Monday, April 26, 2010

Giveaway Alert - $250 Gift Basket from Philosophy!

I know that I have mentioned one of my favorite bargain blogs before (Fantabulously Frugal), and have alerted you to some of the giveaways she has had. If you are looking to be alerted to bargains for clothes, groceries, cosmetics, and more - she is the chiquita to follow. I have her on my RSS feed and have to say that it's been awesome seeing the great "shop-ortunities" that are available (if I may steel from the TJX company).

Next month, she will be hosting the 31 Days of Giveaways - an opportunity to win a new prize from various shops both commercial and from Etsy - all during the month of May. To kick off her event, she's starting the generosity a few days early with an amazing gift basket with $250 worth of products from Philosophy. I had never even heard of their products before, but after hearing about a Cinnamon Bun Scented 3-in-1 shampoo/shower gel/bubble bath - I am intrigued. I poked a bit around their site and I think that sometime in the future I may be needing to try some of their lip balm - the melon daquiri scent specifically!

At any rate... on to the contest that is going on at Fantabulously Frugal! The gift basket will include:
  • The Oxygen Peel
  • Makeup Optional Kit
  • Amazing Grace Perfumed Shampoo, Shower Gel, & Bubble Bath
  • Amazing Grace Perfumed Firming Body Emulsion
  • Help Me Retinol Treatment
  • Cinnamon Buns Ultra Rich 3-in-1 shampoo, shower gel, & bubble bath
In addtion to those items... Philosophy will also be throwing in 2 items that can't yet be purchased through their website:
  • 8 oz. Pure Grace Perfumed Shower Cream
  • 8 Oz. Inner Grace Perfumed Shampoo, Shower Gel, & Bubble Bath
So what are you waiting for?? Head on over to Fantabulously Frugal's Contest Page and find out how you can win this great gift basket!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"It's a Major Award!"

You all know the movie "A Christmas Story" when the leg lamp arrives... the surprise "Major Award" that the dad receives. There's really nothing quite like getting a wonderful package when you're not expecting it... even if it is a hideous leg-lamp.

When we went to the 2010 Made in NH expo a couple of weeks ago, we entered several contests at several different food and/or wine related booths. The food was so wonderful that we couldn't help ourselves but try and get a chance to get some free stuff. One of the booths - Zorvino Winery of Sandown - had a bowl for business cards. I threw mine in without a second thought.

Last Friday was a particularly crazy day at work. For a Friday it was pretty non-stop with several random curveballs thrown at me mid-afternoon so my frazzled level was at maximum capacity. At 4:57, my phone rang at my desk and the caller ID read "Zorvino Winery". My initial thought was... why the heck are they calling an airplane parts manufacturer?

Then the man on the other end - Tom - informed me that I won one of the gift baskets they were giving away. In fact, not only did I win a gift basket, but because we attended on Saturday I won "the big one". We made arrangements to meet this week at McKinnon's in Salem so that I could get my gift basket. Yesterday was the day - and boy-oh-boy was it a wonderful basket!

The contents:
  • 2 bottles of Zorvino's wine (Pinot Grigio and Zinfandel)
  • 7 boxes of tasting chocolate (that all indicated what type of wine goes best with it)
  • A jar of marinated mushrooms
  • A jar of marinated artichokes
  • A soy candle (Zinfandel scent) from a NH candlemaker
  • A cookbook made up of all different recipes made with wines from the different wineries in NH

The basket still had its price-tag on it (presumably because they sell them in their shop) - it typically sells for $95! We immediately flipped through the cookbook (man is there some tasty looking stuff in there) and tasted some of the 72% dark chocolate that was included. I can't wait to try out their wines and I'm sure that the cookbook will be featured in one of my Mission: Cookbook endeavors.

What a wonderful surprise that was to win the basket!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Making a Difference with Small Improvements

One of the first things I noticed after we moved to New Hampshire and I was commuting over the state line every day was the difference in the level of cleanliness on the sides of the highway. Where the sides of the road along Route-93 in New Hampshire are relatively clean and well kept, the sides in Massachusetts have more garbage and tends to be more overgrown in some spots. At first I thought that maybe New Hampshire commuters were more conscientious about their littering habits (think Woodsy the Owl from the 1980's commercials - "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute!" - after all, a big owl is right in line with the whole "woods of New Hampshire" thing.

