Friday, August 31, 2018

Going to the Chapel...

...and we're gonna watch my niece get married!

It's here! Wedding weekend!! Queen B headed down to Petticoat Junction yesterday and has already reported on the current status of the wedding venue (it sounds lovely). She managed to arrive without a flat tire, which makes our family 1 for 2 in successful attempts at reaching the site. Hugh and I are hoping to make it 2 for 3 later this morning.

I'm basically prepared for the trip; I have my camera gear packed and ready to go, which, is really the most important thing, when one considers the fact that I am responsible for documenting the day for the bride and groom to look back over the rest of their natural lives. But, no pressure or anything.

All nervousness aside (mine obviously, I'm sure the bride and groom are cool as cucumbers about the whole deal), I am really looking forward to seeing my sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other far-flung relatives who are making the journey for the wedding. I love these kinds of events and it has been a really long time since our family has had one (this is a HUGE departure from my childhood, when some member of our large extended family was getting married on the regular).

Labor Day weekend weddings are a Friday favorite, for sure (try saying that five times, fast); Hugh and I had one ourselves, 25 years ago, and, I'm so excited to share this experience with the Rodeo Princess and her fella.

Happy Friday, y'all!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What's Up Wednesday

Again this month, I am linking up with Sheaffer, Mel, and Shay to answer that age-old question "What's up?"

What I'm Eating

Lately, we have been eating allll the yellow zucchini that my garden is producing, and, friends? It has been a lot of yellow zucchini.

ONE day's haul...not even kidding.

Luckily, I discovered a new recipe for the vegetable, which has made it a lot easier to get it down.

Cheddar Zucchini,mm, good!

And, speaking of vegetables, my garden has also been going crazy with the tomatoes, which has made for a lot of opportunities to eat Caprese salads, Margherita pizzas, and marinated tomatoes around these parts. We are also grilling anything that can possibly be grilled, including local peaches, which, in my opinion, is the only way to eat a peach.

What I'm Reminiscing About

The Cub is safely back in Hawaii, and, despite the recent threat of a hurricane, he and his roommates have settled in well. I'm jealous; this time last year, we were in Hawaii with him, and, this year, he's doing it all on his own. Mostly, though, I'm thinking back on the awesome luau that we threw for him and his friends before they all left for school last year; that was a hell of a party.

What I'm Loving

I'm loving the slightly cooler temperatures and looking forward to taking my daily run back into the park, rather than on a treadmill.

What I've Been Up To

Work, play, procrastinating around actually holding the yard sale that I keep saying I need to have...

What I'm Dreading

...having that yard sale that I keep saying I need to have.

What I'm Working On

I have several Trashformation Thursday projects that I am in various stages of working on, and a few that I have finished, including refinishing a couple of old windows and an antique frame. I plan to use the old window as a picture frame alongside a set of shutters that I picked up recently at Michael's BOGO sale, and I used the frame at the Rodeo Princess's shower earlier this month.

I love how it turned out.

What I'm Excited About

I'm excited for the weekend! 

What I'm Watching/Reading

One huge bonus of having Fridays off this summer has been all of the free time that I've had for reading, and, I've certainly made good use of it.

From AmazonJan needs this. She’s flying to Crete to reunite with friends she met there five years ago and relive an idyllic vacation. Basking in the warmth of the sun, the azure sea, and the aura of antiquity, she can once again pretend—for a little while—that she belongs. Her ex-boyfriend Marcus will be among them, but even he doesn’t know the secrets she keeps hidden behind a veil of lies. None of them really know her, and that’s only part of the problem.
Then again, how well does she know them?
When Jan awakens in utter darkness, chained to a wall, a manacle around her wrist, her echoing screams only give her a sense of how small her cell is. As she desperately tries to reconstruct what happened and determine who is holding her prisoner, dread covers despair like a hand clamped over her mouth. Because, like the Minotaur in the labyrinth in Greek myth, her captor will be coming back for her, and all the lies will catch up to her…

My thoughts: I really enjoyed the twists and turns in this book. I'm not usually a fan of the psychological thriller genre, but, this one was a winner.

