Toast Tuesday began with a…

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One of my favorite things I do at work is teach.  While a good portion of the time I do research and write reports no one cares about, I spend a good bit of time teaching.  When I was in school, I was a terrible student.  Mostly because I was bored, uninterested, and distracted by a 100 other things.  As a result, I wanted to teach and make it more interesting for those coming behind me.  In college I did tutoring as part of my teacher training and decided I didn’t like kids enough to spend my days with them.  At that point teaching was tabled.

Not so surprisingly, life has a way of making things happen that are supposed to.  So today I am teaching 100 bored, uninterested adults about how to research internal databases and a bunch of other snooze-worthy stuff.  Because we are going to be sitting there for three full days, I was trying to come up with fun activities to break up the monotony.

In googling ideas, something struck me… something they would not be expecting.  With 100 people, an assortment of instructors, and time that needed to be filled while we changed over between classes, this exercise will carry us for the three days.

I came up with a list of over 100 story starters.  Each person will draw one from a bucket and have to write two or three lines.  I’ll share any good ones, and of course, the really bad ones.

 

Here’s a few to get y’all started.

You find a map leading to buried treasure, but it’s buried under…

David asked me to meet him at the corner bakery to…

It was all over the internet before I got to explain…

At 3 in the morning we were still on the phone and she said…

The fireflies were lighting up the backyard while we…

 

I have a bunch of goody-two-shoes in my office, so I had to make sure these were pretty innocuous, but it’ll be entertaining to see what they do with this.

Let me know what you come up with…

Toast Tuesday: Focus

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I’ve been remiss lately in writing.  I’ve had so much going on and I just haven’t made the time to sit at the computer when I don’t have to.  While life has been moving swiftly, my creative juices have been flowing all over the place.  It’s been awhile since I have done the weekly photo challenge and I’ve missed it.  I finally found a few minutes to troll through some photos.

This week’s theme is Focus and Coe is most often my unwilling subject. She turns away as soon as I raise the camera or phone in her direction.  Mom… would you stop that!

I have gathered a few of my favorites that just weren’t meant to go on any walls or in a frame since they are out of focus.  While the focus isn’t quite right, the attitude is all there.

Toast Tuesday: Be Awesome

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I choose to surround myself with awesome, positive people. My work environment is full of dark unpleasant people and I have to work very hard every day to keep my positive attitude. While I am inherently a positive person, I have a very dark and snarky side that can take over if I let it.

For this reason, I listen to positive podcasts, positive playlists, and have happiness all around me at my desk. No matter where my eyes light, there is a little something to make me smile. We have to want it. I can’t want you to be happy and make it happen. You have to want to be happy and you have to make it happen.

I had a reminder of this recently. I have two friends; one who keeps talking about making a change, and one who took action to make a change.

My work friend I often joke and share life stories, came to me recently and said something has to change in the way I communicate with the world around me. I’ve got to do something different to make this happen. The old ways aren’t working. He signed up for a class and the very next day had an opportunity to apply something he had learned. He was so excited to tell me about how he learned something from each person in the class. On his morning commute when some old lady cut him off, he recognized that his initial reaction was negative and was able to change his self-talk.

I stop by my coworker’s desk many mornings on my way in and have “caught” him doing his homework. I am so excited and proud for my friend that he wants this for himself and is making it happen.

My friend that keeps “talking” about making a change… well, sadly, when a bump happened in his road, he immediately turned back to the negative. Turned back to all the bad habits and things that had found him in the sad space he has always been in. I’m a big believer of you get what you give. If all you are telling the universe is how much this life, this person, this ______ sucks, that is all you are going to get – one giant suck-fest.

I’m going to leave you with the new quote that is on my mirror now…

Grant me the serenity to kick some mother-fucking ass today and karate chop the shit out of anyone that is slowing down my train of awesome.

Now get out there and kick some ass!

Toast Tuesday: Kombucha Cocktails

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I had a couple girlfriends over to share the awesomeness of all things kombucha.  Looking back at my previous posts, I realize that while I’ve touched on kombucha, I’ve not gone too deep into what it is and how to make it.  Of course you can just go find it at your local grocery stores these days.

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that is purportedly rich in probiotics and other stuff good for our tummies, joints, brains, and bodies.  I’m not a doctor, just a nerd who likes to play with stuff in my kitchen.

Here’s my basic recipe:
1 gallon water
10 black tea bags
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 scoby and starter tea

• Bring water to a boil.
• Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
• Turn off heat
• Add 8-10 black tea bags and let steep at least 5 minutes, but as long as overnight.

This must cool to room temperature before you add your scoby or starter tea. Any warmer than 85-95 degrees and you can kill you starter.

Cover with a coffee filter and set aside in a warm place, out of direct light, for about 2 weeks or until your scoby grows to cover the surface.  Start tasting your kombucha after 5-7 days.  When it tastes good, drink it and start the process over again.

