Family

2 Mar

I’m a firm believer in welcoming as many people into your “family” as possible.  I was blessed with phenomenal parents and a sister who is my very best friend.  I married an exceptional partner – a man with an incredible mom (whose dad I wish I could have met because I’m sure I’d love him too) and brothers who treat me like I am their sister (I am, after all, but it feels very special to be welcomed like that), and a multitude of cousins and aunts and uncles.  They love me so much that they never stop asking me when I’m going to get pregnant because they want a grandchild/niece/nephew to spoil! 😉

But I also have other people I consider my family.  People my heart has “adopted.”  People who are more than just friends to me.  Maybe it comes from my parents – after all, I grew up calling (and still call, yes, at almost-32-years-old) their best friends “Aunt” and “Uncle.”  I grew up with three sets of grandparents, too, and not because of divorce.  My mom had been “adopted” into a family when she first came to California, before she met my dad.  Once my dad came along, he was quickly accepted (in fact, he became best friends with the patriarch) and we were their first grandchildren.  They didn’t treat us any differently once they actually had biological grandchildren of their own.  When someone is family, they’re family – no matter who they were born to.

I didn’t decide to make these people into my “family” – they just were.  Sometimes completely subconsciously.  Sometimes from the moment I met them, sometimes completely out of the blue.  Further proof that how well you know someone, or how often you talk with them, doesn’t determine how important they are to you.  It also doesn’t necessarily make any sense at all.

Sometimes I feel like a momma duck with ducklings, even with the “family” older than me, checking up on them to make sure they’re going to be safe and happy.  I think it’s my personality to want to make sure the people I love are okay.

My best friends from high school and college are my “brothers” – in fact, when we weren’t sure if my dad’s back would hold up long enough for him to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, my second choice was walking up the aisle with one of them on either side of me.  One is married now, and I am so thankful that he found someone I could love like my sister; the other has just started dating someone and I am pretty confident I’m going to love her, but I’m still holding my breath (seriously, these are worries that go through your head when your male best friend first starts dating someone, silly as it sounds…  Will she like me?  Will she feel weird that he’s already got a girl that he shares so much in his life with?  I suppose I’m lucky, too, because my husband’s best friend is a girl, so I know she went through the same thing, and I know I passed that test!).

In Kindergarten I was best friends with two girls.  We’d dance around the soccer field, singing doo-wop songs in harmony with choreographed dance moves.  One of the girls moved to another school shortly afterward; the other moved a few years later.  Fast forward to the end of Fifth grade (I went to a Catholic school from K-8) when I found out that (my favorite) one of the two was moving back to town and coming back to school.  We were together almost constantly that year until disaster struck (her dad was killed in an accident) and she moved away again.  Thanks to the magic of technology we’ve stayed in intermittent touch ever since; we even got to see each other for a nice long day when I was visiting relatives a few years ago (and we’re hoping to do the same this year).  We might not talk every day, but when we were together it was like we’d never been apart.  We’re always laughing, too, that we’re sisters separated at birth, because we’re still so similar – we even get sick at the same times (yes, 2,000 miles apart).

About 9 (!!) years ago I met six women I consider sisters, all through the same thing.  I won’t get into it here (nothing bad, just slightly embarassing to look back on…  Itwasasillyfanthingokay?), but from the first week I knew them I knew they were going to be a big part of my life.  For two of them, we’re just months apart in age, and we’ve grown from nerdy 23 year olds to…  Well, less nerdy 32 year olds (I hope).  We’ve been in each other’s weddings.  We’ve had sleepovers like teenagers, staying up giggling all night.  They’re the first people I think of when something amazing happens, or when I need an honest opinion.  The others range in age from just a few years older than me to a few months older than my mom, and while we don’t talk as often as we used to (I remember one day in particular when we stayed up until about 3 am chatting via e-mail; considering one lives on the East Coast, that was awfully late!), we keep tabs on each other, celebrate with each other, and support each other.  For a long time I was the baby sister, and I guess I still am, but they’ve helped me to grow up into the woman I am today.

