Recipes Tried in November - Round 3

Recipes Tried In November – Round 3

November Recipes.

Happy Monday!

I managed to complete Round 3 of my November Challenge. 

If you missed Round 1 and Round 2, be sure to check those out.

As in the rounds before, I’ve included links to where I’ve pinned the recipe to Pinterest. I’ll also let you know if I made any substitutions and my opinion of the dish.

Let’s dive in!

November 13th.

Mexican Lasagna.

I didn’t write down how much salsa I needed prior to the trip to the grocery store (you’ll notice a trend over the week). 16 oz. is not 2 1/2 cups. I compensated the difference by adding more water to the mixture. I already had shredded cheese in a mexican blend so I used that. I’m sure I added more cheese than was called for since I love cheese. I did not add sour cream to the end of the cooking process. Some in the family don’t like sour cream. I added it to the top of mine prior to eating. I was going to slip in some butternut squash puree because I had some left over…but I forgot.

Miss Sunshine didn’t try it on account of the salsa and her dislike of tomatoes. The rest of us loved it.

Assessment: Into the family rotation it goes! I may work on tweaking leaving salsa out of a portion, but that will be trial and error with liquid requirements.

November 14th.

Greek Vinaigrette Dressing.

The next night was leftovers for those who were home. I made up a salad to go with the leftovers and decided to make this dressing. I still had some fresh oregano so I substituted that instead of using dried. Some comments were that they cut down on the amount of vinegar. I love vinegar. I’m the girl who will sit down and eat the entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. I thought it was fine. I had the hubby test it before adding it to the salad. He thought it was good as well. No teens were joining into the salad eating so I didn’t ask their opinion. Since I had leftovers for lunch, I only ate the salad and added feta cheese to the top of mine.

Assessment: Yum!! And no strange ingredients!

November 15th.

Mug Brownie.

Miss Sunshine had a final soccer practice this night. It was a “fun” practice and ended up being at a different location than where I originally thought it would be held. My chosen recipe of the night was more time-consuming so I put it off until the next day. This meant I needed a recipe to make when we got home from practice and it needed to be with ingredients already contained in my home.

That was when I stumbled across this recipe.

I followed it exactly. Luckily, I did have canola oil and that is what I used. I decided to use these CorningWare mugs that we sometimes use for eating soup. I wasn’t sure how much the mixture would rise and I didn’t want to have to clean out the microwave. A smaller mug would have been fine. I cooked it for about 1 1/2 minutes. Times will vary with different microwaves.

To my surprise, it was actually good. I topped it with my remaining Talenti gelato (the brownie cuts the milky taste), grabbed two spoons, and Miss Sunshine and I devoured it.

Assessment: This was a very quick and very easy recipe. I may make it on occasion for fun.

November 16th.

Spicy Ethiopian Lentil Stew and Indian Style Rice.

I had been planning this meal for some time.  The lentil stew requires a spice called berbere spice blend. I looked at my grocery store and could not find it. During a future spice shopping expedition, I did discover that they carried it… but had alphabetized it under “A” because its description on that label was African Inspired…berbere spice blend. At this point I had already ordered it from Amazon. I used a heaping Tbsp because I was worried about spiciness.

This recipe is pictured with a yellow rice so I found a recipe to make. My rice was not as yellow. I’m sure more turmeric would have fixed that.

Mr. D, the hubby, and I all tried both. We liked it. The hubby and Mr. D added sriracha because they like to abuse their tastebuds eat spicy food.

Big Mr and Miss Sunshine only tried the rice. Miss Sunshine thought the rice was a little bland. I could see what she meant, but have no clue as to why since it’s laden with spice. Big Mr doused his rice in sriracha and happily ate it.

I had the same experience as the last time I tried Indian food. It’s good, but after a bit it seems unappealing. I really think it’s cumin. The smell of cumin makes me sort of nauseous. Strange? Yes. But it is what it is. I will keep trying because the benefits are so good.

Assessment: While I wouldn’t make the stew weekly, I did like it a lot. I will keep working on a finding a rice that I actually enjoy.

November 17th.

Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie.

Normally I would not include this photo… but I have no others. Bear in mind, I’m not a food photographer and ignore its flaws.

