Velociraptors, & Giraffes, & Dragons, Oh My!

Whether you’ve spent years living on Tybee time or this is your first visit to our little slice of heaven, one thing’s for certain: residents personalize their homes with yard art like nowhere else! Sure, you might expect to see some pink flamingoes staked about, and you’d be right. But a flock of pink flamingos pulling Santa’s sled? Now that’s definitely a Tybee-spin on a traditional, kitschy island staple!

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Perhaps you’ve noticed a velociraptor looming to the right as you crossed the causeway onto Tybee. But, he (she?) isn’t the only one! The first one you encounter is frequently dressed up according to holidays and Chicago sports team victories, although is currently sporting swim floats (perhaps as a result of Hurricane Irma?!) 

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The second dino can be spotted on 2nd Avenue. Were they separated at birth? We may never know!

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You might be surprised as you round the corner of 19th and Butler by this shiny, orange dragon. Is he protecting the treasure of the vase next to him? 

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Much to Jack’s delight, there is a replica of this same dragon at the Chromatic Dragon Guild Hall where he took Minecraft camp last summer.

Not sure how you’d access this double-decker mailbox, but I love the clever pun!

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As you mosey down Chatham Avenue en route from Alley 3 to AJs, don’t miss the friendly giraffe poking out of the bushes along the way.

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Further along Chatham, from a giant, blue dragon boat to crazy, steampunk-inspired metal work creatures dotting the yard, this house on the corner of 15th and Chatham boasts a variety of sculptures to capture your interest (and make for fun souvenir photos from your trip!). Bonus points awarded if you noticed the creative mailbox art…you can find the same surfer dude at the offices of North Island Kayak

mailbox surfer  dragon boat  horse-drawn motorbike

preying mantis  wheelie goatgoat and doll house

This version of a Moai may be a bit smaller than the originals on Easter Island, but it still makes me smile whenever I pass it and think of the bubble gum-chewing CGI version in Night at the Museum!

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Tiki heads appear pretty widespread if you know where to look. Here are three you can make a scavenger hunt out of (comment below if you know where they are, or I can email you the locations).

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I don’t know if this “qualifies” as a tiki head, but I’m happy to add it to the mix based solely on their creative use of existing “flaws” to make the mouth and the additional jaunty touch of hat, painted eyes, and random single appendage.

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And then there are the quirky scenes you come across and wish you knew the full story behind them, like who decided to attach this tiny gnome to a fire hydrant (and why!?).

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Let me know if you have any fun yard art additions around your neighborhood that can be added to this post!

 

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A “Quick” DIY Project 3+ Years in the Making

Several years ago, the big house on the corner across from us was sold furnished and the new owners had a yard sale. We hadn’t intended to buy anything, but as we happened by on a weekend walk, we were drawn in. Long story short, we ended up buying several basic black Ikea chairs (never enough seating for bacon club gatherings), a light wood armoire (also probably from Ikea, but having never been to one of their stores, I can’t say for sure), a really nice, wooden futon with a thick cushion and sturdy corduroy slip cover, and a solid pine coffee table. We scored all of this stuff for like $50 cash and only had to carry it across the street, so win-win.

I thought about painting the chairs a variety of bright colors, but since there are 3 ladder back chairs upstairs, 2 of which I have finished painting and all of which need the seats either re-caned or bases measured, cut, and upholstered, I figured my track record with completing “easy” chair projects isn’t too good. So I turned my attention to the proverbial blank canvas of the pine coffee table. First step? Pinterest research, of course. Should I paint it? Upholster it into a shabby chic ottoman/table? Mosaic tile it? Decoupage it? I pinned dozens of ideas, ruminated on them, consulted my mom for her thoughts, posed logistics questions about the project to Tyler, etc. Final verdict? Get the super cool nautical chart of Tybee and surrounding area and somehow affix it to the table top. There are tons of shops and restaurants around Tybee and Savannah who have this same map framed or made into throw pillows, and an acquaintance makes adorable frames, clocks, drink trays, Christmas ornaments, and more using a trove of leftover nautical maps printed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics which hosted several of the yachting and sailing events in area waters.

