March Daybook: Savannah Edition

For Today ( make sure you join the fun! Participate over at The Simple Woman’s Daybook Blog!)

March 14, 2013

Outside my window… a beautiful, even though it’s a little chilly, Savannah morning! I am thinking…about what project I need to begin. I feel a painting coming on, but I’m not sure where to start.
I am thankful…for friends. It’s so true that friends are the family you choose. I am so blessed to have a friend who was willing to pick me up, then drive me to South Carolina when I didn’t have another way to make it to see my grandmother on her 86th birthday. Thank you, Deanna!
In the kitchen…I made grits this morning! It’s the first time Mary and Deanna have had what I call REAL Southern grits. They enjoyed them, so breakfast was a success!
I am wearing…jammies! Lay-around-and-be-lazy days are awesome.
I am creating…well, just writing right now. My brain is stewing something up, though.
I am going…nowhere unless I feel like it!
I am wondering… Oh, I am always wondering – well, worrying – about what’s happening next. I try and try to live in the moment, but my pre-planning gene is too active sometimes!
I am reading… Spirited: Unlock Your Psychic Self and Change Your Life by Rebecca Rosen, Samantha Rose
I am hoping… to keep up with my “training”. I found three or four FIRM workouts that I love, so I hope I can keep gaining strength (and eventually see pounds come off. They weren’t kidding; after 30 it’s so much harder!)
I am looking forward to… seeing what else we get into while I’m here in Savannah!
I am learning… to take every single thing moment by moment. Still. You’d think that lesson was easier to grasp.
Around the house…sleeping puppies. It’s so cute when they dream and snore!
I am pondering…nothing deep. Just thinking about another cup of coffee.
A favorite quote for today… “Isn’t it funny how, day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” ~C.S. Lewis
One of my favorite things…spending time with friends!
A few plans for the rest of the week: The plan this week is to make no plans! It’s a do-whatever kind of thing!
A peek into my day…well, this was from yesterday, but it still made my day. My best friends Deanna and Mary took me up to Aiken, SC for the day so I wouldn’t miss visiting my grandmother for her 86th birthday! Not only did it make my day, but it was the best present they could have given her (her words!). I love this shot of her blowing out her candles. Nothing better than a day full of family and friends!

I will always cherish this shot! She was so happy when I made it to visit for her birthday, and then we were surprised again with a big family crowd for her birthday lunch! She said “I’ve had a wonderful day ever since my feet it the floor!”

Welcoming the New Year!

Welcome, 2013!

The New Year is always a crazy time of change for me for some reason. Some of it might be the sudden halt we skid to after the build up of the holidays ever since October. I suspect the rest of it is the huge anticipation of the year to come, not to mention looking back on what I may not have accomplished.

We always put so much pressure on ourselves to stick to resolutions! I haven’t officially made any, but you know I have things in mind I want to change, make better, learn…insert any word you want there, really. SO, instead of stressing (like I am usually prone to do) I decided to start my blogging year off with The Simple Woman’s Daybook; it always makes me slow down and appreciate the little things. (If you want to participate, make sure you click the link!)

FOR TODAY – January 2, 2012

Outside my window… it’s already getting dark! I can’t believe how late it feels, but I’m glad it isn’t cold. I am so thankful I moved to Florida!

I am thinking… I am really hard on myself, even though I am better than I used to be. Why is it so hard to be nice to yourself?

I am thankful…for my loving husband, Rob. It doesn’t matter what is going on in my day, he always knows just what to do to make me feel better. That means the world to me.

In the kitchen…thawing out some chicken for dinner. I don’t know how I’m going to top Rob’s BBQ grilled pork chops from yesterday though!

I am wearing…my jammies, still. Ah, the luxuries of being a house wife, huh? Yeah, I don’t do it every day, so don’t judge!

I am creating… undue anxiety for myself. I always feel pushed to get paintings started so they will be closer to a finish point. I always rush myself to learn new things faster than humanly possible. This year, I will really work on allowing myself to be human.

I am going… to keep on trying, even if I don’t get it right the first time. Or the fifth. Everyone was a beginner at some point.

I am wondering… which project to start first!

I am reading… Discover Your Psychic Type by Sherrie Dillard and Spirited by Rebecca Rosen

I am hoping… to find being more assertive easier than I anticipate.

I am looking forward to… learning more about my new camera. I’ve only had it since Christmas, so I’m being too hard on myself about not knowing everything I think I should.

I am learning… to give myself time and space. I’m also learning to slow down and teach myself that I don’t have to finish a project in one day, or do something “right the first time.” It’s hard to remember that life is about learning, so mistakes happen.

