The Great Escape

drive

A week ago I just got in the car, gassed up, and left town. I had no idea where I was going. I had no plans. I had no one telling me to stay or question my motives. But what I did have was this overwhelming and driving need for something unplanned.

So, I packed a weekend bag, finger foods, a case of water, phone charger, and a few camping supplies (just in case I decided to “rough it”). You see, I may have been on the verge of a momentary mid-life crisis, but hey – I’m not lacking in cognitive fore planning even if this was a spontaneous, fly by the seat of your pants escape.

And there you have it. Me, my thoughts, and my beetle hit the road heading north. At first, I considered making the trek to the beach. Sand in my toes. Salt breeze kisses on my skin. Sun on my…”WAIT! What the hell are you thinking?! SUN? Absolutely NOT!” My recently 2nd degree blistered and burned legs screamed at me making me reconsider that weekend option and thus the idea to head north…to parts unknown.

I spent the early noonish hours traversing ‘cross the Georgian countryside. Look at a Georgia map and you’ll get the feeling that moonshine had a lot to do with off the beaten trail routes ’cause not a single road leads straight any place. Needless to say, the drive was peaceful, serene, and as I took in the landscape and scenery, my thoughts bounced from this, that, and the other. I still had no idea where I was headed. I just knew that I wasn’t really in a city mood and since my legs strongly opposed the sunny beach idea, I figured I’d just continue driving until I ended up some place interesting. Interesting, hu? The irony is finally setting my sights on Bristol, TN for a surprise visit to my sister (less than 2 hours away) only to find that she was literally moving back to Florida that same night. Haha! No joking. True story. You see – that little asshole, Murphy and I have been at odds for years and whenever he feels neglected, this is the shit he pulls. Well, Murphy – I’ve got news for you. Sister or no, I’m not turning around. And I didn’t. And Murphy got left in my beetle dust.

My final destination? I ended up in The Great Smokey Mountains. The drive was insane but the sights were beyond beautiful. I needed this drive. I needed to feel free and to sort things out in my head. I needed to recognize that there’s still so much out there that I haven’t explored and not just physical explorations but also personal ones. And more importantly, I needed the time to refresh and renew my personal drive. To step out from the mask of complacency and really take an introspective look at my life and where I want to be. I came to the understanding that we all make mistakes but life is ultimately what we make of it. It’s ok to go off road and take in the sights along the way but eventually, even if it’s the long way, find a way to stay driven towards your goals.

Moral: Sometimes when life has you feeling boxed in…claustrophobic…you need an unplanned, great escape in order to put it all back into perspective.

Drive

Why would I want TWO baked potatoes?

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And…it’s another Food post!  Haha!

My foodie picture addiction began a few years back after a friend added me to a Facebook food group. The whole group is just a bunch of positive folks who love sharing their delight in cooking, sharing recipes, posting mouth-watering pics, and talking to other food apprecianados. So there you have it.  I’m a food groupie! And I’m proud of it!

Summer holidays have come and gone and it appears every summer holiday is an opportunity to BBQ. Who am I to argue with that? It seems logical.  Summer. Heat.  Grilling. It all goes hand in hand, right? Actually,  the beer goes in hand.  The food…in mouth. But you get the point.

Anyway, chick #3 has been under the weather and chick #2 was beach bound with her buds. That means I get to decide what’s for dinner without the sibling bickering about who likes or dislikes what. It also means the food I make will get eaten. Not left in some reused container, taking up space in the refrigerator.

As I pilfered through the pantry and fridge, I would grab this or that and basically make suggestions to the baby chick. And I began to lay out my assortment, Chick #3 half listening, with her nose in her tablet, responded, “Why would I want 2 baked potatoes?”

Seriously, kid?!

Final Menu: Grilled chicken, baked potato, and summer squash medley.