My smoothie did not come out a purple as the author of the recipe. I don’t drink milk so I substituted unsweetened vanilla almond milk. This may have attributed to the color change or I may have packed my spinach tighter. I opted for honey. I also add ice because I like a slushy smoothie. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t care about the color so much as long as it tastes good. This one was tasty and packed with superfoods.

Assessment: Win.

November 18th.

Cheeseburger Casserole.

I needed a quick meal and this one said it took 30 minutes. Bingo! Here’s the problem when you are in a hurry. You don’t always read things fully. The hubby ran to the grocery store to pick up what I needed. I wrote 1 can of diced tomatoes. That’s what the recipe says on Pinterest…and it’s true…but when you go to the actual recipe it says 1 (28 oz) can. I didn’t discover this until I was ready to make the meal with my 1 (14.5 oz) can. So I did what any good cook does…I worked with what I had. I happened to find a 14 oz can of tomato sauce in the pantry and used that in place of the other portion of diced tomatoes. I’m sure this changed the overall end result, but nothing else could be done. It tasted like many other casseroles that are similar and I don’t think ziti is my favorite pasta shape because I don’t love it thickness.

Assessment: It’s not likely that I will try this again. I did not properly follow the recipe so don’t let my assessment sway you from trying it if it strikes your fancy.

November 19th.

Guacamole Stuffed Chicken Nuggets.

I don’t know what to say about these except that I loved them. I was a little nervous about the ground chicken because I don’t often use ground turkey or chicken. But I’m a huge lover of avocado and cilantro so they were right in the sweet spot of my palate. Big Mr. doesn’t like cilantro so he didn’t try them. The hubby said he could have done with a little less cilantro, but that didn’t stop him from devouring them. Mr. D liked them. And even Miss Sunshine liked them. I did read where somebody substituted spinach and I can see how that would be tasty as well. I will note that she reminds you to check the internal temperature which I did. I recommend cooking them on low because the outside appears done before the inside actually is.

I also like that these didn’t include wheat. I am once again going to be trying to cut back on that. I don’t have celiac disease, but I do have digestive issues. I’ve cut it out completely in the past (under my doctor’s knowledge) and I feel better when I eat less of it. Plus, for some reason I seem maintain an extra 10 pounds when I’m regularly eating wheat (my doctor thinks this may be due to the fact that when I am gluten free, I naturally eat less processed foods. That may be the case!)

Assessment: Major Win.

Did you see any recipes this week that you think you’ll end up trying?

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Let your light shine!

Amy

Friday Faves - Edition 40

Friday Faves – Edition 40

Friday.

Today is Edition 40 of my Friday Faves. I feel like I should have a celebration or something. Edition 40 during my year of being 40. Seems special… right?!

Anyway, just know that I’m doing a happy dance to mark my excitement.

I know that might make it seems like my faves this week will be something phenomenal. But, no… it was just a week.

In fact, I have no idea how this day came so fast. Each day I had to remind myself which day of the week it was because I was certain it was really the one before.

When I shared my faves in last Friday’s post, I told you that Miss Sunshine and I were heading down to Greensboro, North Carolina for her final fall soccer tournament. In true teenager fashion, 10 minutes before we were going to head out the door, she discovered that her undershirt (because it was going to super cold!) was at the bottom of her soccer bag and smelled. We ran it through a quick wash and then got it mostly dry and hung it in the car for the drive down. We weren’t really on a timeline. It just gets dark and 5:30 pm and I prefer to travel to parts unknown in the daylight. 3/4 of the drive in daylight wasn’t horrid because the directions were pretty easy.

After checking in to the hotel, Miss Sunshine and I went to eat at Logan’s Roadhouse. I don’t know if you have these where you are, but it’s a chain. There are barrels of peanuts around and pails of them on your table. The shells are thrown to the ground.

This place would be a horror to anyone with a peanut allergy. Luckily, we don’t have that problem. We had a nice steak dinner while Miss Sunshine regaled me with ideas for an invention she must think up as part of an essay to apply to a specialized high school around these parts.

Her first game the next morning was delayed due to the earlier games needing to start later… because there was FROST on the ground. That game was tie. The later game they won 11-0. They needed to keep it a shut out from a point system, but as the score climbed, the players were moved around to positions they don’t often play in order to not humiliate the other team. Sunday was an 8 am game. Ugghhh… This meant that I got up at 5:45 am. I don’t even do that during the week. We watched the sun rise over the highway on the drive to the fields. They won that game 8-0. This meant they would head into the championship against the team that they had tied the previous day.

