Celebrate Good Times-Come On

A Very Special 100th Birthday

In honor of America’s most famous chef, whom I spent many a Saturday morning with,  I’m happy to share this PBS remix of Julia Child’s best moments:

Bon Appétit, my loves!

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On | Leave a comment

Surprised at Twenty-Six

So, my beloved friends of the interwebs, I wasn’t going to tell you that today is my birthday.  I wasn’t going to tell anyone at work that today was my birthday. Of course Facebook tells people that today is my birthday and my best friends and family knew what April 23rd meant, but that really can’t be helped.

Frankly, I had no plans to legitimately celebrate the 26th anniversary of the day of my birth. I’ll admit it, I’ve been a a funk. I’ve been pulling the loner card. The homebody card. The “no, while usually I do love a good fuss over my birthday I just don’t have the energy for it this 26th year” card.

And then this happened.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Yes. A group of 17 year old girls threw this “old woman” her very first surprise party. It was truly a surprise. I cried, I laughed, I squealed. I cried and squealed a bit more for good measure.

I have never felt so loved or respected(or honored) in my life. It was just the pick me up I needed for the rest of the school year. You know, until I bawl at graduation as those 5 beautiful girls walk across the stage and exit my classroom as students for the last time.

Love to all,
~the humbled, loved and yes, very surprised birthday gal, Jess

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On, Hey Teacher (Wo)Man | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Epic Easter Eats

Ok, ok. Epic is the most over used adjective on the internet for the year 2012 and we are only midway through April. Crap.

I just couldn’t resist the alteration. What can I say, I’m not so secretly an English Nerd.

But really you guys? Easter Dinner was really good. Really, really good. As in Bomb Dot Com good. Maybe even worthy of epic?

I’ll let you be the judge.

And while veggies are my besties, and that plate is indeed the definition of Irish/Southern lovely, this meal was all about the pig.

Spinach, Mushroom & Feta Stuffed, then Grilled Pork Chop style piggie that is.

And the best part is? These tasty babies were totally a creation of yours truly (ok, ok, Mom had some serious influence too).

Unfortunately, this is the state of your truly’s brain tonight:

What that means for me is another mega-dose of Ibuprofen and an early bedtime. What that means for you is another night (or so) waiting in suspense for the recipe that is the driving force behind the beauty of those juicy, bursting at the seams with flavor (oh and spinach!). My apologies. (And what that means for my friend Tim, liking that I have a mutinous brain? Well, I’ll let it go this time, as I’m sure he’s appreciate of my whit, and grit, not my body part malfunctions.)

Love to all,
~the “wow I’m really dragging this Easter Dinner thing out, eh? Well, it was pretty epic.” gal, Jess

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On, Waz Sup(er) | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Holiday Weekend Gone to Heck in an Easter Basket!

Here is my wardrobe for the weekend:

Sparkles & Dots

Now before you start wondering if I go to an oddly formal/cocktail attire only church for Easter Vigil (I mean, Mass does start at 9pm, why not?) the orange polka-dot dress is my Easter frock of choice this year.

Oh no, I’m spending my Good Friday Evening chaperoning the 2012 Jr/Sr Prom. Heaven Help ME. (I’m actually really excited about this to be honest. I LOVE this group of seniors and can’t wait to embarrass them all night with my nerdy science dancing.)

Actually, I’ve had a wonderful Good Friday thus far. I’m so lucky that my school district honors Good Friday as a holiday, which saves me from taking it as a personal day. It is my family tradition to go to Stations of the Cross at noon (I’m Catholic, if you didn’t know that already) and then a light wine and cheese meal at The Wine & Cheese Gallery (wow, how appropriate- wine & cheese at a place with “wine & cheese” in their name.) This year’s Stations of the Cross was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had, in or out of the church setting. So, it’s only fitting that I’m going to meditate on those thoughts for a bit longer and write up a whole post on that later.

Easter Dinner Menu

For those of you who have been “hanging around” with this Gal for a while (either in real life or weblife) you know that Easter Dinner is always a battle in my house. Last year we had to pull the chicken enchilada compromise out to make it dinner without attacking each other with the silver flatware.