Last December, I popped into West Marine Savannah to inquire about procuring said nautical chart and they had one left in stock. I threw in an octopus Tervis cup with lid and my Christmas to me/for me/from me shopping was complete.

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It’s #11512, Savannah River and Wassaw Sound, should you wish to purchase your very own copy.

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The octopus is my spirit animal.

With the map in my possession, I attempted to pick out paint samples for the table legs and sides to tie everything together. I looked at various hues to complement the greens, blues, and yellows of the map, finally settling on a light yellow color called “Barely Yellow.”

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Hint: It’s the top left color box

Side note: about 6 months ago we went to a friend’s catered bbq (he “won” it at one of Savannah’s numerous fundraisers’ silent auction opportunities) and we mixed and mingled with his eclectic bunch of hip, in-town friends (hip as evidenced by the fact that they all wore shoes whereas we Tybeeans are always in flip flops regardless of the occasion or weather). We ended up talking to a young couple who used to live on Tybee. Somehow, we connected the dots and figured out that they had been the owners of the house on the corner and we were now the owners of their previous furniture. It’s a small world alright, but, by golly, Savannah is even smaller!

Fast forward almost a year since last Christmas and the rolled up map has been moved from upstairs to downstairs to remind me of my procrastination, and my mom finally held me accountable by declaring that she was going to come over and help me start this project once and for all (notice, she said start, not finish!). She consulted a book on decoupage circa the 1950s (notable b/c it said to use glue, not Modge Podge, which, in retrospect, we figured out was probably because Modge Podge was invented after the initial printing of the book to which we were entrusting our project) and planned to gather all of the necessary supplies so I would have no excuse but to begin and we set a date for a Sunday afternoon DIY table transformation.

Side note: we also decided to test Jack’s science fair project the same weekend, and when he and I headed to the Dollar Store after school for 9 volt batteries, copper wire, and electrical tape, mom’s bright orange car was parked right in front of us, undoubtedly at Ace Hardware amassing the various sand paper grits, glues, varnishes, and other potions we might need for what I was now calling “operation-finish-the-damn-table-already.” So we popped in there first and, sure enough, she had gathered all of the supplies. No turning back now. 

Fast forward one more time (or maybe it should be rewind since I am writing this after the fact?) to a recent Sunday, and I prepped the table by sanding it with a medium grit paper and then rubbing it down with a damp and then dry cloth.

Supplies gathered and ready:

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Seems easy enough…

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Ready for my transformation!

We rolled the map out to determine how to best space and cut it rather than overlap it down the edges of the table top lip.

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I declined the proffered box cutter and used scissors to free-hand cut the edges. Not bad, but clearly done by an amateur with crappy, uneven cutting skills. We flipped the whole thing over and used paint brushes to coat the backside with heavy-duty glue (I would’ve spread the glue on the table and then affixed the map, but that’s not what our ancient text specified, so we dutifully followed their method). Once flipped over, we worked quickly, using rags to smooth it out, trying to avoid creases or tears, and pushing any air bubbles out the sides. Satisfied with our DIY cutting and gluing skills thus far, we took it outside to dry in the sunshine for a bit and then added our first coat of spray varnish. The book called for sanding and varnishing your project like 40 times, but I am going to commit to maybe 5. Basically, however many coats I can get out of the varnish spray can that I have on hand is how many it will get. However, because I can never leave well-enough alone, where we put extra glue under the edges is nice and shiny and the varnish is matte, so I may break down and cover the whole thing in Modge Podge after all. And I’m skipping painting the legs.

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So I decided to cover the whole thing with glue after all. I started with about a 1/4 of it and the paper was buckling and bubbling and I was convinced that I had ruined everything so I quit while I was ahead, figuring that maybe I could sand the newly glued area down once it dried. However, by happy accident, when the glue section dried, the bubbles magically disappeared, which gave me courage to cover the remaining 3/4.