And they came out the victors!

They won the game 1-0. I’m not going to delve in too deep about the poor sportsmanship shown by the other team during the game. I will say that in the 7 years that Miss Sunshine has played soccer, I have never seen a player stand there at kick at another player’s ankles while they are waiting for a throw-in. Which happened right in front of the sideline. You get injured in soccer. I get that. Miss Sunshine had a nasty bruise on her inner lower leg. I have no problem with that. It’s the unfortunate mishap when two people are both going for the ball. I do have issue with the dirty, sometimes dangerous moves that were happening. The center ref did not have control of the field and we’re lucky none of the girls were seriously injured. And in true poor sportsmanship fashion, the other team did not even attend the medaling ceremony to collect their medals.

But enough about that!

Here’s how I entertain myself while I try to stay warm in the car during her warm-ups.

Aren’t Snapchat filters so much fun! I felt just like a sleepy bear needing to hibernate for the winter. But I did get to pull out that cashmere scarf that I bought in Scotland! FYI- if you haven’t been around the blog long enough to have read about my trip to Scotland, the scarf was Made in Scotland. You have to see those words on the tag to know that it was actually made there. I’m glad somebody gave me the heads up about that before I traveled there.

So…speaking of filters.

Miss Sunshine had a presentation to do in Spanish today. It required photos of the family. This is the one I chose of me. The hubby took this shot while we were at lunch at Mabry Mill. The lighting was harsh and showed how badly my face needed some lotion or some makeup (and maybe 20 years taken off). I did let her take in a selfie of the hubby and me that wasn’t edited, but this wasn’t going up on a Powerpoint in front of the class without some editing.

I don’t often talk about my editing because each photo is different. Some are edited, some are not. Some a little, some a lot. I don’t have Lightroom yet.  That’s next on my list, but my laptop is almost out of space so I need to migrate my photo library to an external hard drive and I get scared about losing my photos in the process

I thought that just for fun I’d tell you how I edited this photo of me.

First of all, here are the settings for the Sony Alpha 7 II:  ISO 250 | 28 mm | f/4.5.

It was shot on Aperture Priority. I was the one who chose the depth of field. I’m a fan of shallow depth.

Right now I just have the Sony FE 3.5-5.6/28-70 mm OSS lens. I want to add a 50 mm f/1.8 so that I can have an even shallower depth. The issue is that the Sony lens costs 3x more than a Nikon or Canon one. You can buy adapter rings for those lenses to fit…so it’s just a matter or deciding which route to go.

But back to the editing.

I edited this photo in the Snapseed App on my phone. Sometimes I also use the VSCO app or A Color Story app for certain things, but I predominately use Snapseed.

Miss Sunshine needed to get this into her Powerpoint, so I needed to edit quickly. I’ve never used the “looks” part of Snapseed, but I checked out Smooth. It made me look fake. I did not want that (heck, I left all those forehead wrinkles that show up when I raise my eyebrows. Ok… they sort of stay there even when my eyebrows are in a normal position. 36 years in the Florida sun with fair skin will do that. Add four more years of dry, cold Virginia winters…and…yeah). The portrait “look” was a more realistic filter so that was what I used. Under Curves, I added U01. I liked how it added a tone reminiscent of an 80’s film photograph. Then it was time to tune the image and make it a little more unique than just laying filters on it. Here’s what I chose: brightness +4, contrast +2, saturation +7, ambiance +5. I actually start from the bottom of this list and work my way up, adjusting to my preference. Sometimes I may work with highlights and lowlights after that, but not always.

And there you have it!

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I picked up a new journal this week. Not because I needed one, but because I thought it was pretty. Sometimes you just need pretty. I haven’t decided what I want to fill its lines with. Will it be a story? Will it be lists? Will it be thoughts?

Big Mr. applied to his first college and is working on a few other applications. Mr. D becomes a solo driver tomorrow. Each of those things makes me realize how close we are moving to them flying from the nest.

As I think about the leaves that are now falling from the trees, I recognize a new season approaching.

Both in the weather and in my life.


The song I chose this week is by the Australian, Xavier Rudd.

I made the executive decision this week to push my 5k goal into the spring. The cold and I don’t get along and I want to enjoy my first race.