Things this year have come together a bit more smoothly. Mostly because I didn’t even try to suggest lamb. Secondly because Mum and I wrote the menu on our 12 hour drive home from VA during spring break. I actually suggested a stuffed flounder, kind of Florentine style with crab meat, Parmesan and spinach. Sadly, flounder isn’t readily available in the ‘ville and since I’m really trying to focus on local, seasonal goods shipping it in wasn’t an opinion I wanted to go with. Mom & Dad had a pork loin in the freezer just waiting to be cut into chops, (please don’t make me think about where that piggy came from…might be worse than ordering the fish!) so here is what we came up with:

Mixed Green Salad (or Fruit Salad-my grandmother is contributing this part of the meal, so she decides)

Spinach, Mushroom and Feta Stuffed Pork Chops, inspired by this Culinary Disaster recipe
Kale Mashed Potatoes, aka Colcannon, inspired by this Parsley Thief recipe
Fresh Green Bean Casserole, based on the classic French’s French Fried Onions recipe

Guinness Cheesecake for dessert, using this recipe from Closet Cooking

I can’t wait to get cooking and tasting! For now it’s time to go “beautify” myself for prom. Ack.

“See you” on the flipside of this beautiful holiday weekend.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Love to all,
~the dancing little Easter Bunny gal, Jess

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On, Hey Teacher (Wo)Man, Sinfully Sweet, Waz Sup(er) | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m a Racer, not a Runner

Now please don’t be misled by that title.

I’ve been struggling with how to write what should be a simple “race-recap” for over a month now; just as I’ve had a struggling relationship with putting sneaker to the pavement for nearly 4 years now. 

I’m not that gal standing up on the podium receiving the special awards post race. (I’m just happy to get a finisher metal.) I’m not that gal picking off my “rabbits.” (I’m happy to get passed by 10 year old Girls on the Run, decked out in purple.) I’m not the gal breaking any records, personal or otherwise. (I’m just happy to finish the race.)

But I am a gal that loves to race. (And if that means I have to run in the process, than so be it.)

However, I didn’t know all those confident statements (even if written in Italics) applied to me until recently. I knew that I needed goals to stay on top of my physical fitness game and signing up for races seemed like the right thing to do. (Beside, you do totally sound like a badass telling your friends about registering for your next [blank] kilometer race)

Speaking of friends. Here are mine.

Ashley and Jenna are my roommates from college and two of my closest friends in the entire world. They have been there for me during the ups, downs and in-betweens of life. And they also were willing to get up early on a chilly December morning to be my cheering section at the OUC 5k.

As I stood shivering with my two friends, watching the start of the OUC Half Marathon and awaiting the call to the starting line for my own race all I realized two things: One was that I was excited to be out and about on this brisk morning and and the second was that I was seriously under-trained.

When I signed up for this race I had this idea that I wanted to run a sub 45 minute 5k since I had completed the 5k run of my first triathlon in October in exactly 45 minutes, post a 400m swim and 12km bike ride. My “brother” Tim had put together a training plan for me that he predicted could even get me sub 40 minutes.

Turns out both he and I were very optimistic, but again it was 100% my “fault” I didn’t achieve either of our goals for me.  I started the training plan only 1 month (aka 4 weeks) out from the race and only completed 1 or two of the scheduled runs each week.  So yeah, really under-trained.

Regardless, when the last 1/2 marathoner had crossed the starting line and the call for us 5k-ers to line up came I hugged my girlies goodbye and jumped in towards the back of the pack.

As usual the start of the race was really exciting. (As evidenced by the little boy in white to my right.)

The pack thinned out pretty quickly and I was able to pick up a slow jog across the starting line and out onto the first leg and turn of the course.

We were running a lovely course through one of the older neighborhoods, chock-full of beautiful craftsman style houses and bungalows.  And also chock-full of cobblestone roads, slippery with morning dew. While I enjoyed the views of homes and lush landscape my legs and hips did not appreciate the cautious stride I was using on the cobblestones. Enter extreme hip cramps and lots of walking/hobbling to relieve the cramping.

I started to get frustrated with myself for not being strong enough physically, or mentally to just “power through.” Negative thoughts including “why the hell did you sign up for a 1/2 marathon if you can’t even run a 5k streamed through my mind. (And while that is still a valid question, it was not welcome mid race. I’m going to be racing in the Inaugural Rock n Roll St. Pete Half Marathon in February.)

Then suddenly my mood lifted. I honestly can’t tell you if it was a shift of sunlight in the trees, a particularly lovely house or an adorable pack of Girls on the Run passing me but I shook off that negative feeling for good.

I realized I was alive.

I realized that the blood pumping hard through my body felt amazing.

I realized that if I didn’t sign up for this race I would have been a lump sleeping in on an beautiful Saturday morning, missing out on the sunrise over Lake Eola. 

I realized that I was happy. 

I realized I was having fun.

I realized I was racing. 

I realized I am a racer, not a runner.  