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Argh! This looks terrible! Please oh please of please let the bubbles magically disappear again!

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Phew! It worked. Now onto some more light sanding and varnishing, and reminding myself that I suck at DIY projects and having the patience to complete them if it takes more than, say, 15 minutes.

Here is the finished project in situ (maybe I’ll get around to adding some more varnish one of these days).

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Me and Krypto, chilling and admiring my handiwork.

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Blurry pic, but fully functioning table!

Hurrication 2017

Growing up in the Midwest, aka “Tornado Alley,” we had annual school drills for what to do in case of a tornado, how to use the emergency exit door on the school bus, etc., but raising our son in the southeast, he has a whole different set of weather-related issues for which to be prepared. In 4th grade, he got a day off of school because the sole road onto our island was flooded out by the king tides. In 5th grade, he got 10 days off of school because of Hurricane Matthew. Today, he returned to 6th grade after 6 days of no school thanks to Hurricane Irma. Fortunately for us in all of these instances, our home remained water-free, although with Irma it came up about as close as it possibly could without actually doing any damage. For those of you who have never had to evacuate your home due to a pending hurricane, there is a myriad of factors that come into play before, during, and after the storm.

The first step is usually denial, best expressed with humor:

 

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With hurricanes, you have the advantage of time and planning: because there can be literally weeks before a storm forms off the coast of Africa and approaches the US coast, there is time to prepare. When Matthew hit last year, it had been over a decade since the last storm found its way to our area and, despite the yearly doomsayers who predicted we were “due,” most residents became complacent and believed our little slice of coast to be more or less impervious, that Florida and the Carolinas would always bear the brunt of any storms for Georgia. That wake-up call, combined with the recent ravaging of the Gulf coast by Hurricane Harvey, had everyone here keeping one eye on the weather channel and mentally starting their hurricane prep to-do lists.

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But all that lead time can also lead to a heightened sense of anxiety. Will it hit us? When? Where should we go? What should I pack? And we are lucky enough to have a portable home we could leave with–much cheaper than getting an inland hotel, many of which were already sold-out by Wednesday from Macon to Atlanta since a majority of Florida was already evacuating north trying to get ahead of the monstrous storm. So many people here without the means to evacuate had to be taken to shelters in Augusta, although fortunately the shelters also accepted pets. It’s a tremendously personal decision whether to stay or go and having lived through 2 hurricanes (and evacuated for both), I see both sides. Once an evacuation is deemed mandatory, there comes a point of no return after which if you need assistance, you will not receive it. Obviously by staying behind you aren’t any better able to protect your home from a falling tree or rising tide, but there is something to feeling like you are in charge by acting like a captain going down with his ship. Plus, evacuation is only the first part, there is still the re-entry protocol…it can take days for the all clear to return after the storm passes. We would have wifi, a tv and dvd player, games, books, plenty to eat and drink, power, water, and bathrooms (as long as the state park did anyway), so no complaints on our part to evacuate.

On Wednesday afternoon, I met my mom for lunch at the always-fabulous RAW Ingredients and was amazed to realize that she was still thinking that the Saturday night 70th birthday party she had planned for my stepdad was going to occur. I tried to dodge our evac plans by questioning that my stepbrother and his family were really coming from ATL to Tybee on the verge of a hurricane, but she was non-plussed. By the time we finished our sushi, we had hatched a plan to all get hotel rooms in town for Saturday night so we already off-island for a quicker escape on Sunday and that way we could continue the party at the Marriott post-dinner party. I picked up Jack and we headed into town to run hurricane-prep errands like getting prescriptions refilled, bank cash withdrawal, groceries, and gas. I had about 5 miles to empty by the time we got to the 4th gas station since all of the previous ones had lines around the block for each pump. At Kroger, we threw 3 cases of bottled water in our cart and I couldn’t help but recognize the blank stare on everyone else’s faces as we all walked around in a suspended haze of what-the-heck-should-I-buy-besides-water. I decided this was no time for my usual frugality and comparison shopping…we got a 12 pack of diet pepsi, dr. pepper, the “good” chips, crackers, chips, and granola bars vs. my usual cheapie brand selections, 3 bags of candy, a variety of cheese selections, and fruit that seemed pretty hearty (red and green grapes…guess what we actually forgot to take with us? The fruit!). By the time we left Kroger, my mom called to tell me that she got us hotel rooms but the venue for dinner party canceled. She was starting to realize this hurricane was a big deal.