Then a little while later I saw something on the side of the road in New Hampshire that I don't really see in Massachusetts. The NH-DOT has people out there regularly (once a month or every other month) with trash bags picking up the trash. They gather up all the garbage that people lose from their cars or just outright throw out of their windows, put it in bags on the side of the road, a truck comes by and collects the bags and VOILA! The sides of the highway are clean. It is rare in Massachusetts to see this regularly; when I have it has been correctional work-release programs and even then it's on an inconsistent basis.

As often happens when my thoughts wander, I then began to think about how far the environmental movement has come in the last 50 years. If you've ever seen the movie or read the book "A Civil Action", then you know that American industry did a darn good job before we knew better of damaging our environment, and the average American - who also didn't know better - helped in that process with pitching garbage on the ground without a second thought. Since then, there are all sorts of ways to recycle used material into new, we're looking for renewable energy resources, and all the messes made of the environment by previous generations are being cleaned up by the US Environmental Protection agency. Yet, people still exist that think that throwing their garbage out the window is a fabulous idea; two years ago after I had just gotten my car back from getting body work done, I got hit in the new paint job with a Minute Maid juice bottle thrown from the window of a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

My day continued and I had my review mid-morning. One of the things that was noted on my review was that I "implemented many small improvements in the process that have added up to increased efficiency for the business." So this of course made me start thinking about all the small things that we all can do to make a difference in helping the environment (these things tend to go on all day when they pop in my head)... like... not throwing our juice bottles out the window, as a simple example. Just sayin'.


In all seriousness... there are two specific areas that Americans can help in that are pretty normal and/or popular activities that we all do regularly - shopping and drinking coffee.


There are two things that are available now that people can do to make the use of shopping bags a bit more environmentally friendly. They are:
  1. Get some reusable shopping bags - and remember to take them out of your car when you use them. Not only do you cut down on the number of those wonderful "these are not a toy" plastic bags that don't biodegrade - there are many of them available for people with all sorts of fashion sense. You can get bags from your favorite store, homemade ones, or just some pretty darn stylish ones. Some of them even support causes - the ones I got from Shaw's are pink and support Breast Cancer Research.
  2. A lot of grocery stores have a repository now at the entrance of the store that you can return your used plastic bags to be recycled. I'm assuming they're just made into more grocery bags... but it's certainly a better alternative to having hoodlums light them up over campfires and make popping noises. Or throwing them away so they accumulate in a landfill someplace.
Me? I opt for the reusable shopping bags; admittedly I sometimes forget to take them out of the car, so then I try to remember to catch the bagger and say paper... but sometimes I miss that too. But I do indeed prefer the reusable bags to the bags the store provides. Right now I have a whole bunch of them from various places. They fit a ton of food and most of them are made pretty sturdy. If you get them from your grocery store they're usually only a couple of dollars, but if you're looking for something more stylish and fancy - why not also support handmade goods artists and get one on Etsy?

Other things you can do to help the enviroment - keep an eye for your favorite stores' flyers & sales to be sent to your email (Bath & Body Works, Kohls, and a lot of grocery stores do this). Do you use your credit or debit card to shop? If you do - why not convert to paperless statements? You'll be saving lots of trees!


There are a few different things with coffee or other hot beverages that you can do that are easy and are great ways to take steps towards helping the environment.
  1. Reusable coffee mugs. This might seem like an obvious one - but it's amazing how obvious it is not. As Americans we value convenience, and there's nothing more convenient than someone else providing things for you. However, we generate a lot of garbage every year in hot beverage cups alone. Starbucks is doing a promotion today where everyone who brings in a reusable travel mug will get a free cup of brewed coffee. They are also encouraging people to take a pledge to use reusable mugs rather than standard paper mugs. Let's say I got my one cup of coffee every day from Starbucks. If I did that and switched to using my own mug - I would save 7 trees every year. If 10 people did that - 70 trees every year. I use my own mug every day at work rather than the styrofoam cups my company provides. I would like to start remembering to keep a clean travel mug in the car incase I want coffee when I'm out. See? Simple, easy... and can be stylish if you get the right mug!
  2. Reusable coffee cup sleeves. I have to admit that I love those stupid cardboard sleeves that are available to slip over my cup and keep my hand from burning or freezing. These are another item that are made in a reusable format and are small enough to keep in your car, pocket, or purse. Not that I love to promote handmade goods or anything, but there are a large variety available on Etsy. One of these years I'm going to crochet one for myself - I made one once for a swap and it was super easy!
  3. Do you garden? Did you know that used coffee grounds make great compost for your flower beds? Starbucks will often have grounds available at their shops for their patrons to take for free (or at least they used to, and I'm sure if they don't immediately they might if you talk to the manager). If you don't take it - it will just get thrown away, so you might as well ask. My guess is that your local coffee shop owner would be willing to do the same, so if you have an in - talk up the manager and ask.
That's all I have for now that I can think of... but I encourage everyone to think of different small ways that you can help out the environment. Maybe you'll bike or walk somewhere instead of drive, start to bring your lunch in reusable containers - the possibilities are endless!