Around the house…ugh. I have post holiday clean up waiting on me. Why does laundry multiply exponentially during the holidays?

I am pondering…which photography course to take first. I’m pretty excited about starting this new journey! If you have a suggestion, please share!

A favorite quote for today… Those who wish to sing always find a song. ~Swedish Proverb

One of my favorite things… a warm cup of French Vanilla coffee on the couch with my cats snuggled around me. Nothing much better than that!

A few plans for the rest of the week: in an effort to live in the moment, I’m not going to make any hard plans!

A peek into my day…  I’m learning how to do some interesting things with my new camera. I love the Bokeh effect, so I tried and tried, and I think I finally got the basics down! Now if I could just get my beach pictures in focus…


What the Heck is a Hoecake, Anyway?

Ah, the humble, oh-so-yummy hoecake. It’s just a part of my Southern heritage, so the word rolls off my tongue easily, but it’s drawn some pretty funny looks quite a few times for me as well. So, since it is Thanksgiving Eve, I thought there was no better time to explain one of my favorite holiday traditions.

A Little Hoecake History…

It’s isn’t so much of a cake as a bread really. This most humble of breads goes by many names: Johnny cake, Shawnee cake, ash cakes and even corn pone…but it will forever be a hoecake to me. Hoecakes have a long heritage in the South. According to one source, they were called johnny cakes in South Carolina as early as 1739, but the word hoecake first showed up around 1745.  I’ve read loads of different stories and tales about the origins of the hoecake, but nothing seems to pin down exactly where they came from. Suffice it to say, Native Americans had a long tradition of using corn and slaves carried on that tradition and are usually credited with making these Southern treasures.

So, what the heck is a hoecake, anyway?

It’s different the world over now, but the traditional Southern hoecake is basically a cornbread pancake. These yummy little boogers get their name from the method used to cook them. Shovels and other farming tools were regularly used for cooking throughout the South in the 1700′s, and one such utensil was the garden hoe. The large, flat spade on the hoe made it perfect for using as a griddle. Now that’s ingenuity, people!  Don’t tell me necessity isn’t the mother of invention! Slaves would make a batch of corn mash (at it’s simplest, ground corn meal mixed with hot water or milk, then fried in some sort of fat. I mean, it is a Southern thing, remember?) and then cook them on the blade of a hoe over an open fire. If you were super lucky, they might have even been served with a side of honey or maple syrup. Yum!

Nowadays, the recipe is a tad more involved (and the cooking surface is much improved) but the tradition is still one of my favorites. My sister loves herself a hoecake, and whoever makes the dressing always has to save one for her…if she isn’t on hand to snatch one, that is! I remember listening to my grandmother talking about her recipe while I helped with preparations. We never had an educational discussion about why they were hoecakes. They were simply hoecakes and part of our Thanksgiving dressing recipe.

I think I was in 2nd grade before I learned why they had such a name. Mrs. Risher was awesome, and I spent a lot of time just talking to her at recess…yeah, I was that kid. It was Mrs. Risher that ended up explaining what a hoecake was during a class discussion/coloring worksheet session about blessings we were thankful for at Thanksgiving. (That was back around 1988. You know, when you could still talk about being thankful for blessings in school.) She had asked the class to raise our hands if we wanted to share a family tradition and I volunteered hoecake dressing. Yep, I was that kid too…always thankful for food.

Anyway, ever since then I was in love with anything about the past, so I cherished the fact my grandmother’s recipe was centuries old…kind of. Who knew a little thing like a hoecake could hold so much history! So, now you know what a hoecake is and how it came to be. I guess you want the recipe to try your own, right? OK!

The Recipe

Now, I have to warn you of something: this recipe is like a lot of my grandmother’s recipes. She doesn’t measure. Ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a measuring cup in her kitchen. She is an on-the-fly, just-gonna-eye-it kind of gal so I’m sorry in advance for the vague directions. This is as close as I could get after making it right along with her and writing things down every 5 to 10 seconds.

You’re welcome.

Ingredients:
1 cup self-rising corn meal  (*corn meal + a sprinkle of baking powder)
1 1/4 cup self rising flour   (*I used the same amount of Pamela’s GF Baking and Pancake Mix)
1 egg
8 TBsp butter, melted (1 stick)
about 3 cups chicken broth (you may or may not use it all)

*Special note! Follow the starred suggestions for gluten free hoecakes, like me!

