am not?  I probably never will be.  But, I consistently show up and do the work!!  Each and every day of my life since I was 15 years old!!  I’ve tried to set a good example for my children.  And now that my age is progressing….I can see the results of all my hard work.  Especially with my back issues.  I am hopeful that I will remain active into my golden years to chase my grandchildren around!

Listen…. I’m not trying to preach here.  I’m not above pain medication if necessary.  I indulge in the “bad” food too.  I just make the effort to get back on track the next day, and consistently make it my lifestyle.  See, that’s where people go wrong.  They want the magic pill, because they don’t want to do the hard work.  And unfortunately, the magic pill might work for a little while, but doesn’t work for the long haul.  You have to make it a Lifestyle.  You have to constantly be aware of what damage you are doing to your body.  Listen….no one is going to stay twenty forever.  And most of us don’t have the money to hire personal chefs and trainers!  So, you have to do the work yourself!  I have constantly tried to stay current on the health and fitness news.  I consistently make changes and adapt where necessary.  My routine has changed numerous times over the years and the stuff I could do in my 20’s and 30’s…. I cannot necessarily do now.  So, I’ve had to adapt.  But I still work at it.  I haven’t given up just because the curves in my spine progressed from 45 and 47 degrees to 65 and 67 degrees over the years.  I’ve adapted. wpid-51fead2719557a3c2d01a948645bcf09.jpg

But I have a hard time understanding how little people are willing to do FOR themselves.  To give themselves a better quality of life.

Let’s see…..exercise helps with natural pain killing….ups those endorphins!  Exercise helps with depression, by stimulating your natural serotonin production.  Hmmmm….Exercise builds your immune system, which allows for less down time being sick….as well as more serious illness….such as heart disease and cardiovascular issues?  It helps maintain weight and gives you energy?  Sounds like a win-win to me!! 🙂

I mean, I get it…. People are stressed out.  People have jobs.  People have kids.  People have wayyyy too much on their plates…  But it seems to me, people are leaving a very basic need out of their personal equations.  People need to feel good in order to function.  And let’s face it, if you don’t take care of yourself….your really no good to anyone else because your feeling tired, run down, depressed….etc….  So wouldn’t it stand to reason, that the best medicine for us as humans is a little “self love”?   Find a few moments a few times a week to just take care of you?  So that you can take care of everyone else?  Be an inspiration to you children?  Have more energy for your loved ones?  Have more energy at work?  Hell, maybe even be able to stay awake past 8pm?

I mean….you know….Help Yourself?

Just a thought…..Namaste♥

I Am A Food “Snob” ♥

Yes, it’s in fact….a true story.  One of the pitfalls of being a dedicated “foodie” is that you tend to be judgmental about food.  In fact, some restaurants should be grateful that I am not a food critic.   However, I like to pretend I am.  Muwahahahaha!  So today, I must rant about a particular chain which claims to make “Italian” food….  this is a place that to my astonishment, always has a packed parking lot!  Being of Italian descent, I am extremely hard on Italian restaurants!!  I mean, I grew up in a household which held the Italian meal to the highest standards, and I myself have studied the cuisine…..practiced the cuisine….and in some cases, improved upon the cuisine.  Now, does this make me an “expert”…No.  But does it make me an educated consumer….Damn straight!

Now, brace yourselves if this is your favorite Italian restaurant!  For the place I speak of is… The Olive Garden!  The home of the all you can eat salad and bread-sticks.  Yes, I am about to bash this place that may in fact, be the only experience with Italian food some people may be familiar with.  For that, I apologize.  But to those of us who pride ourselves in the Italian heritage…..let me say this….. The Olive Garden…..doesn’t even come close to what Italian food really is about!

My husband and I were looking for a change for our usual Friday night “date-night” dinner…. so I said….”Hey, we haven’t been to the Olive Garden in like a hundred years, why don’t we give it another try?”  He, being in a hurry to just…..”Get someplace already….” was like… “yeah, sure…why not.”  And so…..that’s how we ended up there.  Normally, I know better…. but I was willing to be….shall we say….open minded?

Well….  that was my first mistake.  And let me just say…. for the prices they’re charging for a meal….the food should be stellar!!

Let us begin with the salad…. I remember, not so long ago….when they used to give you a bowl of salad…filled almost to the brim with the very nice salad they offered.  This….was the same bowl….filled maybe half-way….with like, two tomato slices, and two olives and a ton of croutons which I pick off anyway.  There was barely enough salad for two people!  Like, I filled my plate and my husband had to ask for a “refill” because there wasn’t enough left for him.  And I did NOT take enough to fill my plate, believe me.  Strike One!!