What do you do daily to add your small part in to helping our planet?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mission Cookbook: Risotto with Acorn Squash

I don't usually do two posts in one day, but I am so excited about what I made for this round of Mission: Cookbook that I just couldn't wait.

Friday night while we were hanging out, I told Steve to go ahead and pick out a cookbook. He asked what course I was aiming for and I responded that it would all depend on what cookbook he picked out. He headed to the shelf and within two seconds had chosen the orange volume that I have been secretly afraid of - Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook. This was one of two cookbooks we got for our wedding and my first glance through the book did a great job of intimidating me. Words like "cuttlefish" and "squid ink" made my throat close up and my heart beat a few extra times.

However, I wanted to hold true to my end of the bargain that I would choose a recipe from whatever book he picked. I laid on the floor and flipped through the 327 recipes that the book offers; as I perused the selection I became less intimidated and realized that while there are at least 100 recipes I have no interest in ever making - there are plenty that I am quite capable of whipping up. After about 30 minutes or so of deliberation and indecision, I chose the Risotto with Acorn Squash (found on page 148).

There were a couple of things that I learned as I went through the process of cooking the meal.

1. Risotto is easy! I have always been afraid to attempt to make risotto because I was worried I would screw it up. How could these little grains of rice POSSIBLY absorb all that liquid?? Well, what I learned last week when I made the rice cream was that it's extremely possible for arborio rice to absorb a ton of liquid. Also - I made sure to read the recipe properly; yes, it called for 8 cups of chicken broth - but it also said to cook the rice until it was tender and creamy but still "al dente". I kept a spoon on hand to test the rice when I was about halfway through the stock - and that's about all it needed. Ta da!

2. Plan ahead to peel an acorn squash. I looked at the squash. I knew it had these little indentations all around the edges. But do you think that I allowed myself enough time in my planning to account for peeling the skin from these edges - nope. Dinner was a little bit later than I wanted it to be as a result. But it was well worth the wait.

The recipe called for homemade chicken stock and referenced some page in the book to see how to make it. However, I am not one of much time - so I "cheated" and bought some boxed stock. I don't feel that the recipe suffered for it. I think if I were to make it again I would be diligent about getting the low-fat low-sodium stock. Also, I am not entirely comfortable dumping a quarter cup of butter into anything I cook - even if I am spreading it across six servings (the book called for 4, but we felt like it made a ton so I spread it to six). I would do it again - but it was something that made me cringe a bit.

This was my favorite of the Mission: Cookbook endeavors that I have tackled so far. I served it up with some sautéed asparagus and it made a great little meal. Steve said it was an excellent dish, and we both agreed that for having some pretty simple ingredients was surprisingly complex. I would easily make this again either for just us to have for dinner or if we were having people for company. Delicious!

Ham & Sweet Potatoes

Friday night for dinner I made a ham dinner for Steve & I. It was really a pretty basic meal - ham, potatoes, and peas - but I used my thinking cap to come up with two different "recipes". While I'm sure there are tons of ideas/recipes on the interwebs for both of the things I made, these I did without consulting that or a cookbook.

First things first...

Grill Pan Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients (Serves 1):
- 1 large sweet potato
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (in small bowl or cup - for brushing)
- Cinnamon, nutmeg, & paprika (to taste)

- Cut the sweet potato into 1/2-inch discs (skin-on) and par-boil (bring to boil and cook until fork-tender, about 7 minutes).
- Heat the grill-pan over medium-high heat.
- Drain the potatoes and place on grill pan. Brush with vanilla extract and sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, and paprika.
- Cook for about 5 minutes, then flip and repeat the flavor-adding on the other side.
- Cook for about 5 more minutes, flip and cook for 2 minutes, then flip & cook for 2 minutes again.
- Remove from heat. Serve with a dipper of warm maple syrup.