Two summers ago I was introduced to someone who would open my “family” circle even wider – at the time, just someone else I was singing with, with an amazing voice, who could sight read music (okay, I was more than a bit jealous!); I didn’t get close to my “little sister” until last summer, when we sang together again, in a similar group, along with several other members.  One of the members was a young girl who reminds me so much of myself at her age; her mother and I started chatting and realized we had so very much in common.  Soon the three of us grew close.  Within a few months my “little sister” and my “older sister” and I could hardly think of life without each other.

Around the same time I was introduced to another “sister.”  We’re both wedding professionals, and officially met over coffee.  But it was as though we were just picking up a conversation where we left off; we immediately started talking about all the great things we were going to do together.  We’ve collaborated on projects and created beautiful things, come up with ideas and will (hopefully) be starting something else amazing together soon; the latest was a photo shoot we put together in just one crazy week, an insane ride where it felt like we were sharing a single brain.  We disagreed on one single point throughout the whole process, and we were both totally surprised by it.  It’s strange to me that I’ve known her less than a year, since it feels like I’ve known her my whole life.

About a month ago I was going about my business when I was suddenly struck by worry for someone I’ve known for two thirds of my life, the father of my ex boyfriend.  I know it sounds bizarre but I was suddenly (and when I say suddenly, I very nearly pulled over on the side of the freeway to check on him) worried to distraction for a man I haven’t seen in over a decade.  I followed up and it turned out that he was very sick (sicker than anyone knew at that moment, in fact), and he had surgery a few days later.  I kept tabs on his surgery and recovery, and a few weeks later was struck by the same worry.  Sure enough he’d been airlifted from the recovery center to the hospital about the same time I was thinking of him, with an infection, which (thankfully) cleared in a few days.  I’ve always felt a lot of love for him and his wife – they were so very good to me for many years (before, during, and after I dated their son; in fact I was thrilled to send them a Christmas card last year) – but I had no idea I’d “adopted” them until this experience.  I guess you can never have too many godparents.

This week it appears I’ve “adopted” another sibling.  It’s kind of a strange case, and I’m still not 100% sure I understand it.  But regardless of whether it makes sense, I was introduced to my new “brother” several years ago, as potential boyfriend material.  It would have been a rather spectacular failure in any case, for a lot of different reasons, and I’ve never been sorry that it came to a quick end (okay, maybe for a few hours), but I’ve always felt slightly protective and concerned toward him.  Over the course of the last eight years he’s had more heartbreak than anyone should ever have to; it hurts me to think about it.  Regardless of how we initially met, I am now firmly in the “protective big sister” category in both our minds, and that’s exactly as it should have been all along.  He actually apologized for treating me not-so-well all those years ago, to which I replied, “Actually, I’m glad you did; if you wouldn’t have, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now!”

Earlier this week, out of the blue, he started pestering me about when my husband and I were going to have kids.  “Why,” I asked, “are you so looking forward to becoming an uncle?”  “Yes!” he answered.  “Only I’m way more excited about spoiling your kids than my [biological] sister’s!”

I couldn’t help but feel the warmth come through in that sentence, and I grinned.

There are lots of ways to become family with someone.  You can be born.  You can marry.  Or you can somehow connect and simply choose to be.  And when it comes to what’s important in my life, the family in my life trumps professional success or personal accolades every single time.  I just feel so blessed to have every one of them in my life.

Oh, and even though my heart is full, there’s always room for one more.

What a Difference…

30 Nov

A few years make.

Looking through old photos yesterday really drove home the point.  It seems like I just blinked, but really it’s been almost a decade since I graduated from college.  Do you know how old this makes me?  Actually if you don’t… Don’t do the math.  It’s depressing.