From Amazon: Award-winning photographer Ian Collins made only one mistake in life, but it cost his mother her freedom and destroyed their family, leaving Ian to practically raise himself. For years he’s been estranged from his father, and his mother has lived off the grid. For just as long, he has searched for her.
Now, Ian seemingly has it all—national recognition for his photographs; his loving wife, Aimee; and their adoring daughter, Caty. Only two things elude him: a feature in National Geographic and finding his mother. When the prized magazine offers him his dream project on the same day that Aimee’s ex-fiancĂ©, James, returns bearing a message for Ian but putting a strain on his marriage, Ian must make a choice: chase after a coveted assignment or reconnect with a mysterious woman who might hold the key to putting his past to rest. But the stakes are high, because Ian could lose the one thing he holds most dear: his family.

My thoughts: This is the third installment in a series and, while you don't have to have read the previous two books in order to follow the story, it certainly doesn't hurt. That said, I really enjoyed this final chapter of the story.

From Amazon: If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?
Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .
Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?
Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

My thoughts: My favorite! This was a great read. While it falls somewhat into the psychological thriller category, it could also be considered a mystery. I read it in record time because I couldn't tear myself away; each chapter that ended on a mini cliff-hanger kept me intrigued to the very end. Two thumbs up!

From Amazon: American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.
When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.
Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.
My thoughts: This was a great literary palate-cleanser after the heavier content of the previous three books. I enjoyed the descriptions of Oxford as well as the poetry references, and, the romance was both believable and enviable. I had a hard time putting it down and was completely dreading the end of the story-mostly because I wasn't convinced that there would be a happy ending after all.

From Amazon: It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.
But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.
Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.
My thoughts: This one took a little getting in to; the book is told from the perspective of three characters and, the shift between them was sometimes jarring. I felt like the book was written in a style that would be better as a screenplay, so, I wasn't surprised that it has already been adapted into a movie. I bet the film will be great. The book, eh, not so much.
What I'm Listening To

Currently, I am listening to the morning news.

What I'm Wearing

As we near the end of summer, I am taking every opportunity to wear sandals and dresses; this is my current favorite combination of the two...

What I'm Doing This Weekend

I'm watching these two crazy kids tie the knot!

Actually, I'm photographing them tying the knot (gulp!). The ceremony is outdoors, so, if you have any pull with Mother Nature, could you please ask for mild and gorgeous weather for southern Colorado on Saturday? I would really appreciate it.

What I'm Looking Forward to Next Month

Pumpkin spice everything!!! I'm fucking with you. While I appreciate a good pumpkin spice scented candle, I cannot get behind the flavor, I just... can't. I mean, it'll be in everything! Things that have no business tasting like pumpkin or spice will boast a new infusion of flavor over which people will go batshit crazy. I just won't be among them.

What I will be going batshit crazy over will be all of the Halloween decor hitting the store shelves. Because that brand of crazy, I will totally own. #knowyourself.

Bonus Question: What Is Your Favorite Back to School Tradition?

Our annual first day of school picture was always a favorite tradition for me, and, as I posted earlier this week, my kids have kept the tradition alive, even as they navigate the challenges of college. I could not be more proud of both of them.

And, that's what's up.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Proof of Life, the First Day of School Edition

Over the weekend, the Man-Cub survived his first tropical storm (downgraded from a MAJOR hurricane, thankyoulord), and, yesterday, he started classes.

Because he knows how much his mother loves her annual First Day of School picture, and, because his sister is awesome (she made his sign and packed it into his suitcase, just like she did last year), I have this fabulous photo to mark the occassion.

So, my streak remains unbroken, I got my daily Proof of Life, and I am 99.999% more confident that my son can withstand a semi-serious natural disaster.

Not too bad for a Monday.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Recipes From the Porch: Cheddar Zucchini Biscuits

We've come to the time when, following weeks and weeks of zucchini harvesting, I have grown weary of the yellow vegetable and am doing everything in my power to foist it off on anyone who expresses even the slightest interest in taking it.This has not been as successful as one might hope, and, I'm not being even the tiniest bit paranoid in assuming that people are avoiding me for fear that I come armed with squash, I mean, they run when they see me coming. Seriously, they run.