 

 

 


The Day I Lost “IT”

Preface:

This is a Chick #3 original. For her summer lit project, she was instructed to pick from 3 prompts and write an essay which is due right in the middle of summer break. Originally none of the prompts appealed to her because they all seemed sappy or emotional and she’s not really the kind of kid who enjoys writing about emotional things…unless, of course, there’s a little bit of dark humor attached. She ultimately chose the prompt stating she needed to write about something important she lost but still struggled with the idea of writing about loss. Anyway since she is visiting grandpa and Anna for the summer, she had roughly 2 weeks to write this 750 word essay but instead, she sloughed about, moped, and whined about it for almost a full week until I mentioned an incredibly hysterical incident where she lost her temper. By the time I came home from work, this is what she had written. I hope you enjoy… ~S.


 

The Day I Lost “IT”

A certain person cannot hold onto the raging fire of Hell within themselves after taking a beating after beating …after beating from a low life, such as a rotten sibling. It has to come out eventually. And in this case, there was an explosion. I know what you’re going to say,” Aren’t all siblings troublesome?” I would answer a simple “yes”, but that would not even suffice to the situation. This brings it to a whole new level. It’s no longer picking and bickering that results in wearing a “get along shirt”, but to the level of taking belongings and antagonizing each other to the point of breaking. Sounds like fun, right? Well, not when you’re on the receiving end and you can’t do anything to stop or prevent it from happening. As the youngest sister of three, being the target was easier than standing up for myself. However, one can only take so much before snapping and losing “IT”, while taking a baby stroller to a once beloved sister. Oh wait, we’re getting off topic. We’ll get there.

One day, out of the blue, the wretched queen of sibling misery showed up with her posse of guards. Surrounded and petrified, I stood there with a shy demeanor and clutched my stuffed dog, Oreo. As if me fearfully clutching the dog wasn’t signal enough, the queen attacked. While her guards held me in place, Oreo was plucked from my arms faster than I could scream bloody murder. I violently fought to get him back by thrashing around in her-not-so-majesty’s guards’ grasp and managed to squirm my way out of their mealy mitts, getting closer to the queen. As I advanced slowly, the queen glowered furiously and summoned her guards again. Mid stride, the queen threw Oreo to her left and from there, Oreo was a flurry of motion as he was thrown all around like a football game taking up action on the field. Seeing that the game of toss became monkey in the middle and that there was no chance of me intercepting my Oreo-ball, the queen and one of her guards, hightailed it out of there with Oreo in tow. Instantly, my mind concocted vengeful scenarios and I hoped at least one of them would pan out so I could retrieve my companion. I bolted from my spot. Speeding up on them, I tried to conceal myself within the crowd around. As I peered around a clump of passing people, determination painted itself on my face like war paint going into battle. In that moment, the queen stood alone and a chance popped up like a notification on a cell phone. Seeing my opportunity while the queen’s back was turned, I prepared to bulldoze right into her but instead, I stopped dead in my tracks. There to my left, laying a few feet away, sat a glorious toy baby stroller. I knew there was a possibility the queen would move while I retrieved my weapon, so I moved hastily. Time slowed as I swooped down to fetch the baby stroller and then with lightning speed, sped up as I swung at the queen with pent up anger for everything she ever did to me that brought misery. Pain, frustration, and anger flew through me in an instant. Remembering every tortured moment fueled me even further to keep smacking, bashing, and smacking, and more bashing until I was forced to cease fire by a passing adult.

The moments following this episode consisted of me being detained in the “Think Tank” to reflect on my hate crime but instead, I hugged Oreo and felt victorious. Later, when I was released, I sauntered up to the wretched queen and with the most crazed expression I could muster up, I hissed, “Now you know what happens when you mess with me. Want to try again?” Her face went white in terror while she profusely shook her head, “No”.

Being a fairly laid back person, it takes a lot of button pushing for me to get that angry and that was definitely the day I lost “IT”. I don’t enjoy getting mad but the incident marked a positive turning point in my relationship with my sister. She still aggravates me but in some way she also respects me more. And if she ever thinks she wants to take me on again, all I have to ask is, “baby stroller?”

~ O.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Boundaries

These are just a few favorite pictures depicting various boundaries.

Boundaries

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monochromatic

I love monochromatic pictures because they change a picture’s mood so drastically. I used to think that monochromatic meant only shades of gray, sepia, blue hues, green, etc. It can be. However, it can be so much more and the colors can be vibrant not moody.