I don’t usually feel older than the students I advise (especially if I’m watching what I eat – gluten is still a HUGE irritant).  Oh, I can see it around the eyes.  And in my friends’ gray hairs (I don’t have any, but only because I pull them out when I see them).  But I still feel like I’m nineteen or twenty inside.  I watch shows like Glee and listen to songs from my college years and think fondly of being a young adult.  There are times when I walk around campus and can just feel the energy of those students, the overwhelming IMPORTANCE of everything.

Growing up, I always thought it was the way things were.  You grew old enough and went to high school and college accordingly, got a job, got married, and had kids.  By 23, I was sure, I’d be a mom.  That was so old.  Of course I met my now-husband when I was just shy of 24.  I barely had a date before I was 23.  No, really.  I mean, I had a boyfriend from the end of high school into college, but between his moving out of state and my being totally not ready to be physical…  Not that it should be an imperative in any relationship, but he was.  Ready, that is.  Not that we ever talked about it.  Oh no.  He just found someone who was.  Before breaking up with me.  Yup, he sort of forgot that step for a few months.

I can joke about it now (and actually accepted his friend request on Facebook a few months ago and have appreciated reconnecting with him, since we were actually friends before dating), but I remember so well that phone call, two days before my nineteenth birthday.  By the end of it, and for days afterward, I was a blubbering mess.  Sobs wracked my body whenever I’d think of it.  I don’t think I did anything but sing sad songs and think to myself that I’d never find anyone.  I don’t think marriage actually held the same meaning then as it does now.  I think it was more of the Disneyfied ideal of riding off into the sunset together that I was after, but darnit, I was supposed to marry that boy!

Again, perspective is everything.  He joined the Army after college (in fact he was in college on an ROTC scholarship).  Two years after he broke up with me, September 11th happened, and he fought in the Middle East multiple times, and had we still been together, I’d have spent the next decade or so with my heart in my throat.  Oh yeah, and moving from state to state with his various Army deployments.  At eighteen, the concept of moving every few years while your husband is on deployment doesn’t sound so bad.  It might even be romantic to have to write letters back and forth (remember, this was before we were in a war, so there wasn’t much of a real danger).  Now?  I know I’d never have been happy.  My parents drove me crazy as a teenager, but as an adult I can barely go a few weeks without stopping by to see them.  Not to mention that I go nuts when I’m without my husband for a single evening (if he’s working late, or when he went to Las Vegas for his brother’s birthday, for example).  I’m a homebody, and I like being settled.  I want a house I can be in for the next few decades.  Not for a year or two.

The next New Year’s Eve was Y2K, and I remember very vividly going to Mount Soledad with my high school best friend (a boy, and before you ask, no, we never dated) and talking about how this was the decade we’d conquer the world.  We still thought it was a given that once we got to a certain point everything would just fall into place, and we were convinced we’d find our spouses and start having kids before 2010.  I was sure I’d start dating a ton, soon.  I was over my ex, I thought, and after all, wasn’t that what you did in college?

I actually didn’t have a single date in college, though, at least not after my ex broke up with me.  I kept myself busy, but more than that I was always with my college best friend (who also happened to be a guy).  It didn’t occur to me until about 2 months ago (literally; I was walking on campus and the thought struck me) that there was probably a good reason that neither of us got dates in college.  People totally thought we were together.

Not that we didn’t actually get told – multiple times, by just about everyone – that we should date.  Our friends joked that we were an old married couple anyway, so why didn’t we?  I even tried to wrap my mind around it once (after college, when a mutual friend started dating her best friend – who she’s married to now!).  The idea made me physically ill, and I actually called him on the phone to tell him so (sorry M).  He was offended for a minute, but then started thinking about how weird that would be, and agreed.  Incestuous, even.  I’d do anything for him and I love him like the brother I never had, and I think he’s a handsome guy.  But…  Just…  No.

It’s funny, though, because we easily spent as much time together as any couple.  So it’s not surprising that people would assume that’s the way we felt about each other.  We just didn’t.