On Thursday, September 7, the announcement came that Tybee would be under mandatory evacuation order starting at 8 am on Friday, September 8. I was confused as to whether that meant we had to leave the island by 8 am or just start prepping to leave at 8, but there was talk that the highway would flood with Friday’s high tide, so we finished doing all we could to help prepare our workplaces and home, and loaded up our hurricane provisions, hooked our 1963 Airstream up to my SUV, and got the heck out of Dodge. Ty drove my car and pulled the trailer with Jack while I drove Ty’s car with Krypto, aka, the most-neurotic dog on the planet, and we headed inland, away from the threat of a 10-15 storm surge that would likely wipe our island off the map if it came during high tide as predicted.

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We got settled into our home-away-from-home around 1 pm on Friday in the Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park (side note, the GA State Parks website and reservation system could use a 20th-century refresh).  It was a beautiful day, our campsite was right on a lake, and apparently there is no bug control inland to compare to the coast, because the “love bugs” were literally everywhere (side note, apparently they are attracted to the color white b/c my car was covered with them while Ty’s black car, not so much). We created a drink we called Tattnall County Punch: one part rum, 2 parts Crystal Light cherry pomegranate, one part Sprite, garnish with a side of lovebugs.

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Those bugs were literally everywhere, landing on our clothes, faces, food, even Krypto could not escape them. Our reservation was through Wednesday and most of the other campers seemed to be escaping Florida. One site even had a box truck filled with all of their stuff…not sure how they ran power to it though.

Tyler was forced to play Uno with us (I got our first per usual so it was up to 2nd place play-off between Ty and Jack). 20170908_192315.jpg

And Jack got to practice his boxing skills with our trash:

 

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Saturday we drove around the area, taking in the beauty of the pecan tree groves, cotton fields, and small-town quaintness. Tattnall County is home to the Wiregrass Trail and there was a Miss Wiregrass Pageant scheduled for Saturday night along with a variety of other old-timey events later in the month. Vidalia, home to the best sweet onions you’ll ever taste, was much bigger than I expected, and we drove past the “world famous” fruitcake bakery in Claxton, GA, although we didn’t stop. We even had lunch at Dairy Queen!

By Sunday, the storm looked like it was going to come up the west coast of Florida and hit more inland Georgia than coastal, so we were again faced with another evacuation…better to ride out the storm with wind gusts and potential tornados in a tin can or head home? We opted for the latter and returned, settling back into our dark, boarded-up house by about noon. The storm hit in full on Monday and we lost power, so we went back out into the Airstream to at least have some natural light. Then the surge came and our street became a river. We unhooked the trailer in record time and drove through the knee-high water in our yard to higher ground. Side note, our yard is about 90% fire ants: did you know those suckers will bond together and make floating islands? Loads of fun to walk through knee-deep water AND get ant bites.

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Although the water came up fast and high, it spared our home and trailer and we had power restored by Tuesday night, the boards were taken down by Wednesday, and even wi-fi was quickly restored, much to Jack’s relief. After a solid week+ of family time in close quarters, some of it without power, I was very happy for things to return to normal and purge my “hurricane brain” of not knowing what day it was. Here on Tybee once Labor Day passes, the IGA usually changes their sign to say “back to normal” with the r intentionally backward to represent the quirkiness that is Tybee without the tourists and I couldn’t agree more. Many islanders experienced devasting flooding to their homes so we were truly lucky to have dodged Irma’s wrath.

