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How Tattoos can Heal Us

17 Jan

After the death of my beloved dog Molly nearly four years ago, my health took a nosedive into unfit territory. I lived in dark sadness on which I’ve only recently started to shed light. I gained a significant amount of weight specifically around my midsection. I consoled myself with sugar. I pushed loved ones away.

Things started to turn around over the summer when I finally got my memorial tattoo of my best girl’s paw. She would always sit on my left side, and anytime I reached my hand down, it was met with the softest of fur and sometimes a cold nose. That’s where my tattoo had to be.

I only had a cast of her paw because of the sweet vet tech who heard me cry out that I didn’t have a print of her paw. My boyfriend had smooshed his pup’s paw in purple paint (his grandmother’s favorite color), and had it tattooed on his forearm years ago even though his girl was still alive. I was so jealous that he had that reminder, and that I wouldn’t. When I picked up Molly’s ashes, the cast was in the bag. I cried even harder.

She was a big girl, a black lab retriever, but just a paw print on my thigh would seem out-of-place. I decided to surround it with a wreath of flowers. There had to be roses because my grandmother, my mother, and my cousin’s daughter were all roses.

I asked my father to take me to the man who had done my first tattoo – a week after my 18th birthday. He had to do this one too. It was important. We went to the shop one afternoon. I explained my idea. The artist nodded and sketched. Asked lots of questions. And when he was all set up, I didn’t move. I sucked it my breath, closed my eyes, and listened to the constant buzzing of the needles piercing my skin over and over.

For three hours, I sat still. I never sit still. I am always in too much to sit frozen, but I did it. The aching knees, and warm flesh, the itching toes and throbbing hips did not deter me from remaining motionless. This tattoo was too important for breaks.

We had talked of colors, and I watched him mix pinks and greens, shades similar to those on Molly’s paisley collar. I didn’t know what parts of the final image would be each color, but I could wait to find out.  He took his time. Rolling back on his wheeled chair to get a better view. Shading in leaves with multiple greens. Making sure the paw was perfect. And when he was done, he sounded nervous.

The moment I looked in the mirror and saw the final piece, I broke. Ugly tears. Quiet sobs. Without words, I threw myself at the man who tattooed me, a man my father rides Harleys with, a man who doesn’t mess around, and hugged him. I could feel his surprise, but wouldn’t recognize that it was there until afterwards. “Thank you for giving me my girl back,” I cried.

In that moment, I felt like she was with me. I fought back the urge to rub my leg knowing that it needed to heal first. But she was there now. Right where she had been for fifteen years.

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Sunday Soups

25 Jan

Winter in New England is harsh.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  And there’s lots of snow, especially this week with Winter Storm Colbie reading to drop 2-3 feet of white stuff outside.  There’s nothing better than a big bowl of soul-warming soup – the kind that kicks those winter-blues to the curb.

Because I try very hard to not waste any food, I have gotten into the habit of making soup on Sundays.  I take all the extra veggies and meats from the week and throw everything in the Crock Pot.  Yup.  The Crock Pot is one of the best soup-making tools ever.

Today, I had half a bag of baby carrots, one potato, two stalks of celery, half and onion, and a rotisserie chicken breast leftover.  I chopped everything up, added some garlic (I always have a jar of minced garlic in the refrigerator) and some spices (Italian spice blend, red pepper flakes, black pepper), and I was on my way to delicious.

Crock Pot Chicken SoupInstead of using all stock, I use half stock and half water.  There are always cans or boxes of chicken or vegetable stock (the low sodium kind) in the pantry, and I stock up at the market when there is a sale.  Once everything was in the Crock Pot, I gave it a stir, put it on high for four and a half hours (I had a late start to the day), and enjoyed the warmth of homemade chicken soup in the air.

This is seriously the best way to use up whatever is in the refrigerator.  Green beans from dinner the other night?  Throw them in a soup.  A head of cauliflower that you swore you would cook?  Throw it in a soup.  Little meatballs or beans?  Throw them in a soup! Be creative with spices and combinations of ingredients.  Everything tastes good in a soup.