This presents a training issue. I gave up my yoga classes to run…and I miss them. I don’t want to give up my Pilates classes either, so I’ll have to rethink my schedule.

As I sat today, in day 48 of meditation, I realized that I often make my life more complex than it needs to be.

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend. It’ll be my first without a soccer game, but Miss Sunshine has to finish up a project for Science so I’ll likely be around the house. Sounds like a good time for some book reading. I need to make some headway on Middlemarch.

In any given moment we have two option: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

Let your light shine!

Amy

Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company

Shakespeare and Company.

37 rue de la Bûcherie. Paris, France.

Shakespeare and Company is an Independent Bookstore in Paris. From the moment that Helen commented that I should visit there while in Paris, I knew that this was one of the destinations on my “must see” list.

As I mentioned, after our visit to Sacré Cœur, we decided to head to Shakespeare and Company. Somehow I managed to navigate us getting off at the wrong Metro Station. I’m still not sure how that happened as Google and Apple maps were very reliable during our travels. Since I would need a few minutes to gather our bearings and somebody needed to use the bathroom (this is an inevitable, frequent occurrence when traveling in a party of 5), we decided to head into a nearby restaurant for lunch.

We were somewhat surprised by the service, or lack thereof. This is also the restaurant where I obviously did not understand what they meant on the sauce description. When it said egg, it wasn’t part of the sauce. It was actual raw egg, placed on top of the pasta. I ate around it the best I could and ate whatever leftovers the teens still had on their plates.

As we began our journey toward Shakespeare and Company, we discovered that while we had felt confused by where we exited the Metro, we were in fact very close to the Louvre.

It occurred to us at that point that we were probably eating at a touristy restaurant, which would explain the high prices combined with lack of service.  Next time I visit Paris I will actually look at Yelp reviews and try to find restaurants loved by Parisians. I’ve specifically not shared certain names of the places in which we ate because I don’t like to add to negativity, but they were ranked in the lower third of reviews.

Since we were passing by the Louvre, I decided to experiment with capturing a panorama. Of course that would be the moment that vehicles would pass through!

A second try was much more successful and we then continued on our way toward Shakespeare and Company.

If I had been a person with a pre-planned itinerary, we would have visited the bookstore on the day that we visited Notre-Dame. It is located on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame.

Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1951 by the American, George Whitman.

The building it’s housed in was constructed in the 17th Century and was originally a monastery.

When the bookstore first opened it was called Le Mistral. Whitman changed it to its present name in April of 1964, on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.

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He did this in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Her bookstore had been a gathering place for expat writers at that time…such as Hemingway and Eliot.

He endeavored to carry on that spirit. Allen Ginsberg and Anaïs Nin are just a few of the literary expats who gathered here.

 

 

Shakespeare and Company is considered one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world.

An estimated 30,000 aspiring writers have bunked at Shakespeare and Company.

I knew that I had to walk along the floors, smell the scent of old paper, and touch the worn bindings of the old books.

So after capturing some of the doors for my Thursday Door friends, I entered.

The hubby and teens decided to rest their weary feet and sit outside while I perused the bookstore.

Inside, there are new books as well as old.

They request that no photos be taken inside to respect the privacy of the patrons. As much as there were places inside that I would have loved to photograph, I chose to respect their request.

A google image search of the staircase will show you one such photo that I was tempted to take.

It spoke to me because upon it was written so much of what I believe to be true.

I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. -Hafiz

The red stairs are well worn. I wonder how many feet have walked up that stairwell. I pause and look at things pinned here and there… and words…everywhere are words.I ponder the magnitude of how many written words are contained in this space.

As I meander about the rooms at the tops of the stairs, my mind travels to the writers who sat here pouring out their thoughts. I run my hand along the spaces. If there is any magic here, I want it travel through my fingertips. I want it to take residence in my brain and then find its way back out and through my fingertips into written words.

I am conscientious of the fact that I have left my family waiting for me. I know they are tired and we still want to see the Eiffel Tower from its base.

I want to stay here and soak up this magic.

To breathe in the creativity.

But I must go.

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I leave, but I know that I will return again someday.

Once again, I slowly ascend those stairs, and this time I will sit upon the chairs.

I will breathe deeply in that creative space.

And I will think on those whose written words have made it from their fingertips and on those whose words are still waiting to be written.

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. - Jack Kerouac

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

Love and Death

Love And Death

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Everybody loves a good love story.

