Thursday, July 30, 2009

Things I know, don’t know, and other random thoughts attacking my brain…Part 1

I think I need to clarify something right from the start, or rather, tell the truth. I DO care if anyone reads these words, In my first attempt at blogging, I made the statement that I did not care if anyone ever reads my blog (see below). I thought that was true, but let’s be honest, anyone who says that is not telling the truth. We all care what other people think, its human nature. Some care more than others, but ultimately we all care. If I can enlighten someone, or just the opposite, someone can enlighten me, after reading what I have to say, good or bad, I’m all for it and open to criticism and especially, encouragement.

Today so many thoughts clog my brain, I need to get some of them out of my head by means of written word. Always in search of peace of mind and happiness, many thoughts come to me. First, something I KNOW… I know I need to make more money. Now, I don’t need more money to buy more stuff, (although that’s fun too), I am going to need more money to pay my existing bills and provide adequately for my daughters. You see, the child support for my oldest daughter runs out soon, minus 2 months and counting. Not only will that leave a gaping hole in my moderate budget, but she also happens to start college at exactly the same time. I will be the sole provider of tuition, her personal needs, and other misc. expenses. Other than a little help form the state of California, she and I are responsible for the brunt of the her college tuition and related expenses. She’s more than willing to hock herself up to the eyeballs, she knows (I’ve taught her) the priceless value of a college education. She holds no resentment of me for not being able to hand over the full amount, and for this, I am grateful. My dream was to send her, fully paid for by her parents, to college, graduating without a massive amount of debt. This will not be the case, but at this point, as long as she graduates, I’m happy.
Now, back to the money making part…I love my current job, I work with great people, enjoy most of my required tasks (not all the tedious paperwork), but in general, the job suits me. I get to work with amazing teachers, (mostly) cute kids, and friendly parents. I love my boss too! If only this job could actually support a household of 3…due to budget cuts (I know, join the club) I make less now than I did almost 2 yeas ago, when I hit the top salary for this position. There is not doubt I will have to keep my job…there’s slim pickings out there for jobs at present time, and it provides the necessary medical benefits, a steady, although small, paycheck, and like I said, I actually like it. What I don’t know is how to supplement my income without completely losing my home life (very important to me) and still be able to spend time with my youngest daughter who will be home alone after my oldest is away at college. There are so many things I LOVE to do…crafting, cooking, baking, gardening, writing. Somehow, I have got to figure out a way to turn at least one of my passions into profit. I know, this is something everyone wants to do, but I have come to a point in my life, where it’s what I NEED to do, for the obvious financial reasons, and the the not so obvious fact that If I can’t create, I won’t be happy. That is something I KNOW. I am constantly inspired by the world around me, by other women who have achieved huge success doing what they love (think Oprah, Martha Stewart, Mary Engelbreit, Susan Branch, etc.) and by the growing number of talented (not so famous) women, who are at home sewing, cooking, baking, and creating beautiful things for others to enjoy. By means of Internet, I have discovered a whole world of these women. By reading their stories, I have hope that my dreams can become reality, not just the naïve imaginings of a consummate daydreamer.

Ahh, but getting from A to B, the transition from doing something out of love and desire to actually making a little money at the same time. Not to say, that is the proper motivation, money is never the best motivation, but let’s be real here…money makes life easier, it is a necessity, not for happiness per se, but for survival for sure. I am willing to work hard, I KNOW that good things don’t come easily, and hard work pays off, that still leaves me with the challenge of how to meet my ultimate goal of doing what I love and earning a living from it. It’s an age old question, but who has the answers?? Apparently, not me at the moment!

These are just a few of the random thoughts that swim around my head, but I’ve rambled on far too long, this is definitely a two parter!
Any thoughts, suggestions, or inspiration out there???? I would love to hear from you, whoever and wherever you are… Part II tomorrow (maybe)
Happy Thoughts,

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Simple Pleasures of summer - Homegrown tomatoes

One of my secrets to happiness, is to enjoy life's "simple pleasures". Yes, I know, it sounds so cliche, but it really is true. Here is the first, in my upcoming installments of "Simple Pleasures". Enjoy!

There really is nothing quite like the delicious taste of a homegrown tomato, whether it's small and sweet, like the beloved cherry, or big and juicy such as the beefsteak variety. Now is the perfect time to enjoy this simple pleasure. Growing tomatoes is really not at all complicated - a nice sunny spot, whether in the ground or in a pot, decent soil, water, and a good feeding once in awhile is all you really need. Without proper support you'll have tomatoes hitting the ground, so staking or caging is a must. I usually have 4 -5 plants each year, of all different varieties, which gives me enough tomatoes for my family and to share with friends & family. Here is a recipe for homemade marinara that I have come up with, based on a recipe from Emeril Lagasse. It's very good over pasta topped with freshly grated parmesan, but also good on fish, chicken, veggies, crusty french bread and fried or scrambled eggs. Don't forget to invite one (or more) of your besties over when it's all done, light some candles, and crack open a bottle of wine!