We both had crushes on other people during college, though, and I remember us both making fools of ourselves on more than one occasion about them.  Actually both of us made fools of ourselves at the same time about the same person on more than one occasion – one would try to be the wingman for the other and end up looking just as foolish.  We thought we were cool, of course.

My major crush in college was a great match for me – similar experiences and interests, incredibly sweet and highly involved in student leadership.  I was so star struck.  More than once I almost asked him out, but I lost my nerve every time.  Which was probably for the best, since he was probably more interested in my (male, remember!) best friend than in me.  Which was totally ok.  Except that I was sooooo clueless that it took me almost two years to figure it out.  Poor guy probably felt like I was totally stalking him.

After college I had one good guy-filled year.  I mean, I wasn’t exactly Miss Popular – and more than once I ended up in my car blubbering about how I’d never find anyone.  But the more I think about it, I had plenty of guys interested in me, including one who saw me from afar and had his friend come and check if I was single.  It’s funny actually, thinking back on how bleak things looked.  Of course I was still clueless.  It was an overarching trait, and one I actually find is pretty normal to have in your late teens and early twenties.  Even when that guy’s friend asked if I was single, it took me at least 10 minutes to understand.

It took me years, actually, to realize that one boy in particular was actually interested in me at the same time I was interested in him.  Oops.  I tried so hard to suss out his feelings, and to get through his naturally-shy outer shell, and I actually did a decent job overall, even getting him to buy me a drink once.  He was actually the subject of a lot of blubbering.  I thought he’d never like me, and I’d never find anyone.  It wasn’t until many, many years later, and based on more information than I had at the time, that I realized he probably felt the same way.  Okay, probably minus the blubbering.  We’d have made a terrible couple.  He’s an amazing guy, but is better with plants and trees…  And I’m way too much of a social butterfly for him!

I got introduced to a friend of a friend that same year, when I was 23, actually, and while he made it pretty obvious that he was interested in me, he wasn’t interested in the same things I was, to put it delicately.  Remember why my first boyfriend broke up with me?  Yeah, this was round two, except he didn’t bother to date me at all.  Also?  Potentially explosive situation with him.  Excellent guy.  Lots of emotional stuff.  And with my own propensity toward being emotional?  It would have been disastrous.

Again, I can laugh about it now – about them all – and look down my Facebook friends list and see every one of them (hi guys!).  But back then?  End.of.the.world.  Seriously, when “friend-of-a-friend” ignored me for a month, I couldn’t help but sing sad songs to myself and think that I was never going to find anyone.

The irony is that when that friend-of-a-friend finally did get back to me to tell me what a nice girl I was and that he couldn’t string me along (which actually was a very mature perspective, despite the fact that it made me mad at the time), I got pissed off enough to go dancing with friends that night instead of staying home like I wanted to.  And I met my husband.

Perspective is everything.

Had that friend-of-a-friend strung me along, I’d have probably stayed home that night.  And never met my husband at all.  Or been so blind that I’d have ignored him.

And then where would I be?

My Mothering Instinct

22 Nov

Apparently my instinct to mother anyone and everyone is so strong, and has been for such a long time, that I surround myself with very needy people.  People who have emotional trauma and turmoil.  People who disappear.  Who attract drama.  Who are completely unable to cope with lots of things coming at them at once.

I’m not sure why this is.  I’ve always been this way.  I’ve always been the one who would pull out the band aid from her pocket and fix the boo boo.  Who would pick up the pieces after someone else smashed the toy.  Who would check for a concussion when a friend was knocked to the ground. Who would worry about things.  Things happening to people I love.  Things that they don’t worry about because they’re too involved with their own drama.

I’m feeling a bit put out right now.  I will live to mother another day.  Eventually I’ll even have my own kids to mother.  Right at this moment I’m feeling pretty pissed off at the fact that I’m feeling so worried.  But I’ll probably still never stop worrying about the people I care about, even when they don’t reciprocate.