Directions:
-Get yourself a skillet or griddle and heat it to medium or medium high.
-I spray my pan with cooking spray, but you can go all Southern Traditional and use butter.
-Whisk your corn meal and flour together, then add your egg and butter and mix until combined.
- Begin to add your chicken broth, stirring until combined. Add as much as you need to make a batter the consistency of thick pancake batter. It shouldn’t be too runny.
-Use a medium spoon (I use a 1/4 measuring cup for larger ones, a tablespoon for smaller ones) and drop small to medium puddles of batter into your hot pan. Brown, then flip when you start to see bubbles. This is basically when you cook them just like regular pancakes.
-ENJOY! These are great with just a pat of butter, or you could go old school and eat them drizzled with honey or maple syrup.

Our Thanksgiving from 2010! These pictures were better than 2011, haha!

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, y’all. All this aside, make sure to take time tomorrow between the gravy and the cranberry sauce to be thankful for the fact you have both those things and more. I am so very thankful to be blessed with family and friends I adore, a roof over my head, a caring husband with a wonderful career, and food on our table…and much much more. I’m thankful you decided to share a moment here with me and I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you! God Bless!

August 2nd Daybook Thoughts

FOR TODAY – August 2, 2012
(want to participate? Visit the Simple Woman’s Daybook!)

Outside my window…it’s partly sunny and I’ve been enjoying the butterfly that has decided to show love to my Parade roses. I always feel like my mom is visiting when I get to see a butterfly.

I am thinking… why must people hold so much hate? Just treat others how you would like to be treated, people! It might sound childish, but it’s as simple as that.

I am thankful… for all the loving, supportive people I am blessed to have in my life. You know who you are, and thank you. If you think it isn’t you? You’re probably wrong. Thank you (yes you) for being in my life.

In the kitchen… yummy gluten free chocolate cake is calling my name.

I am wearing… my favorite over sized, long sleeve t-shirt and cotton gauchos. Bumming it today!

I am creating… fanciful things in my head! I have a few projects I need to get rolling. Namely, a birthday card and a new painting.

I am going… to have to give in and have a piece of cake.

I am wondering… why we can’t all just get along.

I am reading… The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, pretty much because I’d like to say I have read it when the movie comes out in December. It was one of my favorite cartoon movies when I was little. Right up there with The Last Unicorn!

I am hoping… I can just be the best me I can be, and that touches even one person at some point in a positive way.

I am looking forward to… oddly enough, that piece of cake. Haha!

I am learning… continually, patience and tolerance.

Around the house… I actually finished up my chores BEFORE sitting down! Somehow, dishes multiply while you are out of the kitchen. I think dishes are secretly like rabbits.

I am pondering… what to paint next. So many things in my brain!

A favorite quote for today… Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than just standing in a garage makes you a car.  This can go for any religion, and is right in line with Religion doesn’t make you a better person, you actions make you a better person. Treat people the way you’d want them to treat you, people! You get what you give!

One of my favorite things… cat feet. My little Charlie Bug has the most precious jellybean-like toes. Squee!

A few plans for the rest of the week: I want to get a new painting started, I need to put my toes in the ocean, and I need to make time for meditation every day, no matter what!

A peek into my day… my sweet Charlie Bug didn’t want to cooperate and share he toes today. But here’s her favorite nap position!

Charlie Bug decided she didn’t want to share he toes, but here’s her belly!

My First Sea Turtle Nest!

I found my first sea turtle nest on our favorite beach! Ok, so I might not have actually discovered the crawl, or the nest for that matter, but I can still call it my first. I mean, I have never seen an actual sea turtle nest on the beach before…

It’d been a few weeks since I’d had my feet in the ocean, so we headed out to our favorite oceanfront park in Wilbur-by-the-Sea, just up the road from the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse. Of course, Rob had to stop by the Little Boys’ Room, so I made it to the beach first. It was a gloomy day, and we were there around 6 o’clock, so we pretty much had the beach to ourselves.

While I snapped some pictures and waited on Rob, I spotted a section of sand marked off with tape and cones. I’m sort of used to seeing cones on the beach, since you are allowed (in most places) in the Daytona area to park on the beach. The Winter Haven Park area is a no traffic beach, but there are still cones for the Beach Patrol areas. Anyway, these weren’t Beach Patrol cones.  I ran down to see it it was really what I hoped.