Right?!

Well, my parent’s love story got its official start (according to the court) on this day 41 years ago. I always had my mom tell me their love story when I was younger. I thought it so romantic. I was the type of girl who dreamed of lifelong love…of some deep soul connection. I did find a connection that spoke at my soul level and have been married to that man for almost 19 years. I’m so happy that my parents have loved each other for so long. They’ve taught me about the hard work that goes into a marriage. They’ve shown me about commitment through their own life together.

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I wrote about my parent’s love story last year. You can find that post here.

What I didn’t share in that post is that it also the day that my Grandma Reva died in 2013.

That was because I have this mixed emotion on this day. There is this joy for love…love that created me. There is also sadness for loss…loss that shaped me.

 

Rock Castle Gorge Trail

If you’ve followed my blog for some time then you already know that she was a major source of love and wisdom for me. She was type of person that everyone was drawn to. Her enthusiasm for people and for life was contagious. She taught me life lessons in the way she interacted with what life threw her way. She forgave people freely. I still can recall a specific conversation where I would have harbored resentment and her response was “their choices are between them and God.” I was in my early teens and that conversation still replays in my mind when I want to stay angry when I feel slighted or wronged. She was also one of my biggest cheerleaders.

I’ve shared before that I struggled as she was dying. Death had not been a big part of my experience in life before 2013. My father-in-law had lost his battle with cancer that February. That day is also associated with another memory, which I shared in this post. That, along with some other things, became the catalyst for our move to Virginia. A move that, although I knew in my heart was right, I had a deep struggle with. I would FaceTime with my grandma and did a video tour of the house we were living in at the time. She was so happy for me. She was more concerned for my contentment than the fact that she was dying.

I dreamed of her last night. A strange dream. But most of my dreams are. In the dream, I was going through photos that I had not seen. I don’t know if I had been the photographer or if I was just organizing them. I was putting them in a series and editing words on them to create a story. The photos were a series of attempts in which she was trying to do a handstand. I remembered thinking it so strange because she was in a wheelchair for many years before her death. The hip replacements had long needed replaced again, but her heart was not strong enough for surgery. What I focused on in the dream was her outfit because it was dissimilar to those of her children, who were also in the photos. She had on white pants and a multi-colored shirt. I can remember it had blues in it.

As I tried to process the dream after I awoke, the thought struck me that the outfit was similar to what she wore to my wedding.

In the photo from my wedding, she is pictured with my grandfather (whose ancestry led to our trip to Scotland) and their four children. From left to right: my uncle, my aunt, my grandparents, my mother, and my aunt, the one who traveled to Scotland with my mom and me (she was also my matron of honor).

It felt like an acknowledgement to love.

Remembering my special day, my parent’s special day, and a special person who was present at both.

The Gulf of Mexico in Naples, Florida from the pier

Grief is a strange thing. Sometimes it comes upon you, unexpected. Other times, like today, you know it’s going to be there. There are still moments when I want to call her up and tell her what’s going on or get her advice on a struggle that I’m having. Moments where I want to show her the photographs I’ve taken or the words that I’ve written. Moments where I just want to hear her voice or kiss her cheek.

Even though the sadness creeps into the edges of my day, I feel infinitely blessed to have had her for as long as I did.

Amy Lyon Smith with her grandma and mother

36 years of her pouring out her grace, her strength, and her peace over my life.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. -Soren Kierkegaard

 

 

Let your light shine!

Amy

Recipes Tried in November - Round 2

Recipes Tried In November -Round 2

November Recipes.

This round of recipes that I tried for my November Challenge were more along the easy-peasy lines. If you miss round 1 of recipes, you can find that here.

In Friday’s post, I talked about how insane my week decided to be. Yet somehow, I did manage to try out a new recipe each day.

Don’t forget… Each recipe title has a clickable link to the Pinterest pin of the recipe I used.

Ready to see if anything strikes your fancy?!

November 6th.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Herb-Citrus Dressing.

I was trying to get this one prepped and ready to go before I needed to take Miss Sunshine to soccer practice. I wanted it to have some time to sit and marinate in the dressing. If I’d had time to change anything, it would have been to cut the cucumber smaller.

If you have trouble finding chickpeas, you should also note that sometimes they are packaged by their other name: garbanzo beans.