 

Eat*Live*Sing

29 Aug

No, it’s not a riff on Eat, Pray, Love.  I promise.  I needed to come up with a name I liked, and most of the gluten free ones were taken.  So I chose one that expressed how I was feeling.  🙂

As I thought, I was getting too focused on the gluten-free stuff for this blog.  I decided to make a new one.  I copied all the posts over there and have deleted them from this blog.  That way no one will get too annoyed with me for talking about this stuff too much!  This will go back to being a random personal blog.  I’ll probably be posting all my new recipes over there, or cross-posting them.

Anyway, here it is! http://eatlivesing.wordpress.com.  Enjoy! 😉

Songs and Memories

12 Aug

I started writing this post two months ago (the “this morning” referenced was actually in June).  I put it aside because I thought it was just silly.  It is.  But it’s MY silly.  So I’m finishing it.  Because I feel like sharing.  If you’re not in the mood for gratuitous and silly sharing, you can ignore it completely. 🙂

This morning on the way to work I heard Katy Perry’s “Firework.”  I love this song.  So much more than I did when I first heard it.  That’s because it happened to be on the radio on the last day of my temp job in February, as I was driving away.  I managed to hold it together through the day, and was about three miles into the drive home when the song started.  I’d heard it before but didn’t really listen to the words until that moment.  I can remember the second – where exactly I was on that drive and when exactly it was in the song – that I started crying.  I bawled all the way home.  I loved that job and held out hope until the last that they’d find a position for me.  It was suddenly all over and I was drifting again in a sea of uncertainty.  But the words to the song – “Maybe the reason why/ all the doors are closed/ is to open one that leads you to the perfect road” – really spoke to me.  Cheesy I know.  But powerful.  And true, for me.  Not three months later, I started my new job.  I’ve been here for a month now and – dare I say it? – it’s better than the other one.  In those three months I was able to grow my company, too, and losing daytime employment made it happen.  It was an opportunity I might not have otherwise made for myself.

This started me thinking about certain songs and their significance in my memories, especially at very significant times of my life.  Whenever I watch Glee and my husband laughs about how people don’t really sing random songs to express their feelings…  I think, “but I do!”  I realize just how much I measure my life by music.  Yes, this is going to be mostly a post for myself, so if you’re looking for a new recipe, you probably want to check out now… ;).