Cha-ching! A marked sea turtle nest!! I couldn’t contain myself, I ran halfway up the boardwalk to Rob and started jumping up and down and hyperventilating. I couldn’t regain composure, so I just drug him down to the beach. This nest wasn’t exactly in the dunes (mere steps from the public beach walkover actually) so they had extra cones for added warning.  See the little

Sea Turtle spray painted on the cone? I wish I knew the details, like if it was relocated or what type of turtle made the nest, but I’m just happy knowing there will be baby sea turtles on my beach soon!

We strolled the beach until rain drops began to chase us back to the walkover. I didn’t think that trip to the beach could get much better…then on our way back, we spotted another nest! TWO sea turtle nests on our beach!

We noticed numbers on the markers and decided some of them were dates. One nest was found June 12th, the other June 20th. I hope we are lucky enough to see the babies when they hatch! Sea turtle nests can incubate for anywhere from 65 to 80 days, depending on the species, so I have some calculating to do! How exciting would it be to watch the babies make it to the ocean!!! I think I’d cry the whole time…I’m just like that.

According the the Volusia County Turtle Patrol, our county has 173 Loggerhead and 5 Leatherback nests so far! Woohoo! This ought to be an exciting season! I’m so glad we decided to hit the beach yesterday; I’m sure I’ll annoy Rob every free day he has to return, especially since it’s sea turtle season. At least it’s the beach and not the mall, right babe? Right?

Act of Valor

February 25th was my husband’s birthday. It was his day and I wanted us to celebrate exactly how he wanted. Well, he’s sort of the home-body type, so we slept in and messed around the house for a while. We talked about mini golf, or maybe heading into Orlando for some touristy fun, but then he decided he wanted to see the new movie, Act of Valor.

Our favorite local theater had it, so we headed out to Port Orange and got two tickets for the 4 o’clock showing. If you haven’t heard of this movie, the idea is pretty awesome. It took forever to film because they used actual Navy Seals, and filming had to be worked around their deployment. Wow, right? That’s exactly what I thought. Now, I know a lot of people (especially most girls out there) will probably not go see this movie because you aren’t action movie fans. I wasn’t looking too forward to it myself, but I was sorely mistaken to think it wasn’t something I’d like. Granted, it’s definitely not a chick flick, but Act of Valor should be on everyone’s must see list.

My immediate family isn’t a military family. Growing up in an all female household, I didn’t really have any experience with the military past knowing they protected our country, and that Fort Gordon was more than a highway in August, GA. It was also an army base. Sure, my high school had an NJ-ROTC program, and I even waited on soldiers at my family restaurant, but as for an intimate knowledge of anything military, forget it. I knew my maternal grandfather had served in the Navy in World War II, and I had friends that went into all branches of the service. I wholeheartedly respect anyone brave enough to commit to serve our great country. But like most Americans, I had no idea what that service entails.

Act of Valor has an intriguing plot, just like you’d expect any good action move to have. The difference? This one is based on actual missions. Actual people. Actual men and women putting themselves in harms way to protect my freedom, and yours. It’s raw, real, and very graphic. You will follow a team of Navy Seals as they work to stop terrorists from harming Americans, on American soil. February 25th started out as a regular evening, but the simple act of catching a movie changed my life.

I won’t reveal anything about the film; you have to watch if for yourself. But if you can watch that movie without being touched to your core, without gaining a whole new level of appreciation for your rights and freedoms, then my friend, you aren’t human…much less American.

Everyone in that theater was speechless. Popcorn and candy was left uneaten, drinks remained untouched in their cup holders, and when the credits rolled? Well, they were few, and ended with a list of soldiers that have given the ultimate sacrifice since 9/11 protecting the freedoms we as Americans take for grated every moment we breathe. People left the theater in silence. I didn’t see a single person that hadn’t wiped a tear away, or somehow looked deeply affected. It was the most reverent, orderly, respectful thing I’ve ever seen.

Of course, being my usual self, I had to sit there for a few minutes and get my sobbing under control. The swelling of pride I had (and still have) for our country’s military is beyond words. The respect I had for our armed forces before that movie seemed small and insignificant as those credits rolled. I was at once overwhelmingly grateful for their sacrifices and just taken aback at the fact someone I don’t know could ever put themselves in that much danger, just to protect me.

My mind couldn’t stop spilling over the things people just don’t get. Acts of valor like that go on so much more often than we civilians will ever know, and that is why we still have our freedoms. That is why I can say and do what I want. That is why I enjoy every single thing I enjoy, right down to the freedom to write this post unedited and uncensored. That movie shook me to my core.

I’ve always respected our soldiers…past, present, and future. But that respect has depended to unbelievable levels since yesterday. I don’t think there will be a day, probably not even a moment of my day that will pass that I don’t think how blessed I am to live in the United States of America. To all our armed forces out there, and their families, thank you from the very depths of my being, and then some. You are all heroes.