And, honestly, who could blame them?

I had personally exhausted all of the usual methods of preparing the vegetable, including roasting, grilling, sauteing, baking, and boiling (don't try this one at home, it results in a gross, flavorless mush; trust me on this) and was thisclose to pulling the damn plant out of the garden when I happened upon recipes for zucchini biscuits on Pinterest.

After attempting several versions I have finally found one that, with some tinkering, has become a favorite here at Casa de Chelle, and I feel I would be remiss in my duty as a citizen gardener if I didn't share it. Also, if some poor, distraught-looking friend approaches you with an armful of squash and a desperate look in her eye, you will be less likely to turn tail and run. Just take the squash and smile because you now have a recipe that makes it worth accepting.

 The ingredients:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp fresh thyme (1 Tbsp if using dried)
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
5 Tbsp butter, melted


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.

Combine dry ingredients, set aside.

Grate zucchini. Try not to end up with a kitchen that looks like a confetti popper just exploded. Fail miserably.

Squeeze excess moisture from zucchini and combine with dry ingredients, using your hands; try to coat all of the zucchini.

Add cheese and coat thoroughly with flour mixture before adding milk and butter, reserving 1 Tbsp of butter.

Mix, using a rubber spatula, scraping sides of the bowl and incorporating all of the flour into the dough. Dough will be hella sticky; this is normal. Messy as fuck, but, normal.

Using your hands, form dough into balls and place in baking sheet, with sides of biscuits touching. Brush with remaining tablespoon of melted butter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops of biscuits are golden and edges are crunchy.

I find the biscuits are best served hot out of the oven, but, they also store well under a sheet of plastic wrap and can be warmed up in the microwave.

And there you have it! A squash recipe that almost completely hides the squash! I wish it used more of the stuff (I find that just one medium-sized squash yields 2 grated cups more than sufficiently) but, I've always thought it would be fun to sneak out under cover of darkness, leaving zucchini on people's doorsteps and escaping into the night, looks like I may very well get my chance.

Ten bucks says Neighborhood Watch totally looks the other way out of fear that I will force squash upon them if they approach me.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

365 Days (Sugar) Clean and (Diet Pepsi) Sober

My name is Chelle and I am a sugar addict. I have been sober for a year.

(This is the part where you all say "Hi, Chelle!" and nod your heads knowingly and with great empathy)

My addiction encompassed sugar in many, many forms. In fact, I would be hard pressed to identify any form of sugar that I didn’t love: candy, cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, donuts, pastries, frosting…you name it, I loved it.


It was in no way unusual for me to polish off an entire sleeve of Girl Scouts Thin Mints, with an ice cream chaser. I could plow through the mega-pack of Cadbury Mini Eggs (I’m talking Sam’s Club MEGA PACK) in two sittings. Donuts? Why stop at one when you can enjoy half a dozen? Especially if they are frosted with pink icing and a generous dusting of sprinkles; the same of which could be said for cupcakes (Oh, red velvet, you were my favorite).

Sweet treats were a staple in my home as well as in a cabinet in my office, and the center console in my car. I’m almost embarrassed simply admitting that, but, ‘tis true.

In addition to my sugar addiction, I was nursing a life-long Diet Pepsi habit. And, by life-long, I mean, since early childhood, and, by habit, I mean, Diet Pepsi was literally the only thing I drank. You may think I’m kidding, but, trust me; you could ask any of my friends or family and they would tell you the same. In fact, when my girlfriends organized a survival kit for the day of my wedding, they included Diet Pepsi.

Actual photographic evidence of my shame

I can’t really tell you what the defining moment for me was, the moment when I knew that I needed to change, but, I do know that it had less to do with my dissatisfaction with how I looked and everything to do with how I felt, because, friends, I felt awful.

Not only was I heavier than I wanted to be, but, I had a lot of joint pain, primarily in my hands, feet, and lower back. I suspected that the pain was indicative of early-onset arthritis (Mom has both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis), which, scared the bejeezus out of me. I also suspected that my high level of sugar consumption and the chemicals in the soda were exacerbating the situation (this is simply a theory of mine; I have no idea if there is actual scientific evidence to support it, although, I wouldn't doubt it).