So, here’s my collection to add to this theme. They may not be the best because I’m definitely a novice at this but I hope you enjoy them.  ~SE

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monochromatic

Weekly Photo Challenge: Connected

When I saw this topic, I immediately envisioned a variety of ideas that could represent this theme.

We’re connected to one another via technology, media, family, friends, and community. We’re also connected to places through modes of transportation and physical connectors, such as bridges. And a person can feel connected through music, song, books, and arts. There’s literally a million ways people or things are connected.

After pondering the idea, I wanted to share what I feel is one of the strongest connections we should have to one another because without it, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect in other ways.   ~SE

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Connected

It’s Hot Hot Hot! Chili & Corn Bread

I’m so ready for the cooler Autumn weather that I felt like making a huge pot of rib sticking chili. Yum!                                       And the fact that chick #3 is now suffering from the same illness I had a week ago, gave me the perfect excuse – ehem, opportunity, to make it.

My chili is never made the same way twice because I always manage to add to it or take something away from it. I suppose it just depends on the mood I’m in. But no matter whether it’s a white chicken chili or hearty meat chili, it’s always lip smackin’ good and it’s the one meal I know everyone will eat without complaint.

I’m not normally a spicy chili gal but tonight’s chili had a bit of a kick to it. You can omit the red peppers and hot sauce if it’s too hot for your pallet or turn it up a notch by adding more of your personal choice hot and spicy items.

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Chili

Ingredients:

1 to 1.5 lbs ground beef. (I also like to use stew beef chunks and pork chunks for a more meaty chili)

3 – 15.5 oz cans of beans.  (I used white navy beans, red beans, and chili beans)

1 large can diced tomatoes with green chilis

6 oz tomato paste

1 cup diced green pepper

1/2 cup diced onions

1/2 cup diced fresh tomato

1 tbsp. finely diced garlic

1/3 cup hot sauce

1/4 cup chopped chili peppers or other hot peppers

1 chili mix packet

2 cups water

Sour cream

Shredded cheddar cheese

Seasons: salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and fresh basil. Other seasons per personal taste.

Directions:

Brown ground beef, chili seasoning packet, chili peppers, onions, and garlic in a large pot on medium heat. Drain meat when finished.

Add the cans of beans and diced tomatoes to the meat. Do not drain.

Add the green pepper, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Mix well. Add the water and hot sauce. Stir everything together, making sure that the paste isn’t lumpy. Add seasons – as much or as little as you like. I added about 4 chopped basil leaves, too.

Let the chili simmer covered on medium low for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. If your chili get’s too thick, add a little more water. If it sticks, decrease the heat.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Garnish with a basil leaf

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Creamed Corn Bread

While I love corn bread, there is nothing worse than eating dry, crumbly, and bland cornbread. And I absolutely do not enjoy the lard taste of cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet. No sir. Not me. This recipe came about as an experiment that spun from making a traditional corn bread pudding casserole one Thanksgiving. It was an experiment of success and I’ve been making my corn bread this way ever since.  It’s simple with only 4 ingredients and it’s very moist.

Preheat oven to 400

Ingredients:

1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

1 large egg

1 – 14.75oz can creamed corn

2 tbsp. fresh diced red bell peppers or 1 tbsp. Pinch Perfect “Roasted Garlic and Bell Pepper”

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, mix everything together. The cornbread mix will still have some small lumps.

Pour mixture into a sprayed or greased 8″ pan. This will also make about 6-8 muffins. Fill muffin tin 1/3 full.

Bake 30 minutes. ( I add 10 minutes to the Jiffy instructions due to the creamed corn)

The corn bread will be lightly browned when done and a tooth pick will come out clean.

This corn bread is more dense than a traditional corn bread and it is also very moist.

Hope you like!

~ SE

Loaded Baked Potato & Chicken Casserole

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This is a super simple recipe that you can find just about anywhere. “OK, Google…” Btw, I love doing that to my daughter when she’s on her tablet. Hahaha!