  • “Stop in the Name of Love” – Carissa and Johanna and I made up a whole dance to this song in the 2nd grade.  On the playground.  Yeah, we were cool.
  • “Straight Up” – Yes, I was a huge Paula Abdul fan when I was 10…  My best friend at the time, Julia, loved her.  So I did too.  I remember very clearly learning every word of this song, and learning how to do the “kit’n’play” dance move to it in Julia’s bedroom!
  • “November Rain” – This also makes me think so much of Julia and being a pre-teen!  Loved this song.  Love this song.
  • “Just Kickin’ It” – I have a very clear, very specific memory of “kickin’ it” with Julia at my sister’s 1st Communion party.  Yeah, we were cool.
  • “End of the Road” – This song played at the end of every.single.dance from Junior High onward.  But I have a very specific memory of it playing at the Army/Navy Academy formal I went to with several friends in the 7th grade.  It was the first time we’d gotten all decked out, with makeup and heels, to go to a dance.  We felt so grown up!
  • “Nothin’ But the Taillights” – For some stupid reason I remember very clearly that this song was playing during our car accident when I was 14.  I still can’t listen to it without getting sort of freaked out because I feel the acceleration of the car and hear the sound of metal on metal.
  • “Take a Bow” – The words to this song aren’t important at all.  Only that the first time I heard it I was laying in the bed in the little room at my grandma’s house, recovering.  At the time I wasn’t really supposed to be moving much at all without my brace on, but luckily I had a ton of books and a radio.  I loved the harmonies when I heard them and still remember feeling annoyed to be stuck but at least enjoying the music.  I remember singing harmony to this song the first time I heard it, just because I could hear where it was going to be going.  Nerdy?  Why yes!
  • “The World I Know” – Cathy’s 16th birthday.  We got scared witless by her brother and fell asleep in front of MTV.  At 4 in the morning I woke up to this song.
  • “I Believe I Can Fly” – High school Winter Formal, Junior year, dancing with the guy who would later become my boyfriend.  I’d known him for something like 5 years at that point, we were good friends (soon to become “best” friends) and sort of had a crush on him.  I’d barely worked up the nerve to ask him to the dance with me and this was about the only song we really slow-danced to.  This song was when he realized he liked me too (even though he wouldn’t say anything for over a year).  For a while after we broke up I simply refused to listen to it.  Trust me, the way things worked out between us was for the best (and we’re finally friends again), and I still am not a huge fan of the song, but when I do hear it I can’t help but feel like I’m 16 again, just for a minute or two.
  • “There’s a Light” (from Rocky Horror Picture Show) – Junior year in high school my friends showed me this movie.  I was scandalized.  If you knew me back then…  I was totally sweet and innocent.  I was pretty much horrified but over time grew to love it.  This song, though, was the only one I had stomach for at that age.
  • “All I Ask Of You” (from Phantom of the Opera) – Fadi and I sang this for a wedding of one of his high school teachers.  Whenever I hear it I miss my drama geek buddy!
  • “1999” – New Year’s, freshman year of college.  I’d gone up to visit the then-boyfriend at his parents’ house.  Yes, it was 1999!
  • “I Could Not Ask for More” – The first time I heard this was the very first day of Orientation during the summer after my freshman year of college.  I was an Orientation Leader (OL) and we had to get up and go at the crack of dawn.  I was in the suite where I’d lived for the whole year, but not in my old room (we were randomly assigned).  A picture of my then-boyfriend (for, um, a few more weeks?) was on the dresser, next to my alarm clock, but the rest of the room was austere, since I would only be there for just under two weeks.  This song came on with my alarm clock at 5 that morning and I laid in bed listening to it.  I guess it’s not all that odd of a chord progression but at the time I just loved how unexpected it was.
  • “I Want it That Way” – I know.  It’s a truly truly awful song.  Seriously.  But it was all the rage during my freshman year of college and it was all over Orientation that year.  Every time I hear it I’m in the OLs’ suite, geeking out with Cristina.
  • “Always” (by Atlantic Star) – Singing an impromptu duet with Lyndon in my Sophomore apartment, the day of our Gospel Choir performance on TV.  A bunch of us were messing around, singing random songs in my room.  As we were leaving to go to dinner or something, my roommates came out of their rooms and asked who’d been singing the duet because it was awesome! 🙂  (Also, since almost every guy on this list was a crush of mine, I feel the need to qualify this – there are no romantic feelings attached to this memory and Lyndon and I are still good friends and singing buddies…  In fact we auditioned for The X Factor together and I’m in his band…  Just wanted to make that clear, though, since this is a love song – it’s just darn good fun to sing with him!)