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Past the Halfway Point of Whole30

I recently decided to commit to the Whole30 program, which is basically a “reset” of the way you eat whereby you forego any dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, legumes (and probably more stuff I am forgetting that you can read about on their website), in favor of basically just fruit, vegetables, and proteins for 30 days. I did a lot of research (and, of course, created the requisite Pinterest board) and felt like this was a good fit for me for several reasons: 1) I like having a clear cut, black and white list of yes or no foods, none of this restricted for 6 days and then eat your face off on the 7th day; 2) as much as I love bread and cheese (and, ok, alcohol), Tyler was going to be recuperating from surgery, so I’d be home for at least a week with ample time for meal prep (also, no time like the present!); 3) they have an amazing (FREE!) website/online community/forum for questions, support, and recipes and, even more appealing to me; 4) they offer an additional paid subscription for a daily email during your 30 day duration. This is great because it details the changes your body is undergoing (I admit to having dreams of sneaking a bite of Jack’s ice cream bar, which they say is totally normal!) as well as providing a link asking you whether or not you made it through the day staying Whole30 compliant (one of the main tenets of the program is that if you mess up, you go back to day 1), which the over-achiever in me loves to be able to check off affirmatively.

One thing I can tell you is that it is a lot of planning and prepping–I feel like I am always thinking about my next meal (and not in a hungry kind of way but more like not wanting to be caught unprepared and forced to eat something non-compliant). I also run the dishwasher every night because I am chopping and cooking so much. But, on the plus side, I have tried/made some new things (I blanched tomatoes and made my own sauce! made vegetable stock from scratch! and chicken tenders! and meatballs!) that I normally would just lazily buy pre-made and not care about all of the crappy additives.

I made my shopping list and started off pretty basic. Luckily, Whole Foods carries a Whole30-compliant bacon, which made my now carb-free breakfasts bearable. Once you get in the habit of reading labels for ingredients, you realize how often sugar sneaks in–yes, even in bacon–but I promise you won’t even notice a difference in taste (as exemplified by Ty and Jack happily scarfing down this bacon; note to self, cook the cheap stuff for them as this sugar-free brand works out to about a buck a slice). For dinner, I went the easy route, and just stir fried a mess of stuff together and served over fresh greens.

 

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zucchini noodles, peppers, onion, and chicken

For day 2’s breakfast, I branched out with zucchini & sweet potato latkes and poached eggs. I used the shred blade on my food processor and julienned one sweet potato and one zucchini, using half for the latke recipe and putting the other half in the fridge to add to salads. I also picked up a pre-made container of broccoli slaw which is great to throw in stir fries and salads. For lunch I sauteed some sausage (again, read your labels–most have added sugar. The brand below from Whole Foods is made with fruit juice, which is considered ok by Whole30 standards) with diced onion and brussels sprouts with a little wilted kale thrown in for good measure. Tyler pronounced the sausage “too sweet” for his taste, but I liked it.

 

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My lame attempt at cashew chicken in lettuce tacos (a sprinkling of sesame seeds make it look more appealing, no?!)

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With the luxury of time on my hands, I decided to try my hand at cauliflower fried rice (bear with me here–you can’t browse food pins or lifestyle blogs without having seen someone singing the praises of cauliflower crust pizza or crumbles in lieu of rice).

 

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Guess what? It was Ah-Mazing! I sauteed some cut up pork in sesame oil with a little bit of Chinese 5 spice powder and a splash of coconut aminos (sounds scary, but a great substitute for soy sauce in any Whole30-compliant diet). I even ate the cold leftovers for lunch the next day and it was every bit as tasty as regular rice.

Once I went back to work for week 2, mason jar salads were my go-to lunch choice. I cut up whatever veggies I had on hand (usually peppers), then added shredded zucchini, sweet potatoes, and broccoli slaw, then spring mix and/or baby spinach, topped with shredded deli turkey (get them to slice for you at Whole Foods deli as pre-packaged types have additives that you want to avoid) and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds. Tessemae’s sugar-free Balsamic dressing kept me from losing interest in my daily salad.