If you want to add flavor to your tea, you can do it by adding, or substituting, 6 additional bags of tea. I like ginger tea (I prefer Yogi Ginger tea), chai, or green tea.

The cocktail I made for the ladies was a riff on the classic margarita.  Kobucha with it’s slightly tart flavor is a perfect pairing with lime.

1.5 oz tequila
.5 oz triple sec
1.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
Build over ice in a rocks glass and top with kombucha.

Perfect for a summer evening on the patio.

happy, grateful, blessed…

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We all have things that happen to us.  We also have those things that we make happen.  I make myself happy every day.  I make the life I want to live.  I make the friends I want to have.  I make conscience choices every day to be as genuine as I can.

Part of being genuine in my life is knowing what I can and cannot do.  I cannot control anyone else.  I cannot make anyone else happy.  I cannot make anyone do anything they don’t want to do.

I can make my life the best it can be.  I can be as happy, grateful, thoughtful, and peaceful as I want to be.  My life is mine to enjoy to the fullest.  I will not waste a single minute.  I will savor them all, for the ones we have are all we are going to get.  Make the most of them all.  Make every single minute count.

We cannot undo what has been done.  Be mindful of your words and actions.  The things you put out there cannot be taken back.  You get what you give.  If all you are putting out is hatred and anger, how do you expect to find genuine positivity and love?

Enjoy all the day has to bring; a good book, a new song, and a happy heart.

#lulahasahappyheart

 

Toast Tuesday: Hey so fun

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I recently went on a vacation of a lifetime. It was amazing, exhilarating, and exhausting. While it recharged one part of my spirit, it also depleted another part so tremendously. That’s why you haven’t seen me in a few weeks. Slowly I’m getting back to my center and this week’s supper club certainly helped. I made an amazing dish of pure cheesy decadence.

So many things have been running through my brain lately; memories and ideas galore. I think traveling unlocks a part of you that we normally have to keep shut away. When we travel we can be whoever, do whatever, and experience whatever. That kind of power and energy in the everyday is overwhelming and stifling, simultaneously, for me anyway,

One of the things my recent vacation reminded me was how much I love travel and adventure. The at home adventure I’ve found myself really missing is hiking. I’ve been seeking out trails in town and I’ve been doing more hiking lately. While finding trails near town is a little more challenging than in Portland, I have managed to find one right in my backyard, and another one about 30 minutes drive. I’m making my own little adventures.

With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, that was the theme of our dinner. Queso fundido has been on my to-do list for a while. Back in Portland, this was a staple of our weekly jaunts to a favorite restaurant, Oba. When I started searching google, I was almost amazed to find it really was a dish of actual Hispanic origins and not just some yummy variation of cheez wiz with a fun name. I also got confirmation from my coworker who lived for some time in Mexico. She gave me some tips and said there were all sorts of variations.


So here is what I did for my queso fundido(or as Siri wants to call it hey so fun Dedo).

2-3 poblano peppers
1 pound Mexican chorizo (casing removed)
2 pounds Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 jar fresh Mexican crema

I made this dish entirely under the broiler.

Roast 2-3 poblano peppers under the broiler or on a grill until all the skin is black and charred. I did this under the broiler, rotating every couple of minutes. Once the entire thing is all black, put in a paper bag or a bowl covered with cling wrap. The steam will soften the skin so it is easily removed. Remove all skin, seeds and stem. Slice into strips, chop, and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet, cook chorizo until done. Crumble while cooking. Drain the chorizo on a paper towel, retaining a little of the fat in the skillet.

At this point, if you have time, put your empty cast iron skillet in the over for a couple of minutes to get good and hot.

Add half of your shredded cheese to the bottom of your skillet, top with all of the poblanos, chorizo, crema, and then finish with remaining cheese. Put back into the oven, under the broiler, until your cheese begins to melt. Pull the skillet out and stir. Do this every couple of minutes until your ingredients are combined. Allow the top to get bubbly and a little brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Serve straight out of the oven with tortilla chips or soft warm tortillas.


This was a perfect appetizer for 8-10 people.

Don’t forget the margarita, we are toasting after all.


Cheers to cheese, adventure, and constant exploration of all things good!

Toast Tuesday: Bluegrass and Booze

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A long weekend wrap-up in pictures.  There are both too many, and not enough, words to describe the amazing weekend we had at Bluegrass Underground.  Thank you to the awesome people that put on this show and make it all happen and to the incredible musicians who trek into a cave and share the experience of a lifetime.  Thank you PBS for giving us an amazing opportunity to see a tiny glimpse behind the curtain.

 

 

 

#protectpublicmedia. I ❤ PBS

What defines you?

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In college I studied English and art; the things that made me happy.  I am still the English and art major at heart.  It is still the written word that brings me joy.  The use of language to tell a story and transport you to another place.   A splash of color, a glistening dewdrop, or a majestic sunset bring me such happiness.  Seeing the pure pinkness of my cat’s nose while she naps in the sun and how water droplets bead on my dog’s coat when we walk in the rain.  These are a few of my favorite things.