Those were for Steve since I am not a big sweet potato fan, and he said that they were pretty good. I made myself a regular potato in the same way (par-boil and on the grill pan), but just used a McCormick spice blend I had in my cabinet.

Of course, with only two of us there were plenty of ham leftovers. Having never made one before, I decided to try my hand at a ham salad for sandwiches during the week (waste not, want not right?).

Leftover Ham Salad

Ingredients (Serves 8):
- Roughly 1 pound leftover ham
- 1 tbsp of your favorite mustard
- 3 tbsp of your preferred mayonaisse
- 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste

- Put all ingredients in food processor. Combine until it looks like ham salad.
- Store in air-tight container in refrigerator. Serve on your favorite bread with your favorite sandwich side.

These are simple recipes that can easily be added into a weekly rotation. The sweet potato will go with just about anything and with hams available in smaller portions these days it's easy to get something that won't dwarf the Christmas ham. I'm looking forward to enjoying my sandwich today!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The 2010 "Made in NH" Expo

Every so often I hear about some inexpensive event going on that I'm curious about. Sometime early last week I caught wind of the "Made in NH" expo which apparently is in its 15th year. For less than $10 per person, the prospect of checking out all sorts of locally made products seemed like a great way to spend part of a Saturday. I printed out the exhibitor list, brought it home, and easily sold Steve on the idea of going.

We arrived at the Radisson in Manchester's Expo Center about 10:45 and it was already pretty busy. There was a steel drum band playing in the background which of course made us smile a bit. After a pit stop at the bathroom (where the sampling of local products started early as the soap and lotion in there were from vendors at the expo) we started to make our way around the room. There were SO MANY tables to stop and check out merchandise! Since we were standing in front of our two favorite NH restaurants - T-Bones and The Common Man - we decided that would be a great starting point.

As we made our way through the dozens of booths set up throughout the room, we were amazed at how many great companies have taken root in New Hampshire. Some of them we had heard of before (like Camp Mix Spices and Crazy Camel Dessert Hummus). We tried samples from lots of different vendors - pulled pork, BBQ sauces, soup, whoopie pies, cookies, bread, jams, various condiments, maple products, tea, soda - there were so many things to see and try that it truly was as they billed it: a "try it & buy it" event. There wasn't just food available - many local artisans had their products for sale and there were several local non-profit and media organizations showing what they offered as well. For New Hampshire consumers looking to buy local products, this expo is a great opportunity to see what is available.

We walked away with lots of marketing material from various vendors; there were so many things that we looked at or tasted that while we wanted to get something from everyone - we knew that just wasn't possible. It was important to us to make sure we had all this on-hand for future reference; for example, there was one table with great gourmet ketchups and BBQ sauces, but we have so many condiments at home that we couldn't justify the purchase. They gave us a sample bottle with their contact information on it so we had it available.

All the marketing material from the various vendors we collected.
The SWAG we collected - discount coupons, gourmet ketchup samples, and recipes are the highlights.

With all of those vendors to sample, talk with, and choose from, there were definitely a bunch that stood out to us. Among them were:

LaBelle Winery (website) - Of the wineries that were on-site for the expo, these guys seemed to be the most diverse and friendly. The winemaker - Amy LaBelle - spent lots of time talking to us about her product and was very proud of it. From what I could tell, she has every right to be; all but one of the many wines they were selling were award-winning including her unique trio of cooking wines (Jalapeno, Sweet Onion, and Heirloom Tomato). We signed up for one of their free wine open-houses at the end of the month when they have a wine tasting as well as samplings from other local vendors as well.

White Oaks Farm, Inc. (website) - The specialty that these guys were showcasing were gourmet macaroons. We received our sampling as we made our way to the bathrooms, and they were very tasty. They contain no flour, leavening, shortening, salt, artificial preservatives, egg yolk, cholesterol, dairy products, or coconut - which makes these great for most special diets.

The True Nut Co. (website) - These guys specialize in maple roasted almonds. They were offering samples of at least 3 different flavors of their maple roasted almonds that were all unique and delicious. Our favorite was the Maple Roasted Coconut - we have their card. We'll be ordering some of those at some point, I'm sure.