  • “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” – I apologize profusely to the friend I had a major crush on in college.  He may or may not have known (but I was probably pretty obvious about it).  If he’s reading this, he certainly knows now!  We were driving in the car during Orientation and sang this as a duet.  This was before I realized I was very much not his type.  Like, 180 degrees away from his type.  Again, profusely apologize.  And blush with embarrassment at how silly I was.  But this does make me think of him fondly!
  • “Boyz in the Hood” – the alternative rock version of this song always makes me think of Orientation too.  Lots of memories there, I guess.  It was after the three Coordinators found out some major stuff…  And we were processing it in the car.  I’ve lost touch with Robbie and Susan but at that moment they were my brother and sister, and we were driving in Robbie’s car.  The words to the song were completely irrelevant to us but we were angry and sang them out!
  • “Still the One” – Driving in Los Angeles in Erin’s mustang convertible, singing our guts out with Lynn and Neva.  This was the week after we met.  I am still amazed at everything about that week, and how close we were, already.  This was also the night we shared a pitcher of margaritas at the Mexican Restaurant and told the waitress (falsely) that one of us had just broken up with our boyfriend and we needed a private area so we could be loud and obnoxious! 🙂
  • “Bigger Than My Body” – Whenever I hear this song, I’m in an alley in Los Angeles, standing thisclose to and having a conversation with John Mayer.  No, really.  It’s a pretty cool memory, even though you can only see the top of my head for two seconds in the music video.
  • Name retracted to protect the innocent.  Let’s just say I have a very specific memory of a very sweet boy who made fun of a singer I really liked at the time, and I didn’t really realize that there was probably more to his making fun of things until much, much later, and every time I hear the song he made fun of I think of him.  Again, the way things turned out was definitely for the better but I can’t help but remember being 23!
  • “Take Me As I Am” (from Jekyll and Hyde) – This also conjures a specific memory of a specific (different) boy, whose name is also retracted to protect the innocent.  Let’s just say that there was a lot of flirting and a date-that-may-not-have-been-a-real-date (the jury is still out and probably always will be), but that this was one of his favorite songs at the time.  Also, the boy from the song-that-will-not-be-named was really protective of me about this boy (and, perhaps, a little jealous?).  I actually think that, more than anything, I remember being 23 and single when I hear this song.  Fondly, but not longingly.  Being single and wondering whether this boy or that boy was actually interested really kind of sucked, but the feeling of being young and having so many possibilities in life was sort of fun.
  • “Beautiful Disaster” (the slow live version) – I just realized how many of my musical memories are about boys.  And the last three are from the same year of my life.  Apparently I was boy crazy that year?  This one wasn’t one I heard with the boy.  But it was one I’ll forever associate with him.  Following the amazingly fun weekend I spent with a friend-of-a-friend with whom I was set up.  Great chemistry.  Un-great circumstances.  That song was in my head for weeks before I realized why.  Funny aside – he met my husband just before my husband proposed to me…  And they got along great.  Considering that “the” weekend was only a month before I met my husband, I felt a little awkward about the whole thing, though!
  • “Accidentally In Love” – Erin and I were in the car, on our way to Vegas for my American Idol auditions.  Both of us were thinking of relationships that were too early to call.  Both of us are still in those relationships now!
  • “The Middle” – I was looking and looking for a job.  This was 2005, so jobs were actually plentiful (shortly after the moment I remember when I hear this song, I was offered three jobs in one week!).  But I was frustrated and feeling lost.  This song got me through a very hard week.
  • “Falling” (by Keri Noble) – This song, like “Beautiful Disaster,” would not get out of my head for weeks, until I realized that the words were what was stuck in my head.  The following week I told my husband I loved him for the first time.
  • “Defying Gravity” – This takes me back to finally leaping into the decision to leave my last full time job right away after my transition discussion.  That was a remarkably difficult weekend but I made the right decision.
  • “Hope It Gives You Hell” – Long story.  Very personal.  But it makes me feel good about where I am, what I’m doing, and how far I’ve come.
Am I the only person I know who has such a strong personal connection to music?  I can be sitting in a restaurant or the car or my office and feel myself slipping back years, see the scene in front of me, feel everything that was going on when these songs first made an impression upon me.  This continues to happen (the last song in my list has been around for a while but the specific moment I remember is from just a few months ago), and I literally can’t help it.  I suppose it’s nice to be reminded of past events.  But it’s definitely a strange feeling!