So, for the rest of the race I ran when I could and walked when I couldn’t. Pure and simple. And with that I finished my first official* 5k with a respectful time of 48:47. While this time is reflective of my walk breaks, it says nothing about the racing/running balance I earned for my heart and soul by the time I crossed that finish line.

What I earned from this 5k cannot be measured with a new personal record, a trip to the winners podium or the size of my finisher’s metal. I learned to find peace with the fact that being an “A Corral” runner isn’t going to be a goal of mine. My body, nor lifestyle, could not support such a goal.
I was running this race on the anniversary of my heart surgery. I was never athletic as a child. I would much rather read a book than go for a run. And I’m ok with all those facts.

I’m a racer, not a runner.
I love the camaraderie of a race. I love seeing amazing athletes at races; I am humbled to be in the same “race” as those athletes. I love letting little kids smoke me on the course; I just love being out on the course.

Oh, and I also love the complementary beers after the race. You know me, always keeping it real.

Love to all,
~the “racer, not runner” gal, Jess

*this was my first actual 5k. My first race was a 5 mile leg of a 1/2 marathon relay and the second was the MyFirstTri sprint distance triathlon.

PS. Also, I here by swear off the “thumbs up” while racing. Between my ridiculous turned out ex ballet dancer stride and hickhicker thumbs I don’t need any additional photographic evidence looking like a total doof.

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On, Get It Girl | Leave a comment

Welcoming 2012 OR A Traditional Gal Ring In

It was just last year at this time, I was chattering on about how I have “grown up” dinners out with my friends for NYE, and how my childhood days of doing jigsaw puzzles with my parents were long gone. 

The ringing in for 2012 was supposed to be more of the glamorous same: my boy-bestie Michael and I had plans to enjoy delicious Thai eats and treats at Orchid Thai of Winter Park with a large group of friends and then migrate down the street to Wine Room for some sophisticated debauchery and a midnight champagne toast.

Sometimes though certain events in life change even your best laid plans. 
This is Chubby. He is my baby. And he has cancer. 

He was diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal tumor just over two months ago. As he has been his normal self the all this time we are just “riding it out” for the time being. (He is also 11 years old, which for a large dog is very elderly) But on Friday night he took a turn for what looked like the worst. A urinary tract infection I’d been treating him for the last week didn’t seem to be clearing and he was getting very reluctant to eat or drink water.

Needless to say, I did not feel comfortable leaving him with my parents (which is what I typically do when I travel and he can’t come along) and with the vet’s office closed for the holiday weekend I didn’t have any other options.

Plan B consisted of joining my parents for their annual puzzle building party on NYE. And since Chub and I were the honorary guests, I even got to choose the puzzle.

 It’s a good thing I also chose to tackle this 1000 piece monster with a generous pour of vino, because this vintage French print is tough. In fact I am may have cried out “inconceivable” and very nearly swore “impossible” a few times as we sorted the frustratingly similarly colored pieces and began tackling the border.

We worked on this puppy (while my sick puppy snoozed on a cushy stack of quilts) long past Lady Gaga’s performance on ABC’s Dick Clark’s Rockin Eve and the famous ball drop. Dad even got in on the action with a magnifying glass after a few flutes of champagne! Sadly, we only finished the border in all that time. (Did I mention this puzzle was HARD?)

New Year’s Day has been more of the same. Puzzle, puzzle, yoga to stretch out the kinks in my back and neck, then more puzzle time.  (Plus plenty of cuddle time with Chubby, of course!)

Note the serious progress here. 
Two of the three types of text are finished and attached to the border!

I finally took a break for a delicious helping of my family’s traditional Southern Good Luck Meal.

Black Eyed Peas over Rice with Collard Greens 
(Plus a side of tomatoes with mayonnaise. Told ya it was southern!)
And now, this puzzle, like many good things in life, is coming along slowly but surely.

My New Year’s Celebration this year may have been a bit more “slow and traditional” than recent years past, however I’m really happy with how it has turned out. All too often I feel I’m rushing around like madwoman, neglecting to slow down and enjoy the moment. This weekend (and most of my holiday vacation) has been the perfect time to stop, spend time with my family (furbabies included) and enjoy the little things life has to offer. Things like cooking a meal with those you love, snuggling with a stinky but sweet dog, reading a book for the sheer joy of it, and the frustration, but ultimate success that comes from working on a puzzle!

I think the Rolling Stones said it best, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you’ll get what you need”

I hope the start of 2012 has brought you and your loved ones great joy and celebration.