Weeping Willow Fine Arts (website) - Usually at these fairs, I'm not terribly "wow"ed by the jewelry that's offered. I feel like it often times is repetitive and mundane - beads, beads, and hey look - beads. Sometimes the beads include Swarovski crystals - wow. However, this work was stunning - they are handmade glass pendants, wine stoppers, and plates that the artist has hand-cut and melded together in a kiln. There were some pieces that were "landscape" pieces where she had cut the glass to make trees, fish, and houses. Absolutely beautiful - I almost got a necklace, but decided to hold out. After all - I do turn 30 this year (wink, wink).

KC's Rib Shack Barbecue (website) - Being in New England, good BBQ joints are not exactly something easily found. However, these guys were offering samplings of several different sauces (including of course various BBQ sauces and a jerk marinade) that were quite good - and they also had samples of their pulled pork available (you just had to ask!). The pulled pork was quite good (we were too full to buy a whole sandwich from the all the samples we had) and we'll be making a trip to Manchester at some point to try them live & in person.

Fantastic Fortunes (website) - This company makes gourmet fortune cookies with custom messages inside. They just opened in September 2009, but thanks to NH Chronicle and the Phantom Gourmet - their business is booming! We were able to chat with one of the staff for a bit and she told us about all the great ideas for using these cookies she's seen including telling people they were going to be grandparents, announcing job promotions, and of course marriage proposals. They had samples of how the cookie tastes and I have to say it was the best fortune cookie I've ever tried.

Van Otis Chocolates (website) - I would not doubt if any of you reading this have heard of Van Otis before as I know I have seen them in stores. However, their gourmet popcorn flavors that were out on sample today were - in my opinion - the best of the gourmet popcorns available at the expo. Sure, their chocolate was quite good as well (their fudge is smoother than it is grainy), but the popcorn was crunchy and delicious despite having hot liquid dumped all over it in the process of making it. Steve's favorite was the maple popcorn. They offer factory tours right in Manchester for only $5.00 - if anyone is interested in going... (again - wink wink).

Squamscot Beverages (website) - This company had QUITE the sampling of their homemade sodas available for sample and purchase. Their ingredients were better than those found in commercial sodas (cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup and no added caffeine to their cola) and the taste was pretty darn good. The one that we both enjoyed was the Maple Cream Soda - and yes, it made it into a six-pack that we purchased to  bring home.

Saffie's Neighborhood Bakery (website) - These guys had a total of 16 different varieties of whoopie pies available for sampling including chocolate & peanut butter, oatmeal & vanilla, butterscotch, pumpkin pie, banana split, and chocolate mocha. We really enjoyed the samples that we tried and were impressed with the creativity that went into picking their pie flavors (who ever heard of a pink lemonade whoopie pie, anyways!). According to one of their staff, the closest place for us to get one is a local sub shop where they have them available - but since they're right in Londonderry (a mere 15 minute ride away), we could also just go and take our pick of their great whoopie pies.

The Mill Fudge Factory (website) - Admittedly, we didn't get to sample as many of their flavors as we wanted to because the booth was jammed. What we did try was quite good; I tried the cranberry maple walnut and was impressed by how well the cranberry did against the maple walnut flavor that I love in a good fudge. It was only natural that these guys made our list because really - we're suckers for a good fudge.

Knot-Again Cutting Boards (website) - What impressed me specifically about this vendor wasn't just that his handmade wooden cutting boards were beautiful, but that he was willing to chat with us about the benefits of a wooden cutting board. At some point we would like to invest in a good wooden cutting board, and he explained to us about the type of construction he uses, the wood he uses, how to care for a wooden cutting board, and even addressed concerns we have about bacteria growth on ALL types of cutting boards. I would not hesitate to buy from Knot-Again when we are ready to purchase one - they were beautiful and arguably better quality than would be found in a mass-produced board.

Life's Little Pleasures (website) - I'm always a sucker for a vendor who offers soup and dip mixes. These guys had quite an offering of dip samples as well as a sample of their Friendship Soup for expo-goers. The soup that was being sampled was pretty tasty, and we tried several of their dips as well. Steve really enjoyed their bacon-horseradish dip, I liked their dill dip, and we both thought their maple-walnut dip was tasty as well. This was one of the stops where we purchased some of the goods and likely would do so again. In fact - we'll be having one of their soup mixes (black bean & corn) for dinner tonight!