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To keep breakfast simple, I made an egg casserole on Sunday and cut it into individually-wrapped slices for grab and go ease. I sauteed onions and whatever veggies that I had on hand (in this case, spinach, peppers, and my zucchini/sweet potato blend), crumbled in a little hoarded (already cooked) bacon, then folded it all into 8 whisked eggs and poured into a glass dish to cook at 350 for about 30 minutes. I tended to eat this cold in the car en route to work, but I am sure it’d be even better if you took the 30 seconds needed to nuke it. Paired with a banana and/or a handful of almonds, and I was good until lunch.

By days 10 and 11, I admit I was getting a little burned out on the whole protein/veggie/fruit prospects. It was Friday, the last day of school, the annual Beach Bum parade, and I really wanted nothing more than to chow down on the pepperoni pizza I made for Jack and his friends after school and enjoy some drinks with friends before, during, and after the parade as usual. But, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and head back to “Go” without collecting my $200 like in Monopoly, so I threw a pork roast in the crock pot, ate an orange, grabbed a sparkling water (in a coozie so as to feel more festive and party-like), and headed out. I grazed on the requisitely sad veggie tray at the party and tried the pork when I got home out of sheer principle vs. actual hunger. It was delicious! I followed a recipe from someone’s blog that I cannot seem to find now, but improvised with what I had on hand, in this case: 2 cups of homemade chicken stock (donated from my mom); 1.5 cups of homemade veggie stock (sounds impressive until you realize that I literally just tossed a bunch of veggies in a stock pot with some water and let heat do the work); 1 chopped onion; 1 chopped poblano pepper; 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar; a splash of coconut aminos; and some garlic (and, of course, the pork butt!).

 

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It was even better the next day–I never in a million years would’ve thought to put pork on a salad, but this was super good with just the pork, some torn iceberg lettuce, and broccoli slaw (with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds for added fanciness). It was so good, that I couldn’t wait to eat it again the next day.

Then I made meatballs from scratch, which again sounds impressive until you realize it was literally 2 ingredients (diced onion, ground pork) and some spices. Of course, I have the attention span of a goldfish, so the recipe called for sauteeing the onion and then blending it in with spices and meat, but I measured and dumped all of the spices atop by diced onions and just sauteed the whole mess together then added it to the meat without waiting for everything to cool. I served mine over spaghetti squash and the meatballs were so good that I didn’t even miss the pasta!

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So I have just under two weeks left to finish up and I can tell you a couple of things for certain: I am sleeping great (something they say should occur); I am not hungry throughout the day; I don’t crave anything (except in my weird dreams) as evidenced by the fact that I can make toast for Jack and not bat an eye (or find half of it in my mouth like Sylvester and Tweety Bird) or scoop ice cream at Jack’s end-of-year class party and not “need” to have some myself; and Larabars have several “approved” flavors for an emergency. Made up of mostly fruit purees, nuts, and/or fruit juice, they are good to have on hand (for example, early on at Skate Night I crammed one in my pie hole to avoid cramming some of Jack’s nacho cheese and chips in said pie hole) and I find the mouthfeel offers something akin to bread/treats that protein/fruits/veggies just don’t have.

Once I finish up, I’ll post again with more thoughts, recipes, results, but until then, have a glass of wine and a cookie for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attending an Art Fair in my 40s vs 20s

It’s fall in Savannah, which means on any given weekend there are approximately 43 events overlapping and luring you outdoors to enjoy the fall weather. Fall festivals, corn mazes, hay rides, pumpkin farm tours, art festivals, music festivals, food festivals, film festivals…I could go on and on and on.