Love to all,
~the “you know, a celebration doesn’t have to be fancy to be just what you need” gal, Jess

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On | Leave a comment

Tasty Treats for Christmas Eats

For several years now, this one not to be excluded, I’ve talked about the making of my fraternal grandmother’s Cardamom Bread. What I’ve neglected to mention is the second part of this annual tradition.

Since my family is Catholic, we always attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to celebrate the real reason for our beautiful Christmas Season. After mass (which at our church ends at midnight) we head home for champagne and ham sandwiches on cardamom bread.

Let me tell you folks. Nothing tastes better than a ham sandwich on soft, fragrantly spiced bread at 1:30am on (technically) Christmas Morning. Well, the only thing that makes it better is a glass of champagne (or four! my father keeps insisting on buying a magnum of champagne for our family of three!) and a side of classic deviled eggs.

Our ham sandwiches may have been traditional, but Christmas dinner was anything but this year. (Praise be to the newborn Baby Jesus! I would gag if we had another slice of roasted turkey in this house. )

For dinner: Rosemary and Sea Salt Sourdough, Shrimp and Spinach Cheddar Grits and a beautiful (but sadly unpictured) salad made of mixed greens from my mother’s best friend’s garden. And for a simple dessert: “holiday red” grapes topped with Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

I hope your holiday season is filled with wonderful food, be it traditional or no, but more importantly that you are able to cherish the time you spend with friends and family during your meals.

Love to all,
~the “I’m getting sentimental about meals in my old age” gal, Jess

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On | Leave a comment

Giving is Better than Receiving

See that stylish outfit? No, it’s not my sweet rags for Christmas dinner. (heck, it’s so warm in Florida right now just the thought of a sweater makes me, well, sweaty) The outfit isn’t even mine. It’s for the Christmas Angel I chose off the Giving Tree at my church.

For years my family has chosen several Angels, which are essentially wish lists from disadvantaged children and families, after which my mum and I would hit the mall/Target to fulfill the list and have a blast playing in the toys and clothing sections of the stores I had long out grown.

This year as my family was choosing Angels, it hit me. “Um, Jess? You are a grown woman. You have a full time job, you pay your own bills, you tithe to the church independently, isn’t it time you stopped mooching off your parent’s charitable acts?” Duly noted, inner-monologue, duly noted.

So I chose an angel reading “outfit for a 15-19 year old girl.”  Perhaps shopping for toys would have been more fun, but as a high school teacher that is my demographic and I love my kids, so this just felt right. And you know what friends? Clothes shopping for a mystery girl is so fun! Perhaps I went a bit overboard at Forever 21 buying for my angel, because I couldn’t stop with just a dress (which is a halter style, so she can wear it all year long) and sweater. I had to add those great shoes, a sweet color popping bracelet and a cute little owl necklace as a cute nod to her giver, me! (I’m an FAU alumni, Go Owls!) Oh and of course I fell for the lip glosses in the bowl by the register, so in the bag it went! (Let’s not talk about the final bill, ok?)

I hope my Angel Girl loves her Christmas gift. Giving is so much more fun that receiving in my opinion, mostly because I love to shop! Oh and I love making people happy. Really Christmas is a win-win time for me.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have a joyful and blessed holiday with friends, family and all those you love.

Love to all,
~the little Christmas Elf Gal, Jess

PS. Speaking of giving, I went non-traditional with my co-worker gifts this year, since most of them are all watching their eating I didn’t think my usual treats of toffee, cookie dough balls or cheese biscuits would be well received!

I got a steal on oil cruets from a restaurant wholesaler and then filled them with dried chilies and peeled garlic cloves. Instant flavored oil! I also included a recipe card full of suggested uses for the oil with each bottle.

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On, Special Interest | Leave a comment

My Holiday Season….

…is here.

And my holiday break starts in 3 days. See you on the flipside!

Love to all,
~the “little Miss Mistletoe Gal,” Jess

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On | Leave a comment

How I Celebrate Heart Health-Super Sweet 16 Edition

Sunday, December 4th 2011 was my sweet sixteen.

It has been a very super sweet sixteen years since my life altering open heart surgery and resulting pacemaker implantation. (Please check out my celebrations from 2010 for a slightly more detailed explanation.)

This year I celebrated by running in the OUC 5k in beautiful downtown Orlando.

Followed by blissful indulgence at Ravenous Pig’s December Pig Roast.

I personally can’t think of a better way to celebrate 16 years of heart heath; a touch of exercise, a touch of indulgence and 100% happy and healthy. Life is good, friends.

Love to all,
~the “heart baby all grown up” gal, Jess

PS. More details coming on both events soon!

Categories: Celebrate Good Times-Come On | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.