One of the best tips I can give you about making the BEST chicken soup is something that my Sicilian mom and grandmother did.  They added a small can of tomato sauce to their soup.  It might sound weird, but I swear it adds a fantastic depth of flavor that reminds me of being a little girl waiting at the kitchen table for a bowl of yummy goodness complete with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Try it.  You’ll never go back.

Can I tell you how much of something to put in?  Nope.  Use what you’ve got.  Can I tell you how long to cook it for?  Nope.  I can tell you that I usually put it on for 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low.  I like my veggies to be tender (especially if they were raw when I put them in), so I check on them after a few hours.  I can also tell you that if you’re going to add pasta, WAIT UNTIL THE END, like maybe the last 30 minutes or so.  I may have added pasta at the beginning of cooking one batch, and let’s just say it disintegrates.

What kind of soup are you going to make?

Silicone Bake Cups: Are They Just for Cupcakes?

19 Jan

If you’re anything like me, you want to find multiple ways to use things you’ve got lying around your house.  I hate to see empty baskets or containers, and I like to be creative with how I display things.  For instance, all of my vitamins and medications are on display on this cake stand I made:

vitamins

I’ll make a post showing you how easy it is to make your own cake stand.  I have given them away with goodies during holiday time, and they make great organizers for the bathroom or jewelry too.  So. Easy.

Do you ever bake with silicone molds?  Do you pack lunches, either for yourself or for your kiddos?  Then these versatile baking goodies might become your new best friend.  Sometimes I can’t find my divided plastic containers when it’s time to pack lunch.  Okay.  If I’m being honest, sometimes I don’t want to look; my Tupperware cabinet is an avalanche waiting to happen.  That’s where these little beauties come into play.

bake cups

I don’t like when certain foods touch.  Call me OCD, but I don’t enjoy when my mashed cauliflower mingles with freshly washed raspberries.  I need boundaries in my life.  You can turn any container you have in your cupboard into a divided container with these silicone bake cups.  They are also super helpful if you have something that needs to be heated packed with something that doesn’t need to be warmed up like a salad or fruit.  It’s fun and easy to pack healthy lunches with some flair that all your co-workers and your kiddos friends will be jealous of.

If you’re following a diet like the 21 Day Fix, you can use the colors to keep track of your containers as well.  I think that would be a helpful way to keep on target when you’re on the go.

cuppies

Now, for all intensive purposes, I did find a divided container in the dishwasher that I forgot was clean and ready to empty, but I did use a silicone cup to add my raspberries to my lunch.  I can easily remove the bake cup while the rest of my lunch goes into the microwave to warm up.  The great thing about these bake cups is that they are easily washed and definitely reusable which might save you some cash in the long run.

lunch

These silicone baking cups can add organization to more areas of your home than just the kitchen.  Use them in a desk drawer to separate paper clips, pins, erasures, and more.  They would be great to use when organizing jewelry too.  What other ways could you see using these versatile containers?  Let me know!

Weigh-In Wednesday: Week Two

15 Aug

Okay.  It’s the end of the second/beginning of the third week of my self-proclaimed 33 by 33 challenge.  And in all honesty, it’s been a bittersweet week.  Let’s get down to business, and then I’ll explain.

The verdict:

-3

Yup.  I lost three pounds, bringing my two-week total to -6.4.  Pretty awesome.  Here’s where the “bad” news comes in.

I haven’t worked out all week, and I’ve barely eaten.  This has not been a choice; in fact, it’s killing me to just lay around.  I’ve been suffering from a migraine for over a week now.  I’ve gone to the doctor, had some blood work, and just yesterday had a CT scan.

I don’t know if any of you suffer from migraines, but I’ve NEVER had one like this.  One day, there’s an ice pick in my face, the light makes me feel like Vampire Bill, and all I want to (or even can) do is sleep.  The next day, it’s a dull ache with the dizzies – the sober drunk girl.  And on and on and on.  I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night because of it.  I’ve been even more forgetful than usual because of it.  I’ve got more unexplained bruises than normal because of it.  This just sucks.

Trying to look on the bright side, I’m glad this is happening BEFORE school starts back up because I don’t think I’d last a day with all those loud teenagers.  Eeeeek!  I’m sad that the end of my summer is less than sensational.  I don’t know.  Hopefully my doctor will have some answers today.