So on a recent Saturday, we decided to get off-island and take in some of the mainland cultural activities going on, one of which was the Isle of Hope Art Festival. When we lived in KC, I loved going to the annual Plaza Art Fair. We would make a day (and sometimes night) of it, taking in all of the wonderful artwork in a multitude of media, while stuffing ourselves at the food booths of favorite local restaurants to the background sounds of various musical acts on stage. It was the place to see and be seen. I even got to help on the artist selection panel one year as a result of my roles at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Sprint World HQ private art collection. It was such fun flitting from booth to booth, cooly sipping our Boulevard craft beers before craft beer was cool. I once had the opportunity to judge the Brookside Art Fair and was so delighted with the funny photographs of one artist that I bought a piece which still hangs in our house so many years later (and still delights me). The Plaza Art Fair was usually the weekend closest to my birthday, so I frequently indulged in a little “to me, for me, from me” purchase as well.

Going to an art fair with a 10 year-old in tow was vastly different than my golden memories of years past. Pretty much all he wanted to do was buy cookies from the one booth selling them. He lit up at the food trucks, especially Kona Ice, but since we had literally just come from eating breakfast out, there was no “need” for a snow cone at 11 am. We zipped through the fair which was laid out over several blocks between the marina and a small park, visiting with the few artists we knew exhibiting like Kurtis Schumm, Jill Ferree, and Jim Marsh. There were quite a few marsh landscapes that I loved the way the artist captured the light, and one mixed media that had a great low country boil piece with metal cut-outs from Old Bay and Coca-Cola cans among other things. But paying hundreds (if not thousands!) for a piece of artwork when we don’t even have any wall space available to hang something new was just not meant to be. We stopped to listen to the band just long enough for Tyler to get a quick video clip of them before Jack starting dragging us on.

From Jack’s perspective, there were a ton of people with dogs (and puppies!) in tow, so he was happy to work his way through the crowd politely asking strangers if he could pet their dogs. If our mission was to get out the house for a little while and soak up some culture and fresh air, I guess we accomplished it after all.

duncan Duncan Takes A Break by Kip Holm

I’ve had quinoa in my pantry for almost a year and finally used it!

So, about a year ago, I decided to be super-efficient and organized and attacked monthly meal planning with a vengeance (by which I mean I dedicated a Pinterest board to recipes, made detailed grocery lists broken down by week, and was feeling so good about myself that I even created a 2nd Pinterest board for recipes I tried and liked because that’s way easier than just deleting pins that sucked, right?).

I had been reading so much about kale, quinoa, and their other super hero food friends, that I felt I must be missing out on something by not immediately adding them into our dinner rotation. The first week of meal plan implementation had several hiccups in that one or both of us had a meeting or event to attend that conflicted with dinner so the grand meal was foregone in favor of leftovers or pizza or something not on the insanely detailed master menu (in my case, usually a bowl of cereal). And then when I never got around to leaving the island on the weekend to go grocery shopping for week 2, well, it all just went to hell rather quickly from there as many of my pet projects tend to do.

So here we are almost a year later and I still had an unopened bag of quinoa in the pantry that I, in a moment of couponing-be-damned freedom spent $7 on (in my defense, I wasn’t fiscally reckless enough to justify the cost of organic quinoa). I decided to go back to my original Pinterest recipe for quinoa enchilada casserole (compliments of damndelicious.net) and give it a try. Although the cooking directions on the package suggested that I wash and strain the quinoa before cooking, I was having none of that busy work and just tossed a cup into a pot with 2 cups of water. Quinoa cooks pretty much like couscous and rice, with a 2:1 water to grain ratio and you let it all boil and then simmer covered and fluff. Super easy!

20151007_174540_HDR Ta-da! Cooked and fluffed. 

I harvested the last of our amazing chili pepper crop from the back yard, in a variety of shades from green to yellow to red and substituted them for the canned chiles in the original recipe. 

20151007_174544_HDR Paper plates make great cutting boards!

I added some garlic salt, chopped onions, and the rest of the suggested ingredients. Because Ty is a smart man and would quickly realize that this is a vegetarian recipe and immediately protest, I went ahead and added some shredded chicken to the mix.