Homemade Marinara w/ Fresh Garden Tomatoes

  • 4-5 lbs peeled and seeded (preferrably homegrown, any type) tomatoes w/ juice*
  • 1 generous C. finely chopped onion
  • ¼ C. finely chopped carrot
  • Aprrox. ½-1 C. chicken stock/broth (may substitute veg. stock or white wine for vegetarian version)

  • 1-2 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 4-5 finely chopped garlic cloves (more or less according to your liking)

  • Chopped Fresh herbs, such as oregano, flat leaf parsley, basil, thyme
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes, if you like it spicy (optional)

  • Kosher Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Makes approx. 2 quarts of sauce, ingredient amounts may be adjusted for more or less sauce, I'm not too particular about measuring:)

*To peel and seed tomatoes, core end of tomatoes very close to stem. Cute an “x” in opposite end of tomato and place in large pot of boiling water for no more than one minute. Remove tomatoes w/ slotted spoon and immediately submerge in bowl of ice water. Once tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and break open w/ your hands over a colander set in a bowl. This will allow the juices from the tomatoes to be saved and used for the sauce. Using your fingers, remove most or all of the seeds, placing seeded tomatoes in a seperate bowl.
When fresh, homegrown tomatoes are not available, or too expensive to buy, you can use canned tomatoes (preferably Roma type), but the taste is different than using fresh.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or pot, sauté onion, carrot, and garlic until translucent and tender. Add tomatoes w/ natural juices, fresh herbs, chicken stock, red pepper flakes (if using), and salt and pepper.
Cover pot until tomato sauce comes to a boil. Remove lid, and continue to simmer for at least one hour, or until sauce has thickened a little and taste is to your liking. At this point, the sauce is done for a chunky style, or you can blend some or all of the sauce in a blender or food processor for a smoother marinara sauce. Allow sauce to cool in pot on before blending.

Sauce can be kept for up to 2 weeks in freezer, or several days in fridge.
Step 1: Peeled & Seeded

Step 2. Simmering for 1 hour+

Step 3. Finished, ready to eat or freeze

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Things I've Learned

Well, I've done it, I finally succumbed to the world of blogging. I start this venture not knowing if anyone will ever read anything I have to say, but who cares, right?? Writing is a great way to express one's self. I feel like I've finally discovered who I am at age 42...took me a while, but hey, some people never figure it out. I feel the need to share my new-found knowledge...hoping someone out there might gain something from it.

I feel like through my experiences, especially those of the past 6 years, I have learned some important life lessons. The first, that loving someone "not matter what" is not always the best thing. Love and common sense, or self preservation are completely different entities. I used to be hopelessly romantic, now I'm a bit more practical (although I still treasure my romantic side). I know I'm still capable of loving deeply, but I won't confuse love with lust, fear of the unknown, or being afraid to make changes. Through many female friendships, I have found that most women really think they can't live without a man. Our society has trained us that way. What little girl doesn't dream of growing up someday to meet the man of her dreams, get married, have children and live happily ever after? In almost every romantic comedy out there, the heroine always winds up with a man in the end to make her happy. Well, life doesn't always work out that way ladies, and unless you are open to an optional scenario, you may be searching for something you'll never find, all the while missing out on having a fabulous life. Now, don't get me wrong, true love does exist, and there are great couples out there, but having a husband or significant other is not the "end all" to a happy life.

Children, family, close friends, these are all relationships that can be just as fulfilling as one with a man can be. I have truly learned to embrace my life as it is now, and no longer grieve for what was lost. I've learned to really like myself, and enjoy my own company. I wish all the women out there who are so desperately searching for "the one" and don't feel complete, could know how I feel, and if they do find Mr. Right, it is just icing on the cake of an already wonderful life. The ulitimate life lesson I think I've learned, is be HAPPY, celebrate everyday, even the bad ones, there is always a new day of hope ahead. Happiness comes from within, not anything we can buy or be given, we choose our own, if you're life as it is now is keeping you from being happy, then you are missing out on something that only you can give yourself.

I wish everyone out there happiness and a life with purpose and fulfillment, regardlless of what that is for each of us. Only we know what truly makes us happy, it only takes looking within, with honesty and strength to find it.

Happy thoughts,