So, when we were in Hawaii, dropping the Man-Cub off at school, I made a vow to myself; I would cut sugar and soda out of my diet. Cold turkey. No “stepping down”, no weaning myself off slowly, just Cold. Ass. Turkey.

And, then, I ate my last sweet, a piece of pie from Ted’s Bakery. I figured, if I was going out, I was going out in (tasteful) style.

Since making that decision, I have been vigilant about my diet. When we returned from the island, I threw out every sweet treat that I could find in the house, including anything made with artificial sweeteners (which are also a chemical nightmare). I stocked up on healthier foods, and I started drinking water like it was my job. I do sometimes substitute plain carbonated water for still water, but, more often than not, I’m drinking it flat.

And, surprisingly, I don’t miss sugar or soda. Granted, it took about eight weeks for the cravings to completely disappear, but, they did. I have come to realize that I craved the taste of sugar less than I thought I did, which means I hadn't really been eating that crap for the flavor, so much as because I was in the habit of eating it. 

The benefits of cutting the crap out of my diet have been numerous and welcome: I have very little discomfort in my joints, now. I also sleep better, have more energy, fewer PMS symptoms, and, my skin has never looked better (water for the win!). It wasn't always easy, but, here I am, one year clean and sober.

I never did a twelve-step program, but, I think I’ve earned a sobriety chip. Or, maybe a sobriety cube. Get it? Sugar cube?

Never mind.

365 Days clean.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Hurricanes, Oh, My!

Since the Man-Cub became a temporary citizen of Hawaii last fall, the islands have endured an erupting volcano, numerous earthquakes, and, now, a category 5 storm; his presence appears to be a plague upon the islands.

Just kidding, Cubby; I'm sure the two are unrelated.

But, about that hurricane...yeah. I'm trying not to worry about my son's safety, but, it's kind of hard to do when I am thousands of miles and an ocean away from him as a raging storm bears down. And, I'm not entirely reassured by his frequent declarations of "We'll be fine! We've got it under control!". I mean, I don't think he and his roommates have a cupboard even half-full of Ramen noodles; how are they supposed to survive for up to two weeks (assuming the hurricane hits at full-force, the island loses electricity, the stores run out of food, and the looters abscond with all the bottled water and cat food-not that I am a fatalist by any means, but, I mean....anyone remember Katrina?)?

On the slightly-less-paranoid hand, he and his friends do live on the side of the island opposite of that on which the storm is expected to make land-fall, so, they may be somewhat buffered from the worst of the storm. They will, no doubt, have to deal with high winds, tons of rain, possible flooding, and, perhaps, a mudslide or two, but, hopefully they will be essentially safe.


Gah!!! This is why I require Proof of Life, people!

Anyway, please cross your fingers, say a prayer, toss some salt over your shoulder, sacrifice a chicken, or, whatever it is that you do to ask for protection, the Cub could use it and I would really appreciate it.

Also, Hawaii, I am so, so sorry about the plague of natural disasters; I truly hope that pestilence does not follow behind.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Queen B's Very Last First Day of School

Yesterday, Queen B started her last semester of college. She's on track to graduate in December and I don't think it can come fast enough for her; she's over school, over the ridiculously high tuition, and over paying out the nose for books and student fees.

I can't say that I blame her.

I also can't say enough how proud of her we are (that was truly terrible sentence structure right there; you'd think that I never completed college, myself). She's worked really hard and handled all of the details of financial aid, scheduling her classes, tracking her grad requirements, and generally behaving like a complete adult, all on her own, with very little assistance from us.

She's a great kid, and, as if I didn't know that already, yesterday's text messages from her sealed the deal: she not only made sure that my record of having a "First Day of School" picture remains intact...

...but she went one further...

I cried, people. Real tears.

That's her first day of Kindergarten, first day as a senior in high school, and her first day of her final semester of college. To say I was surprised is a huge understatement.

Am I one lucky mother or what?