When Tyler and I lived in KC many moons ago and were not yet parents but just a couple of carefree kids with plenty of disposable income and free time, we used to do things like go to the symphony, art fundraisers, the opera (ok, the opera was my 31st bday present to myself but we all got so hammered at the Young Friends of the Opera pre-party that we never made it to the performance-yes, even dressed the nines, we were classy like that), and book signings (yes, I also used to buy books as opposed to just checking them out from the library, life is funny like that).

On one particular occasion, my mom was visiting from out of town and I had purchased tickets for a book signing event with Anne Byrn, the so-called “Cake-Mix Doctor,” whose cook book for doctoring boxed cake mixes literally changed my mom’s life. Growing up, we never had a single homemade baked good in my home. Birthdays were a time for Pepperidge Farm cakes from the store (and usually a giant taper candle from the mantle to blow out–why waste money on cake-sized candles? It’s not like you had a year to plan for the occasion or anything).

pepperidge farm cake

Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas meant French Silk and Banana Cream pies from Baker’s Square (admittedly, not a bad thing. I wish we had a similar place in Savannah). Mom’s specialties were fudge and rosettes (most of which were given away; again, not a bad thing. Rosettes are like fried dough with powdered sugar, which in the case of beignets is a good thing, but in the case of rosettes, not so much) but never did we enjoy a home-baked cake within the walls of 1531 King George Court. Imagine my surprise decades later when my mom proceeded to detail all of the cakes she had baked for any and every excuse under the sun based on her new cake bible. But I digress. Anne Byrn wrote a second cook book called the Dinner Doctor, which is the book signing mom and I went to. This book taught me how to poach and shred chicken for a plethora of recipes and it changed my life (or at least the way I cook chicken most of the time). So, long story long, I poached and shredded some chicken and added it to this otherwise vegetarian dish.

20151007_180450_HDR Mixin’ it all together…

20151007_182718_HDR  Puttin’ it in the pan…

Then I gratuitously sprinkled way more cheese than the recipe called for and baked it…I skipped the suggested mozzarella and stuck with just cheddar plus a liberal sprinkling of parmesan on top.

20151007_192211_HDR  mmm…cheesy goodness!

Final verdict? It was really delicious (and even better as leftovers for lunch today!), but after cooking and serving it up, I realized that I forgot to include the chopped cilantro (I blame the distraction of cooking/adding chicken), which I do think would have added a unique zip to the dish.

Tyler pronounced it a winner, noting that the “one thing that would really complement the flavors is diced avocado.” Because of course I forgot the frickin’ avocado (along with the cilantro, both of which were still on the counter). No Kitchen MacGyver points awarded but I highly recommend the recipe nonetheless.

Getting a Massage in my 40s vs Getting a Massage in my 20s

In my 20s, I was somewhat squeamish about getting naked before a complete stranger. As a mother, I can attest to having long ago lost any sense of modesty upon giving birth, so in my 40s, my naked-ness before a stranger is no big deal.

In my 20s, I felt completely entitled to anything I could do to treat myself. In my 40s, the thought of dropping $80 plus a tip and finding a couple of hours’ free time for the privilege of doing so is laughable. Thank goodness for Groupon!

In my 20s, I would completely relax, to the extent that I actually fell asleep once despite the jack-hammers tearing up the sidewalk just outside the spa’s entrance. In my 40s, all I could think about on a recent appointment was where did the masseuse get an hours’ worth of pan flute music? Was it a cd? Can you stream that on Pandora or Spotify? Would it be rude to ask her to change the station?

In my 20s, I would relinquish my body to the pain/pleasure of working out the various kinks, the short jabs digging in and the smooth strokes releasing the tension, thinking “this hurts so good.” In my 40s, all that poking and pushing and pulling just plain hurts.

In my 20s, a masseuse was most likely to remark on the tightness of my calves due to my running habit. In my 40s, a masseuse is most likely to ask whether or not I’ve had the moles on my back looked at by a dermatologist.

So I have a new business idea: a combo masseuse/dermatologist. Just imagine being able to relax while simultaneously having suspect moles circled for future removal in one easy appointment, enjoying uninterrupted pan flute music while you do so.