Leek and Mushroom Fritatta Breakfast Sandwiches

28 Jun

After eating fritatta breakfast sandwiches every weekday for three weeks, hubby and I were ready for a little change.  We still wanted a tasty breakfast that was full of good things, so I grabbed some leeks and mushrooms, used a couple of chicken thighs, and came up with a new recipe.

This is brunch on a bun.  It’s all the gorgeous flavor of leeks and mushrooms that you can find in my leek and mushroom tart (and most of the same ingredients), in a cute little easy-to-eat package.  It’s savory and feels like you’re eating a meal, but it’s not heavy.  We’ve been shopping a lot at Trader Joe’s and this recipe was scaled up to accomodate two packages of leeks and a package of goat cheese…  As a result it’s going to make more than my original breakfast sandwich recipe does.  But that’s okay…  More leftovers!

It takes a little time to prep (especially since leeks are so difficult to clean), but the results are stellar.

Leek and Mushroom Fritatta Breakfast Sandwiches

  • 4 medium leeks, cleaned well and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dry thyme)
  • 8 oz mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 small chicken thighs, poached and shredded (or leftover chicken from another application; about half a pound)
  • 2 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 tbsp half and half, cream, or milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a large sautee pan, cook leeks and garlic in olive oil on medium-low until softened.  Add mushrooms and thyme and cook through.  Season.  Drain off excess water (the mushrooms always give off lots) and place in large bowl with shredded chicken.  Allow to cool thoroughly before adding eggs, milk, and goat cheese and scrambling well.  Pour into two pans (I used a 9×13″ and an 8″ square) and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until set.  I found that this takes a little more time than the spinach and mushroom fritatta to cook; just be sure that the center doesn’t jiggle when you take it out of the oven!  Cool and cut into 16 pieces (if you’re using English muffins, as we are this week, and you cut these according to their size, you’ll actually get “edge” pieces too – I think we have a total of 20 servings).  As with the original, simply let the fritatta cool complete and wedge it between halves of a bun or English muffin before freezing your sandwich.  When you’re ready to eat it, microwave it until it’s warm.

Now, you may be wondering why I don’t have any photos of this…  And there’s a very simple reason.  It looks ugly.  Lots of lumpy white bits, between the chicken, the goat cheese, the mushrooms (I used white button mushrooms this time, since that’s what they had at our local Trader Joe’s), and the leeks (which start off green but usually end up greyish when they’re cooked).  I thought the original wasn’t pretty – but I couldn’t even bring myself to take a photo of this incarnation of the breakfast fritatta.  I wish it looked more visually appealing – but regardless of visuals, you will want to try this, because it tastes amazing!!!

Roasted Cauliflower!

25 Jun

I didn’t eat cauliflower for almost 30 years.  No, seriously, I wouldn’t touch the stuff.  It just smelled so bad.  I couldn’t bring myself to actually ingest the source of that stink.

Of course I’d only ever smelled seriously overcooked cauliflower, or the raw stuff.  But we happened to get some in our CSA box a couple of months ago and I thought I’d give it a shot.  I figured that roasting it would be mild and tasty.  And I am kicking myself now for waiting so long!

This is a seriously easy recipe, basically foolproof, and ridiculously addictive.  My husband and I couldn’t stop eating it this weekend, straight out of the pan!

Elisa’s Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp good olive oil
Prepare the cauliflower by separating the “curds” from the stems.  I like to get as much of the cauliflower into tiny bits as I can, thereby promoting the crispy roastiness of the dish.  But you can separate it into larger “florets” too.  Don’t toss the stems – they taste beautiful and mild – just cut them up so that they’re roughly the same size as the rest of your pieces.  Add all of your pieces to an extra large bowl (so that you have room for tossing) with your chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and oil.  Toss to thoroughly combine and coat.  Spread in a thin layer on the bottom of a cookie sheet (I had to use three separate cookie sheets to fit everything in single layers).  Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Try to resist.
Roasted Cauliflower!

Roasted Cauliflower! Remind me to get a plain white plate for photo taking so that my posts don't look so dark!!!

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