Healthy Habits & Family: One Girl’s Take on Dieting Sabotage

     It’s been a while since I’ve posted! I might be 19 days late (I did make a resolution and all), but here I am! Really, I would have to thank Cassey Ho, over at Blogilates.com for spurring my post today. While surfing Facebook, I saw a link to her post How to Start Healthy Habits When Your Family is Not Supportive. Ever the weight-loss warrior, of course I clicked the link. Boy could I relate!

     Now, don’t get me wrong, I have some super supportive family members. Of course, it helps a lot when your twin sister is also on the Healthy Habit Bandwagon. It helps even more when your husband is, too. The problems arise when you have to return home. My grandmother, bless her heart, is one of the sweetest people I know. But, she doesn’t know what being supportive means when it comes to life choices…especially if they involve food.

     For those of you that don’t know it, my roots are Southern Baptist. We grew up showing people, and one another, how we felt with food. Somebody in the church have a baby? Send them some fried chicken. Someone’s grandfather pass away? Hurry up, make up a casserole! And God forbid having to attend the dreaded Covered Dish dinner. (Don’t even get me started!) I swear, every time I hear that someone is out of work with the flu, or might have any other ailment or celebration of any kind going on, I have this knee-jerk reaction to cook or bake something, anything,  to take to them. It’s so bad, it’s even a running joke between me and my husband.

     It’s difficult enough to make any changes to your routine, but when my husband and I return home and have to eat, it isn’t any easier. We both have to really struggle to lose, then keep off the weight. (We Endomorphs got the short end of the stick on that one.) Returning for a visit home is a mine field of lifestyle pitfalls and arguments waiting to happen. And it starts when you walk in the door. There’s always a cake or some sort of dessert waiting. (Of course, we love it, who wouldn’t?) We try the good ol’ “Oh, we just ate before getting here, maybe later!” stand by first. That might help until actual meal time…then it’s no holds barred.

     And it starts with breakfast. I don’t know if she just wants to make him happy, or if she thinks he’s heading out to hand-plow rows all day in a field somewhere, but she starts the morning plying my husband with unholy amounts of slab bacon or fatty sausage for breakfast. Not to mention eggs, and toast, and grits and, and,and…

     She’s even gone so far as to wake up super early and cook it all before we get up so she can then say, “Don’t let this go to waste now,” when we won’t eat her outrageous portions. If, by chance, it isn’t already cooked, she stands close by hovering and saying “You’re going to eat more than that, aren’t you?” or “Remember, you can have as much as you want!” Even worse? I’ve had more food magically appear on my plate as I sit there!

     It doesn’t stop at portions either. I don’t think she even hears things like “I can’t have gluten,” or “Nanny, I can’t eat corn anymore, for reasons I can’t discuss at the table.” Really, telling her No Wheat No Corn translated immediately to I Choose to No Longer Eat Fiber in her brain. I spent the rest of the day explaining the amount of varied vegetables I love and deflecting taking home large bottles of those nasty chewable fiber tablets she swore I needed. I thought I was home free until I caught her stuffing the bottle in my over night bag.

     Like Cassey mentions in her article, sometimes saying no equals getting served bigger portions. Telling my grandmother no over food isn’t easy. She takes it very personally, and of course that gets to me. I’d never want to purposely hurt her feelings, but sometimes, you just can’t help it. Suddenly, a simple No Thank-you turns into a question and answer session, and usually I end up wondering out loud why in the world it’s so damn hard to respect my personal decisions. I think anyone with a Diet Saboteur in their midst has put up with any or all of the following…

“How can you eat that? I couldn’t live like that!”
“Stop being such a fanatic.”
“You’re restricting yourself too much.”
“Well, eat it just this once, for me.”
“It’s {insert occasion here}, live a little.”
“Don’t let this go to waste, there are hungry people that’d be happy to have it.”
Yeah…not fun, is it? I admit, it was comforting to know someone else has a family like that. I’m glad Cassey decided to share her story, because it’s actually a really important topic. Most people I know are concerned, in some way, about their health or weight and, in my opinion, there are three types of players in the game: the Habit Changers, the Supporters, and the Saboteurs. And that extends to any situation, not just dietary changes. I have learned again and again how important it is to surround yourself with supportive, encouraging people, especially when it comes to things like this. Negativity just doesn’t help anyone. Reading Cassey’s story made me even more grateful for the Supporters in my life. How about you?