All in all, we had a great time at the expo and were amazed at the amount of products that are available through local vendors. This was a great opportunity for them to showcase their goods and to hopefully get more customers drawn to them. We chatted with one booth - Crazy Camel Dessert Hummus - about places that we thought their product could do well in, so it's also a good way for them to get ideas and feedback to improve and grow their business (I can't believe we were the only ones in hundreds of people batting ideas around). To see so many New Hampshire businesses working hard and making themselves known was really cool and refreshing.

As I already alluded to... we did walk away with some purchases of our own. Not only did we get the 6-pack of Squamscot sodas and the black-bean & corn soup mix, we also got 2 different cocoa flavors, a broccoli & cheddar soup mix, maple beef jerky, apple wine with maple syrup, and a coconut cheeseball mix (not shown because it was in a different bag that I forgot about).

We are looking forward to partaking in what we bought today, and can't wait to keep checking in with the other vendors we saw and purchasing their goods in the future as well.  

The Made in NH Expo is open until tomorrow afternoon, so if you have the opportunity to head over there and check it out - you definitely should. It's well worth the price of admission.

Friday, April 9, 2010

If You...

Steve and I enjoy to go out on dates together. We keep it simple - usually just a dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants like T-Bones or The Common Man (NH restaurant chains, quite yummy) - because while we enjoy good food the part of the date that's more important is just spending time together, enjoying each other's company. It's rare for us to be one of those couples over dinner who barely ever speaks to each other; in fact, we always have some of our best discussions over a good meal.

One of the things that can sometimes happen when we hit a natural lull in a conversation is that Steve will come out with a hypothetical question for us to ponder. You know the type - the "If you were on a deserted island and could only have one book and one CD" or "If you got a round-trip ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go" kinds of questions. These questions are always fun for us for a few reasons; for one it challenges us to stretch our imaginations. There are no limits with these questions so we can always think big and have fun with our answers.

Another thing that's fun about these questions is that it helps us to always know each other as we grow in our relationship. Even though we are one person now, over time both of our tastes and answers have changed. For example - whereas 10 years ago I might have said I would bring "Anne of Green Gables" with me to a deserted island, now there's no doubt in my mind I'd bring The Bible with me.

The other night we walked to T-Bones for dinner because the night was too beautiful to pass up. We chatted over an appetizer and until our meals came out of the kitchen. After the waiter placed down our plates - Roast Turkey for me and Maple Glazed Salmon for Steve - we continued talking and sure enough - the natural lull hit.

"If you..." Steve began as he cut off a piece of salmon. I smiled because I knew what was coming.

"If you were given $10,000 that you HAVE to spend by the end of the day - and you can't give any of it away - and it's noon... what do you do with it?"

I thought about it for a while. I'd buy a new computer... I'd go to a travel agency and get us a week to an all-inclusive... I'd go to New Balance and stock up on the sneakers that Steve really likes...

Steve cut me off. "Nope. That's giving it away, if you get me sneakers. You can't do that. You can't put any of it in investments either. You have to actually SPEND the money and get stuff for it.The vacation counts because you have tickets and it's for you too - but... those are the parameters."


So I thought some more. Everything I thought of after a new computer or vacation was either not worth much money in the grand scheme of $10,000 (new GOOD shoes still only ran me $500)... I could not come up with $10,000 worth of stuff that I would want to do for myself. Gift cards for family members who could use a lift... nope. I was reminded that was giving it away. I really, really struggled.

When I finally (15 minutes later) "spent" all the money - I tossed the question back at Steve. My initial thought was that he would have an easier time with it than I did. I was wrong!

"I'd get myself a new computer. I'd get you a new computer..."

"Nope! That's giving it away! You can't do that either!"

While he was able to answer the question quicker than I did (7 minutes or so), he still had a hard time not doing something for someone else with this "money".

This led me to think about something. We have always heard the old addage that "It is better to give than to receive." There are lots and lots of places in scripture where we are encouraged and urged to be generous with our resources. We feel a sense of goodness in our hearts when we give to others - it can be anything from a large donation of our funds to a small token like a candy bar to a sad child.

It becomes obvious that generosity is in our very nature as human beings. Generosity is part of love, and we are by nature creatures who crave giving and receiving love. God wants us to love each other, and love him - so it is obvious to me that we are wired to be giving of ourselves in many ways. Our time. Our finances. Our resources. Our hearts.

Would it be difficult for you to answer that same question?