Anyway, I had about a 1/2 bag of red potatoes I needed to cook up and some chicken breast I had already defrosted. So I decided to try this out.

Instead of typing out the recipe, I’ve provided a link here: Loaded Baked Potato & Chicken Casserole

The chicks loved this so much that they didn’t leave a single potato for my lunch tomorrow!

Bon appetit!

~SE

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Every Angle

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Every Angle

I live in an upstairs apartment with a tiny balcony. It stinks but I make the best of the tiny situation by decorating with lots of color and plants. I love my colorful flowers. I love the humming birds that buzz around me. I love the birds that flock to the feeder. And even that pesky squirrel that’s chewed the feeder beyond repair. Damn squirrel(s). In recreating that garden ambience, I have included a couple of my favorite garden stepping stones, hanging lights, jars fills with colored glass, and planters of varied colors and sizes that include hanging pots, as well as rail planters. I’ve utilized the space nicely and when I lounge on my bright, sunshiny yellow bench, I feel the most relaxed and at peace surrounded by my colorful garden. This is my place. My comfort zone.

Many gardens don the pointy hatted garden gnome or other gaudy and garish yard bobbles such as the freakishly large and obese toe stubbing toad or bicycling yard frogs. Flamingoes are still a thing in some yards and so are the metallic UFO balls neatly perched atop a pedestal under the big (insert tree name here) tree.

However, in amongst the bright pink vinca, golden sunflowers, creeping jenny, herbs, and other assorted plants, sits my garden fairy. She’s not creepy. She’s just chillin’ with a good book and because I love reading, too, we’re both happy to hang out together in our little garden paradise.

This week’s photo challenge was to capture an image from different angles and I felt this little lady was an interesting photo opportunity.  ~SE

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Breakfast Skillet

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Sundays for me equate to brunch, family time, and simply relaxing before beginning my normal weekly trek back and forth to work. This past week’s been a doozy, too. The kids went back to school the prior week so that meant last week they were in full school mode. And to top it all off, I was miserable from having a summer allergy/cold. Not much cooking was happening in this house last week. Sorry kids. Fend for yourself. Hahaha!

This morning, after relaxing on the balcony with my coffee, I came back inside to Chick #3 asking if she could make breakfast. She’s standing there, looking at me, while holding a bag of frozen tater tots and I’m like – what are you going to make with those?

Cooking is always a blast with the two of us because she truly enjoys it and is actually a really good cook. Chick #1 cooks, too. Her cooking is hit or miss though. Sorry, Chick #1. You know it’s true! And forget about Chick #2 cause that kid can burn water. She literally has.

Anyway, this was what we came up with: A tater tot, veggie, and egg skillet…and it is so easy to make!

Ingredients:

Chop up about a cup of your favorite veggies. This creation contains spinach, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. (set these aside)

Add a TBSP margarine or butter to heated pan.

1 cup tater tots or hash browns

Sausage or bacon (as much or as little as you want)

Eggs

Cheese (if wanted)

Seasons to taste

3-4 TBSP water

Directions:

Pre cook the meat. Set aside

Cook on medium. Add tater tots or hash browns to the melted butter. If you use tater tots, break them apart as they heat up. Add the veggies. Keep mixing the mixture so that everything cooks evenly. Season. Crumble up the meat and mix into the potatoes and veggies. Before the potatoes get crispy, press them down lightly into the pan. Make sure to fill gaps because you want the eggs to stay on top. Slowly add the eggs to the top of the potatoes. I try to keep the eggs separate so that I can simply cut sections and serve. After adding the eggs, add the water and cover. The water creates steam that cooks the tops of the eggs. I love sunny side eggs but hate oozy, snotty whites. So I started doing this a while back and depending on how long you cover and cook will also depend on how yolky the eggs are. While I like runny yolks, the chicks like their eggs more medium with less runny yolks. Just before the eggs are done add a touch of cheese if you want. Salt/ pepper/ season as desired.

Serve:

Remove from the heat, cut the potatoes into sections with an egg on top, serve. Enjoy!

~SE

The yolks on you!

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