My zester and I are not amicable friends. It like to keep the zest all to itself and insists that I take a toothpick to scrape off the zest.  I may have been a little short on the amount of zest called for. I also added 1 1/2 tsp of red wine vinegar and 3 dashes of salt instead of one. This was a personal preference decision. I also used kalamata olives in a brine over green olives. I am not an olive fan, but I do like kalamata olives in moderation. Plus, they are the hubby’s faves. He eats them as a snack.

I probably would have paired this with a soup, but it was a crazy day.

Assessment: Good enough to have again. I would prefer it as a smaller side to a meal.

November 7th.

5 Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Bars.

But, wait! That looks like a photo of a quiche.

Yes, yes it does. Because it is. That’s what we had for dinner, but it was not a new recipe.

The bars were not photogenic. She does warn in the recipe about stirring peanut butter with oil separation. I do use natural peanut butter, but it doesn’t require stirring. My “bars” looked like a smooshed tootsie roll with puddle of oil in the dips. I did use walnuts in place of peanuts since I didn’t want more peanuts in the recipe. I don’t think this was the downfall of my recipe debacle.

I dabbed the oil off and ate them anyway. They were good. My “bar” had no real rigidity to it either. I would make this again, but would roll it into balls and eat them like energy balls.

Bacon and Cheese quiche recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Frozen deep dish pie shell
  • 5-6 slices of bacon
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk (I use 1%)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated or shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and Pepper (to your taste)

Use a fork to prick the bottom of the frozen pie shell. Bake in the oven at 375° F for 10 minutes. Cook the slices of bacon and allow it to cool. In a bowl, add the eggs, cream, milk, and salt and pepper. Whisk the ingredients together. Crumble the bacon into the bottom of the pie crust. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the bacon. Pour in the egg mixture. Do not overfill. Some pie crusts may be a little smaller than other. Bake in the oven at 375° F for about 40 minutes. I use a toothpick check in the center and consider it done when it comes out clean.

Assessment: Ugly…but tasty. The bars, not the quiche. The quiche was pretty AND tasty.

November 8th.

Pineapple Avocado Green Smoothie.

I wanted to try a green smoothie and opted for this because I had some pineapple that needed eaten. I substituted 1 cup of fresh pineapple along with 3/4 cup of pineapple juice and 1/4 cup of water in place of the frozen pineapple and water. I also added about 1/2 cup of ice because I prefer my smoothies to be slushy. I found it to be very tasty and reminiscent of a smoothie you would find at some smoothie chains. If you don’t like sweet, you may have wanted to cut back on the amount of pineapple juice and had more water.

Assessment: Yum. Green Smoothie addition. Check!

November 8th.

Thai Curry Vegetable Soup.

I substituted powdered ginger for fresh. Mostly because I forgot it and wasn’t going back to the grocery store. I also did not add fish sauce and due to that choice, omitted the brown sugar as well.

I found this to be tasty, but lacking something. Maybe it was because I opted against the fish sauce. I don’t like fishy things so that component isn’t going to change.

When I lived in Florida, I had a friend from Thailand and she said that she could eat both spicy and stinky (fishy) because one parent was from the north and one from the south.

She used to make this amazing salad that had Thai peppers, which she grew outside the kitchen window. She would set aside mine with one Thai pepper, while she and her other local girlfriends who were also originally from Thailand would eat it with 4-5 peppers. All the while, I’m drinking glass after glass of water to take down the fire in my mouth. Sometimes she would add fish sauce to her plate of food. They used to joke that one of the women couldn’t eat really spicy or stinky (I can’t recall which) because she was from the city.

It was interesting to hear about how different areas ate their food in different ways.

But back to the soup…

Mr. D thinks all soups and salads should have some form of meat so we decided to see if adding some small shrimp would add to the overall taste. I do think that it made a difference and could see adding chicken as well. Otherwise, I felt it needed some more flavoring. The hubby, Mr. D, and I all tried this recipe and were in consensus on our thoughts.

Assessment: Tweak the recipe to find a way to impart more flavor. Thai food is very flavorful so I’m not sure as of yet what the missing component is.

November 9th.

Apple Pie Smoothie.

I had already decided to make this smoothie when I saw that somebody had commented that it was so gross.