The bread sticks were the same…. no real complaints about those.  However, they used to give you a little dipping cup of sauce if you asked for it, either Alfredo or Marinara.  Heads up….they now charge $3.95 for a small “boat” as the waitress called it, of said sauce….and have added it to the appetizer menu.  Okay, so they gotta make a buck….I’ll let them have that one.

So, I ordered Chicken Parmesan…..thinking….hey, pretty straightforward, can’t screw that up too badly right?  Batter UP!  Strike TWO!   First off….the “side” of spaghetti they give you with it was bigger than the serving of chicken itself….mind you, pasta costs like…what, 20 cents a pound?  By all means, lets charge the consumer $12.99 for the meal, and give them mostly spaghetti!  But that’s not the worst of it boys and girls.   No, no….. There’s the “chicken”.  First off, I’m talking the size of two chicken tenderloins at best!  And that’s being generous!!  Then, there’s the fact that it was pounded so thin, if it wasn’t covered in an inch of breading….you could have SEEN THROUGH it!!  I kid you not!!  And let’s not even discuss the fact that it was over done on top of it!!  I mean, if I wanted chicken nuggets, I would have ordered off of the kids menu!!  Come’ on people!! If your going to charge me $13, can I have a whole piece of chicken maybe?? Just saying…

Now, the sauce.  Hmmmm…..lets see.  What can I say nice about the sauce?  There was definitely tomatoes in it!  Not a problem there…. It had a fresh sauce taste to it.  BUT….if I had served it to my Italian Grandmother….would it have passed muster?  UM….sadly NO!  There was no discernible seasoning in the sauce.  No little slivers of garlic, swimming in a delightful pool of olive oil infused tomato yummy-ness here!  Oh no….   No subtle hint of dry Marsala wine permeating the senses.  Hell, there wasn’t even any Basil in the sauce!! I mean, come’ on people…. It’s supposed to be Italian!!  Give me something!!  If I had tried to pass this “sauce” off to my Grandmother…..I’m pretty sure she would have dumped it down the drain…..grabbed me by the earlobe….dragged me into the kitchen…..and given me a very sound thrashing on what it means to make SAUCE in an Italian household!!  And if I could not pass this simple test….then, I’d have to turn in my membership!!  No shit!! My Grandmother…..was a tough cookie!!

Strike THREE!! Your OUT!!

And the melted “Mozzarella”?  Well, suffice it to say….it resembled that of melted plastic rather than the beautiful gooey, stringy, melt-y delight-ful-ness it should have been.

Overall, if I’d had to give this meal a rating on a scale of 1-10…. One being “meh” and ten being…”OMG!! Dear christ, give me more!”…. I’d have to say, to be kind….I’d give it a 3.  I mean, it was warm….there were no unidentified hairs or substances in it so…. 🙂   Hahaha!!

Now, did I complain to my server about the meal?  No.  I ate the meal in silence and judged instead 🙂  But, I felt that this is just the product they offer, so why complain?  We paid.  We tipped well.  And we’ll probably never go back.

So, my point in writing this?  Well, just to vent I guess.  I mean, I’m constantly amazed that this place pulls in a packed parking lot and dining room on a daily basis.  So, I thought maybe I was being too judgmental?  But sadly…. No.  My original theory was correct I guess.  Used to be, this place offered a decent meal for a reasonable price?  When did it become acceptable to offer a mediocre product, at best….for a premium price?  And when did the consumer decide that this was an acceptable meal?  I mean, anyone who knows their way around a kitchen or a chicken breast can’t possibly think this is Real Italian food, can they??  And truthfully, I wouldn’t mind the food if they weren’t charging me “fine-dining” prices for what is essentially “Italian” McDonalds!  Honestly, even Carrabba’s….which is also a chain….does it a little better for the money.  There’s actual garlic and basil in their sauce….and real Olive Oil they serve with their bread! Cha-ching!!

Listen…. I can cook.  And I can definitely cook an Italian meal like nobody’s business.  However, once in awhile…. a girl likes to sit down to a meal that someone else prepared for a change.  And I happened to be in the mood for Italian… that I didn’t have to cook!  And, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.   And it wasn’t awful….it just wasn’t worth the money they charge for it!  I mean, if you want to charge me “fine-dining” prices, then for Godsake….please, give me a whole piece of chicken and a full bowl of salad!  Otherwise, just add a drive-thru window and call it what it is…. Fast-food-Italian food for the Italian cooking impaired!

So what’s the final take away then?  Next time we’re in the mood for Italian food….either I stay home and make it my damn self….. Well, there’s always Carrabba’s!!

Sorry…. I guess I’m just a food Snob ♥ .

Namaste ♥