So, my weekly weigh-in post has turned into an “I have a migraine” rant.  So back to the skinny.  I’ve got 26.6 pounds left to lose, and I’ve got 18 weeks to do it. I should add that I bought two new pairs of pants in a size smaller than I have previously worn, and I’m in a whole new weight decade (that’s what I call each ten pounds).

33 by 33

2 Aug

The title hooked you, didn’t it?  Whatever does it mean?  Let me tell you.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week.  The summer is winding down.  School picks back up in a few weeks.  Fall is around the corner.  Things are happening.  This second half of the year may mean Thanksgiving and Christmas to some, but for me, it means BIRTHDAY!  Even though the number keeps getting higher, I still get excited about my birthday.  Maybe it’s “only child syndrome” since I know I’ll get lots of attention.  The kids at school always keep a countdown.  I call my mother every day and remind her about the day of birth.  Because clearly she-who-birthed-me would forget without my constant reminders.

So what does my upcoming 33rd birthday have to do with this post?  You may have guessed that one of the 33’s in the title refers to my birthday.  The other refers to the pounds I have convinced myself I will lose by then.  Even more curious now, aren’t you?

On  31 July, I decided that I needed to make a SERIOUS commitment to my ultimate health and happiness.  And honestly, 33 by 33 just sounds good. Maybe the fabulous title of this endeavor will help keep me motivated.  So, on Tuesday, I decided to get back to my health journal (I fell off the wagon).  I also decided to take pictures and measurements.  I will NOT share those with you because I’m sure you like your eyes.  It was made apparent to me by looking at these pictures that I have a double-belly.  Anyone know what I’m talking about?  My top belly sticks out a little farther than my lower belly.  Not the most attractive set of abs out there.

I printed out mini-calendars that I put in my journal to keep track of workouts (and how many days are in this challenge)!

There’s another page with November, December, and my measurements and starting weight.  I did a quick Google search for calendar templates and found these.  I easily got three on a page.  The smiley faces are to let me see when I workout for at least 30 minutes.  The goal is to fill the calendars with smiles!

Yesterday, 1 August, seemed like the perfect day to start. I met up with my best friend and we went for a walk.  I filled her in and she was so excited about it.  She and I were born a week apart, and have been friends for over 20 years.  Last year, she and I made a contract and bet concerning my losing ten pounds in order to keep a newly purchased pair of summer wedges.  I busted my arse, lost the ten pounds, and welcomed the shoes home.  While we walked, my friend and I talked about the things that worked then and how I can make this new endeavor work too.  Here’s what we came up with:

  1. BE ACCOUNTABLE.  It’s important to let people know what you’re doing and why.  Therefore, I will be sending pictures of my weigh-in (the number on the scale) to my friend each week.  I will also text her after each workout.  This worked great the last time.  If she didn’t get a text from me, she was on the phone, telling me to get moving.  I will also hold myself accountable to YOU.  I will share my ups and downs with you on Weigh-In Wednesday (It just so happened to work out that way, disgustingly cute, I know.)
  2. HEALTH JOURNAL.  It’s also really important to keep a journal, and to do it honestly.  For instance, I had ice cream last night.  Not the way to start, but I wrote it down nonetheless.  I need to see what I’m eating and how it makes me feel so that I can make any necessary changes.
  3. BELIEVE IN MYSELF.  Not to get all Weight Watchers and Jennifer Hudson on you, but this is important too.  I know that there will be good days and bad days, but I can’t give up.  Nothing worth anything is every easy, but I need to constantly remind myself that I’m worth it.
  4. TRY NEW THINGS.  I will continue to try new recipes and new workouts and will share the good ones with you all.

So, as of yesterday, I’m on a mission to lose 33 pounds by my 33rd birthday.  I have almost five full months (or 142 days) to do it.  I figure if I was able to lose ten pounds in five weeks, I should be able to do this.

What Makes a Successful Weekend?

17 Jul

I was reading some of the news articles on Yahoo when I came across this little gem: What Successful People Know About Weekends.