So, 114 days until she officially receives her college diploma and Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

I feel a party coming on!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Boom, There It Is

Yesterday, Hugh took Boomer into the vet to have his wound evaluated and we ended up paying $300 for him to be sedated and stitched up. But, he rebounded pretty quickly from the procedure and I was able to pick him up later in the day for Take Your Dog to Work Day at the park.

Spiderman band-aid, because Spidey makes everything better

I hadn't been to the new dog park in Hooterville and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it is. Our group hung out in the small dog area, and, along with Boomer, there were three other dogs, including two purse-sized specimens and another large breed dog. Boomer played well with all of them, especially the larger dog, who is twelve and, despite moving pretty slowly, also enjoys chasing the ball.

Once we got home, Boomer was showing the effects of the earlier sedation, as well as the pain medication and antibiotics that we are giving him, and, he crashed pretty hard.

I believe he will make a full recovery. I hope the same can be said of his attacker, who, I am told, was completely traumatized by the incident.

There are not enough eyerolls in the world.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Weekend Highs and Lows

Ah, Monday, we meet again...blah.

On the bright side, we had a pretty good weekend, despite not really doing anything of interest. How is that even possible? Well, I had a lot of time to relax, which is always nice. I also spent time in the garden, where I cut the smallest of my sunflowers-the "volunteer" plants that came up in random spots throughout the garden and that don't produce large enough seed heads to harvest.

They may not feed us, but they still look really pretty in a vase.

And, speaking of pretty flowers, I picked up my subscription bouquet on Thursday afternoon before I left Day Job for the weekend. But, because I was out of town last Thursday for the Rodeo Princess's shower, instead of picking up just one bouquet, I got two! I am loving this local grower so much.

The flowers look really nice in my breakfast nook window, and, because the arrangements include purple basil, they smell amazing.

Saturday night, Hugh took his brother and nephew out to the lake to do some night fishing (they are visiting from Maine). Earlier in the week, he and the kids had also gone night fishing (they try to do this together once every summer and have done so since the kids were big enough to hold fishing poles), so, we already had more than enough fish...

...but, apparently there are also other "edible" creatures in the lake, as evidenced by the crawdads that Hugh and his brother felt the need to return home with (more on those in a moment).

Sunday morning, Hugh and I went to Neighboring City to pick Mikey up at the airport; he had been in California visiting his dad and, with both Katie and Queen B working, he is was in need of a ride to the house. We were more than happy to help out because it gave us an opportunity to check on the house (Hugh) and to hit the Michaels Craft store for its; BOGO sale (Me, I mean, obviously).

The BOGO sale was AMAZING! I don't think I've ever seen one held by Michaels, so, that was a treat. As you can imagine, I was like a kid in a candy store when it came to all of the fall decor and Halloween items.

Yes, Halloween! Already.

In addition to Michaels, we also went to the Spirit Halloween Store in the mall (while using the excuse of being in the mall to see Queen B at work, which, we also did). The displays this year are pretty cool, and I am now more than excited to bust out my own decorations (don't worry, I will wait until the appropriate, is next week too early? Yes? Damnit!).

Anhoodle, once we got home, we set about making dinner for Hugh's parents, brother, and nephew. I made a few side salads while Hugh prepped pork chops for the grill. His brother's contribution? The insects that they pulled from the lake the night before.


Our dinner was nice, and, it was good to spend time with Hugh's family; we enjoyed good wine and conversation on the porch along with our dinner. Unfortunately,  toward the end of the evening, their dog, who had been playing with Boomer all evening, took a nip out of Boomer's side, which, bled pretty heavily and brought the evening to an abrupt end.

Today, Hugh is taking Booms to the vet for some antibiotics, and, possibly a few stitches, which is a bummer because it is also "Take Your Dog to Work Day" at Day Job and I was really looking forward to taking Booms with me.

All in all, though, it was a pretty good way to spend one of the final weekends of the summer. And, now I am off to Day Job, where I will put in a solid four days before my next weekend.

As an aside, I wonder how the powers that be would feel about me extending my four-day weeks into the fall? It's worth an ask, I suppose.