I didn’t have time to look for a new recipe so I decided that it wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve had something gross and I’d give it a go. The only thing that I changed was that I added 1/2 cup of ice for the slushy consistency. Also, I always use unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I didn’t think it tasted gross at all. I’m not sure it tasted like apple pie either. I had Miss Sunshine try it. She didn’t think it was horrid, but she didn’t think it tasted like apple pie.

Assessment: Not bad. I’m not sure it’ll be in my rotation. I typically use smoothies to pack in a bunch of vitamins and minerals in a tasty drink. Most of these ingredients, I’d rather just eat on their own.

November 10th.

Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie.

The recipe was my inspiration for this smoothie, but I did not follow the recipe. Miss Sunshine and I were trying to finish up the packing to head down to Greensboro for her soccer tournament. I had mint leaves left over from the chickpea salad, so I created a concoction with ingredients I had in the house.

My version:

  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • Large handful of spinach (I have a big hand. It was over 1/2 cup, but probably less than 1 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp mini chocolate chips
  • Slightly less than 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1 banana

It looked like wheatgrass so I added a few frozen raspberries and mint leaves to the top for appeal. I don’t usually care for chocolate drinks. I do, however, love mint. The drink tasted good enough to finish. Miss Sunshine thought it was okay. We both agreed that the chocolate overpowered the mint. Not that the chocolate tasted bad, we just would have preferred the mint notes to come through more. The chocolate chips settled into the chopped pile toward the bottom. As a side note: the raspberries enhanced the flavor.

Assessment: Less chocolate. More mint. Try again.

November 11th.

Banana Bread Overnight Oats.

No photo. No love. It’s me. Not them.

I needed a recipe that could be made at the hotel. Overnight oats seemed to be the easiest option. There may be versions that I would find that I love, but that day it wasn’t this one. I like oatmeal, but I eat my oatmeal with a slight amount of orange blossom honey. On the occasion that I’ve eaten it at a hotel breakfast buffet, I add a tiny amount of brown sugar and slivered almonds. This was too sweet for me on that specific morning.

Assessment: While I haven’t ruled out overnight oats, I think I might like berries over bananas.

November 12th.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates.

I expected to be home from Miss Sunshine’s soccer tournament earlier than how life turned out. I did not plan ahead for a recipe. Not one to proclaim defeat, I worked with something quick and easy that I had in the house. I had some Medjool dates and I put a dollop of cream cheese inside, drizzled a little orange blossom honey across the top and crumbled a pecan. It was the perfect mix of sweet and not. You’ll find this isn’t exactly like the recipe. I’m sure that version is just as tasty. Also, I find that all honey tastes differently. I’m obsessed with orange blossom honey. This is because I grew up near orange groves in South Florida. This honey has a very distinctive taste. I can find it at my local grocery store or I pick some up when I return home to Florida.

Assessment: Great appetizer or snack. Definitely going into the rotation.

Did you see any recipes that you might give a try?

I’m hoping that this week is a little less chaotic and I can try more main dish recipes.

Stay tuned.

Oh…and Miss Sunshine and her teammates were U15 Champions!

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Let your light shine!

Amy

What I Learned From 30 Days Of Meditation

 

30 Days Of Meditation.

 

That was the goal for my October Challenge.

As this post goes to print, I will have or will be completing my 43rd consecutive day of meditating.

My main thought as I contemplate the experience is…

Why didn’t I start this sooner.

 

Oh, I had the litany of regular excuses. The main one being that I couldn’t make the time.

 

Pelicans in flight… Pt 2 . .Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too a high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. -Ralph Waldo Emerson . . . . . #fiftyshades_of_nature #sheisnotlost #wearetravelgirls #travelgram #travelblogger #travelawesome #instatravel #destinationearth #roamtheplanet #optoutside #birdsofinstagram #pocket_beaches #pocket_allnature #rsa_outdoors #ipulledoverforthis #naturehippys #naturelovers #livefolk #lifeofadventure #liveauthentic #stayandwander #visitnc #exploretocreate #beachvibes #staysalty #modernoutdoors #forgeyourownpath #thehappynow

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The challenge forced me to make the time.

On October 1st-8th, I used a variety of 10-15 minute YouTube videos during my meditation time. Some were guided meditations and some were only music.

Starting on October 9th and for the ensuing 3 weeks, I participated in a meditation challenge that was lead by the teacher, Light Watkins. The challenge was mantra based.

I found the mantras to be extremely useful because my mind has the tendency to wander…a lot.