While it is a short article, it really made an impact on me after reading it.  A lot of time, especially during the school year, I feel like I’ve squandered my precious weekend time away.  There are always chores that need to get done because they seem impossible during the week, or essays that need to get read because, again, it is impossible to get to them any other time.  I never feel like I’m taking advantage of my time, and I want to be in the moment from now on.  No more dwelling in the past, and no more worrying (without good reason) about the future.

This article suggests that we make a plan as to how we would like to spend our weekends and stick to it.  There can still be time for work and chores, but it shouldn’t take over the weekend.  There needs to be time to do the fun stuff, see friends and family, try new things, and just relax.  It’s about being productive and realizing that there are more hours in the weekend than we think and taking advantage of those hours.

Read the article.  See if it makes sense for your life.  If even offers a couple of plausible schedules.  As a teacher, I love models.  I mean, really.  How can we can expect anyone to follow directions without a little nudge sometimes?

So, in honor of the article and wanting to be a successful weekend person, I’m going to start my list here.  Now.

  1. Make a new recipe and invite friends over to try it.
  2. Make a new craft.
  3. Find a new trail to walk or hike.
  4. Visit a local museum.
  5. Wander around a farmer’s market.
  6. Have a Google face chat with a far-away friend.
  7. Read a book on the patio.
  8. Try a new yoga routine.
  9. Get to the beach.
  10. Write. (not comments on students’ papers, but my own stuff)
  11. Take a class at Michael’s (the arts and crafts store).
  12. Take advantage of Groupon and Living Social for a weekend away.
  13. Finally finish reading The Picture of Dorian Gray.
  14. Find someone to speak (and practice) Italian with.
  15. Go to a flea market and find something cool to repurpose or make new again.
  16. Borrow my friends’ kids and do something fun and silly. (I will willingly return the mini-people.)
  17. Get a massage.
  18. Actually read and try some of the things I’ve pinned on Pinterest.
  19. Explore a nearby place that I’ve probably been to a million times, but never really seen.
  20. Write letters and mail them.  Real, handwritten notes to people I love.

Writing this list was harder than I thought.  I really had to think about what would make my time more meaningful and what would actually make me happy.  The author of the article suggested writing at least 100 items, but just these 20 took me forever.  I think I’ll start small.

Chocolate Almond Cake Mix Cookies

8 Jul

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t posted anything in several weeks.  With school, and my relationship, ending, I found myself at odds with myself.  (That was an Austin Powers’ moment!)  If you ever watched the Gilmore Girls, you might remember when Rory and Dean broke up.  Instead of being upset, she went to the opposite extreme:  organized, go-getter, I’m-not-going-to-let-this-bring-me-down.  Lorelei told Rory that it was okay to be upset, in fact, it was necessary to wallow.  Well, Rory didn’t want to wallow until the end of the episode when she finally broke down and realized that wallowing WAS necessary. That’s where I’ve been – mourning the end of something that was a huge part of my life.  And now I’m finding my way back to myself, and the first place I looked was in the kitchen.

My mother used to make cake mix cookies when I was a little girl.  They were quick and easy and she let me stir the ingredients.  Sometimes she would make vanilla cookies and cover them with sprinkles.  Other times it was chocolate cookies with chocolate chips.  The possibilities really were, and still are, endless.

The other day, I was cleaning out the pantry when I came across a box of devil’s food cake mix that was going to expire in about a week.  In an effort not to waste anything, I decided to try my hand at some cookies.  One thing I was sure of what that I didn’t want to use oil like my mother did, so I found a ton of recipes online that used different ingredients.  I settled on one that used milk, butter, and an egg.  The almond part was my idea.  I love almond.

Ingredients – you probably already have everything you need!

One thing I should note is that this was the thickest batter I have ever made; even thicker than brownie batter!  I used my hand mixer, and the poor little thing sounded as if death was one rotation away.  Next time I will definitely pull out my Kitchen Aide.

Here’s the recipe I used:  Chocolate Almond Cake Mix Cookies

I decided to make and attach a document with the recipe this time because that would probably be easier for you all.  I mean, this way, you can just click on it and print!

These cookies come out light and soft and super tasty.  Play around with combinations too.  Think chopped nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, sprinkles (like my mom), different extracts (I’m thinking a vanilla cookie with orange extract), and more!  Seriously, endless possibilities for things you probably already have in your pantry.

Enjoy!