I now sit at a desk all day pushing a pencil, really a mouse and a keyboard.  It drives some of my friends a little nuts that I don’t want to talk about work.  I have the luxury of being able to leave it at the office and that is where it stays.  It is not the thing in life that brings me joy, so why would I want to talk about it?  It certainly does not define me.

I want to be defined by the happiness and joy in my life,  the new knowledge I glean each day, and the smile I leave for someone else.  I love to learn now that I am learning on my terms.  School was never fun and that’s why I thought I wanted to be a teacher.  Today I teach what I want, the way I want.  I teach people tiny ways to be happy and how to spread joy.   Even when I teach at “work”, I have fun.  Because otherwise, why do it.

If we can’t have fun, what’s the point?  What defines your life and how you live?  Are you working just for another paycheck?  We all have to have money to live, but do you make the best use of your life outside of that paycheck?

A few recent snaps that made me smile and I hope they will you as well.  May this day bring you all the smiles and joy you desire.

Toast Tuesday: Fernet Redux

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During my year of drinking adventurously, we tried Fernet-Branca, which is a bitter liqueur.  It is often served as a digestive or a common drink is Fernet mixed with coke or ginger beer.  I was not a fan.  I thought for sure I had just wasted money on a bottle that was going to collect dust on my shelf for eternity.

While doing research for Irish whiskey cocktails, one caught my eye, the Southside Smash from the Jameson website.  It called for lime juice, whiskey, mint… so far so good… and Fernet.  I like all of the other ingredients in there so I think I need to give it a try.  I dialed back the Fernet to almost half what the recipe called for.  This allowed all the flavors to come through and not be bullied out by the Fernet.

The two weeks before my recent Concoct event at Shelby Farms, I had two different taste testing evenings to fine tune my recipes and finalize the menu.  The Southside Smash was one that gave people a new flavor element within the comfort of more familiar flavors.  Everyone did a straw taste of Fernet, one woman really liked it, and no one was repelled by it.  So, here’s to trying new things!

This second Concoct event was so much fun.  The people were amazing, the energy of the group was congenial, and there were some great conversations.  A handful of us went for dinner afterward to keep the party going.

For your next Irish Party, give the Southside Smash a try.

1 ½ ounces Irish whisky
¼ – ½ ounce Fernet-Branca
¾ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup*
4-6 mint leaves

Combine ingredients into a shaker, add ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
Garnish with a mint sprig.

*Simple Syrup is equal parts sugar and water.  Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve.  Cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

Alright, run along now and enjoy this spring!  Slainte!

Toast Tuesday: in a jam

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I have been exploring fermentation in many ways lately. I’ve got so many kobucha scobies that I’ve started naming them. I’m trying to eat more good yogurt and probiotics so I’ve started making yogurt again. I’ve said it before, but there is just something so satisfying about creating something from scratch.


I really like good plain, tart yogurt. I’ve not gotten mine to the tartness level I’d like, but I’m working on that. I usually just put a spoonful of good jam on top and swirl in it. My neighbor has gotten me addicted to this awesome and expensive fig jam. After going through a jar in a week, I figured there has to be better way.

I recall my step-mother makes jam without pectin, but aside from just watching the process, I have never made my own jam from scratch. When I started googling, I found you could use chia seeds as part of the thickening in lieu of sugar and pectin. I love my chia seeds, so that’s what I did this week.


I mostly followed a recipe I found online, but made a few tiny modifications, like reducing the sugar and increased the chia seeds slightly. I also cooked the fruit a little longer in hopes a getting a slightly thicker jam. The result is a really fresh berry flavor that tasted just like the berries of a homemade berry cobbler. Next time I’m going to cook a little longer still and add another tablespoon of chia to get it a touch thicker.


Here’s the recipe I followed, with my modifications below the ingredients list.

2 cups chopped fruit
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, agave, maple syrup, or sugar, to taste
2 tablespoons chia seeds, plus more if needed

I had frozen berries in the freezer, a blend of raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry, so I tossed them in the pot frozen and turned on low until they were defrosted.

Added lemon juice (I accidentally added more than called for), brought to a low boil, stirred frequently to prevent berries from scorching and to help the fruit break down. Added 3 tablespoons sugar, stirred to dissolve and cooked about 10-15 minutes.

Added 2 ½ tablespoons chia seeds and stirred in to combine.

Poured into mason jars and allowed to cool to room temperature before sealing lid and putting in the fridge.


This will require refrigeration and should be consumed within a couple weeks. For me, based on my current yogurt and jam consumption, this recipe will work just right and won’t last long enough to go bad. It came together very quickly and easily and I’m really looking forward to trying this when my mother’s figs start to come in this summer.