October 22nd-October 31st and since, I have once again returned to YouTube videos. I tend to pick music based ones and then use a mantra to bring back my focus when my mind begins to wander.

 

I Am Committed To My Personal Growth And Evolution.

 

This was one of the mantras that resonated with me. Meditation for me began as a way to grow and evolve. I’ve also occasionally employed this mantra during my runs in training for a 5k. In moments where I wanted to stop, repeating this mantra was a reminder that I am challenging myself to growth.

Spending time in nature has always been a grounding place for me. A place to calm my overactive mind. The mind that is always analyzing everything I say. The one that is critical of my decisions. The internal chatter that is rarely quiet. The monkey mind that ramps up my anxieties and causes me to climb down the rabbit hole of “what-ifs”.

Now I have another tool for grounding myself. A way of keeping that wandering mind from spiraling down the never-ending cascade of thoughts. A way to stay in the present moment.

To focus on the now.

This Moment Is Perfect, Whole, And Complete.

 

This is the mantra that I find myself returning to again and again.

It’s easy for me to often get lost in the… “when I check off this box” or “complete this list”…then I will enjoy this moment.

Often, though, that is a neverending litany of things. All the while, moments are slipping by unnoticed. We only have so many breaths on this earth and we don’t know how many. Isn’t that time much better spent recognizing that THIS MOMENT… the one RIGHT NOW is where you are existing?

Not the past, not the future…but NOW.

I get that those words are easier said than done. Boy do I ever get it! I’m pretty sure that why meditation and/or mindfulness is a practice, not another achievement that culminates in a completion.

I am still a baby in the world of meditation. Slowly walking through which forms and messages resonate most with me. I think whatever path you follow is very personal.

Let yourself silently be drawn to the strange pull of what you really love. -Rumi

I mentioned that during my 30 Days Of Meditation that I also read Dan Harris’s 10% Happier. He mentioned a form of meditation that I had not heard about.

Metta Mediation.

One particular day during the 30 days, I decided to try it. I found a guided version. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a loving-kindness meditation that directs well wishes at people, including yourself.

The one that I did has you start by focusing on yourself and mentally repeat the following:

May I be well.

May I be happy.

May I be peaceful.

May I be loved.

Then you move on to somebody that you care about and focus on the same message. Then somebody that you don’t really know (for example, a cashier) and then for somebody that you have friction with (this is obviously the hardest one). It can be a very emotional meditation as you go through this process.

For me, I had been in some recent conflict with the person I chose for the the last one. I’m not very good at creating physical images in my mind. But on this specific person, they immediately came into focus. Strangely they were standing in a field of wheat or savannah grasses and they were offering something in their hands. I tried to see what it was, but I could not.

This was very emotional for me, especially because I was not expecting to visualize them standing in this field. This type of field (I just know it’s golden, long grasses and not something I’ve seen in real life) played prominently in a dream that I had in my mid 20’s. I was going through a stressful period in my life and one night I had dream that I was walking along a boardwalk built through these grasses. I came upon a gazebo-type structure and as I stood in there, I could see a light coming in toward me. Somehow I knew that this was God and as the light passed, I felt an unexplainable peace unlike any I’d ever felt before or have ever felt since. For quite a time after that dream, I was able to draw upon that feeling during moments of stress.

Have you ever had a dream that was so rememberable that it spent days on your mind?

This similarity created an emotional release during this part of the meditation and I felt better for having gone through this process.

Are you good at visualization? I’m very good at imagination and descriptive thoughts, but not so much at being specific about what I want my mind’s eye to create. Do you find that it gets easier the more you practice?

Our lives are seasonal, just like nature.

There are times when life feels like the sunny-filled days of summer and other times when the despair creeps in and feels like the bitter, gray days of winter.

It’s in those moments that I will now have a new thing to repeat to myself.

 

My True Happiness Is Sourced From Within.

They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit.

I feel like meditation has firmly found a place in my life. I love watching it spill into my life outside of my meditation time. In those moments when I pause, reframe, and then respond instead of reacting. In those moments when I am able to quiet the “what-if” spiral. In those moments when I recognize my true nature. In those moments where my light shine brightly.

While I have read other (probably more accurate) meanings behind the word Namaste, I have never forgotten that decades ago I was given this definition:

The Light In Me Bows To The Light In You.

Let your light shine!

Amy