If you were given $10,000 that you HAVE to spend by the end of the day - and you can't give any of it away - and it's already noon... what do you do with it?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mission Cookbook: Rice-Cream

This was the first big weekend of spring, and with it came all sorts of plans for dinners and lunches where I did not have to cook. While wonderful, it meant that for this week's Mission Cookbook dessert would be the best option to choose.

I know, utterly heartbreaking to have to make a dessert on Easter weekend.

Steve surveyed our cookbook collection and chose Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs when I told him that our course would be dessert. While he was sitting in the salon chair getting his haircut, I perused the contents and chose a Rice Cream with Strawberry Sauce. This particular recipe is featured in Epcot at the Restaurant Akershus in World Showcase's Norway pavilion and is a traditional Norwegian dessert.

I gathered everything I needed and got to work.

In order to get this ready to go, there were several things I had to do including make the strawberry sauce and get the rice all cooked up and ready to go.

When it was all done and ready to be consumed, I served it in small glasses with the strawberry sauce drizzle. Steve garnished it for the photo op with some mint sprigs I had in the fridge.

The dish is served basically at room temperature (you cool the rice to room temperature and then fold in homemade whipped cream) and is pretty filling. The glasses I used were basic juice glasses, so they aren't terribly big. Steve and I both enjoyed it; it is really a very simple dish and though it takes a while from start-to-finish to actually make - when it's done it's well worth the wait.

We did decide that if I were to make it again I would likely substitute skim or almond milk for the whole milk I used this time to see how it works out. Also, we've decided that this would be good with any variety of preserves to make the sauce - blueberries or peaches I think would be awesome.

Can't wait until next week's recipe adventure!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What's a Turbinate??

After 30 days of antibiotic treatment and 2 weeks without medicine, it was time to head back to my ENT doctor for a follow-up appointment. I assumed - incorrectly - that this would be an in and out visit because I was seemingly all cleared up. Turns out that there was more that my doctor wanted to discuss/do.

I sat in the chair and let him know the success of the antibiotics (no more headaches, post-nasal drip dramatically reduced). When he asked about congestion, I let him know that I have had a little bit but that I've noticed it's not unusual for this time of year. He thought about it, nodded, made a few notes, and then came at my face with a pair of what I call "nose-forceps". I don't know what this tool is called, but I know that he uses it to widen my nostril so he can see up my nose. After asking if I felt congested at that moment, and me responding yes - he said "I'm going to decongest you."

My first thought was... uh.... how??

He did some things I couldn't see, made a comment about making a mess, and shoved cotton wet with something up each one of my nostrils. Then he said "We'll let that sit for a bit and wait to see what happens and if that helps you" and left the room. I stayed sitting in the chair, looking at posters showing the anatomy of the nasal passageways, and breathing out of my mouth.

A few minutes later he came back, made more notes, and removed the cotton. Then he went up my nose with the fiber-optic scope, took a look around, and made some more notes. Then he turned around, crossed his arms, leaned against the counter and began to relate to me what the next steps would be.

More good news for Danielle: because I responded so well to the antibiotics, he does not see a need for the sinus surgery (I think this is what is commonly referred to as the 'roto-rooter' treatment for your sinuses). This made me happy because I generally like to avoid having surgeries done. I also get to avoid the deviated septum correction surgery which - again - is good because I generally like to avoid surgery.

While the good news was good, the bad news is that I do have a narrowed nasal passage. The decongestion that he did was to see how my nasal passages would react to what he did, and that allowed him to discover that I have enlarged turbinates. When he informed me that my narrowed nasal passage was due to the deviated septum as well as the enlarged turbinates... he sensed my confusion and showed me where my turbinates were on the poster (they're bony structures along the nasal passage). The in-office procedure - called Coblation Turbinate Reduction - should take no more than 20-30 minutes, is done simply with local anesthesia, and then I can go about my day. Once usually does the trick to correcting the problem over time, but sometimes he has had to do it twice.

Learn about Turbinate Coblation

The other thing that needs to happen is that I need to see an allergist to address what my ENT doc suspects are underlying issues causing my enlarged turbinates. Even with the procedure, allergies are allergies and need to be properly addressed. I've had a long standing suspicion that I've been allergic to adult cats and seasonal polled, and my doctor thinks I may be allergic to dust and mold as well. 

This has turned into a much longer process than I had originally thought it would be, but I'm glad that I am finally getting some answers about my nasal discomfort. It will be nice to have them resolved and not always sound like I have a cold.