I’m still standing

When Elton John sang these three words he was conveying the triumphant message of getting out of a destructive relationship. I however, am shouting out victoriously that I am still standing after accomplishing what felt like impossible goals. For example, I am no longer enrolled in school (after completing my masters in Psychology), I have settled into a career I absolutely love (as a therapist working in addiction), and my children have finally reached levels of self sufficiency so that I no longer need to manage every minute detail of their existence.  In fact, tonight after reading through former posts in the early days of my blog I realized just how many of my major goals I had accomplished in the last decade and how much of a cry baby I was while going through that stage of my life. It reminds me of something my husband said to me at the beginning of it all. He said “just wait until you hit your 30′s, you sort of grow into your own skin”. I’m not sure I quite grasped the meaning of this until now. While I can’t say it made me the pinnacle of calm, it has certainly helped me to let more things pass and to find peace in knowing that most things will work out in the end. The question however is how do you help others to accept things they can not change and to work on changing the things they can? Its a concept I attempt to convey on a daily basis with clients I see. For me it comes down to the old cliche, hind site is 20/20.

Who runs this joint?

crickets chirpingWhen you’ve all but abandoned your blog for nearly four years the primary questions in returning to it are: “should I wipe it all and start from scratch?” or “do I attempt to pick up where I left off?” I can’t say I have the clear answer for that as I value my former posts but many events change in four years making everything seem so out of date. In the past four years I have completely had a change of professions, I am no longer in school, and my children are in considerably different stages of life. Still the original posts that got me started here at Party of Five are like looking through old photo albums so stay they will. From here on out however I suspect there will be a minor change in climate as I begin to integrate new subjects based on family, therapy, and eating healthier.

Grilled Fish Tacos

We are on a mission in the Riley house to eat healthier. One of the first things that had to go was fried foods (we’ll mourn later). Since one of my favorite meals to make is fish tacos (batter fried of course) I decided tonight to make a few revisions to the meal to healthify it. First to change was the sauce. No more mayonnaise or sour cream. Instead I blended up an avocado with jalapeno, cilantro, lime, onion, and a tablespoon of white vinegar (plus a teensy bit of water and salt).

The next big step was to skip over using beer batter, and to grill the lightly seasoned fish. Of course since the grill was already hot it was perfect to toss the tortillas on allowing for warm soft tortillas without frying them in oil.

While the fish is cooking toss up some cabbage salsa (cilantro, tomato, cabbage, sweet onion, and lime).

Aww, the fish is done (its tilapia by the way).

There you have it, fish tacos healthified. Nothing fried or saturated in fats.

 

Quick Low Carb Pizza

Last night for the fun of it we decided to make dinner as a family. Of course whats funner than letting the little (and not so little) ones put together their own pizza. There’s nothing like flour and cheese all over the place to make the kiddos happy. However pizza is hardly healthy eating. In an attempt to make it a bit lower in carbs and lower fat I picked up light mozzarella cheese and substituted steak tomatoes for the crust. Wow, talk about delicious. I am not even a tomato lover but these babies were to die for. Meanwhile I saved about 400 calories and over 70g of carbs with this simple substitution and it took only about 5 minutes to assemble. Let me know what you think if you give it a whirl.

No Crust Pizza

Ingredients:

Large tomato
Pepperoni
Marinara Sauce of your choice
Mozzarella cheese
Italian seasonings

Directions:

Cut tomato in approximately 1/4 inch slices.

Smooth 2T of marinara sauce atop the tomato slices.

Top with grated mozzarella and pepperoni and finish with sprinkles of garlic salt and basil.

Bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees or 12 minutes under the broiler set on high.

As pictured here 2 Slices made with Ragu traditional sauce & reduced fat mozzarella (1.5 oz):

Calories 226; Fat 13; Carbs 8.85; Fiber 2; Protein 17; Weight Watchers Points Plus: 5.5

 

My Valentine

String of heartsValentine’s Day is getting close so I feel inclined to share three of the sweetest things my wonderful husband has ever done for me. In no particular order here they are:

Most thoughtful: As a few of you know I had lap-band surgery nearly two years ago. Part of the process involves going on a pure liquid diet for three days pre-op, then another five days post surgery. There’s more, but in a nutshell the last real meal you eat before Weight loss surgery becomes known as “The Last Supper” because not only will you not eat anything semi normal for weeks to come, you will never eat the same again. This wasn’t something I whined about to my husband because I was still trying to keep him on board with the process and didn’t want to utter a teensy complaint about it given that it took me a year to get his support as it was. So, four days before my surgery he surprises me with a baby sitter and sweeps me off my feet for a long drive giving me no clues as to where we were going. Two hours later we arrived at the front door of Ruth’s Chris, the best steakhouse ever. He said he wanted my last meal to be the best.

Most creative: Damien has never really caught on to buying jaw dropping gifts. In fact in the early years he didn’t buy them at all. Not entirely his fault since we have almost always been on a mega tight budget and we share a bank account, but he has been in the dog house once or twice regardless. Last year however on my birthday (which also falls on or within days of Mother’s Day) Damien got super creative and took me to Big 5 to pick out my own gift. If you are confused, so was I… at first. But he soon explained that my gift was to spend time with me, in the form of playing tennis together. We picked out rackets and headed to a court for my birthday…it was awesome.

Most Spontaneous: Damien and I hit it off very early. In a matter of three weeks we had a huge list of dates we had been on, including dinners, movies, meeting parents, Disneyland and more. However in our fourth week we ended up on the road to San Diego heading out to Sea World. I had never been, so it was a very magical trip, however I would have never guessed what was to come next. On the drive home we had this mad idea to get married and have a baby. So sure enough, after an official proposal, four weeks later we met at the alter and began our wild adventure toward the Party of Five. I’m not sure he will ever top the spontaneity of proposing one month in and pushing for a wedding 30 days later, but the best may be still yet to come.

Free Time @ Lunch Time

I have been making a major concentrated effort lately to keep up on housework over the weekends (something I am generally not very good at). That way when I get calls to sub during the week I don’t end up overwhelmed or living in chaos. Today however I chose not to take a job since I have a temperamental head cold. With the laundry, shopping, and meal planning done I had nothing to do but sit around and get better. A couple of hours doing nothing was indeed great but pretty soon Julianna and I started looking at each other like “what’s the fun in this?” So I decided to try my hand at a No Knead Bread recipe, with a three year old assistant of course. The simplicity of this might I add was amazing, but it takes all of 8 minutes including clean up to put together, the rest is waiting (and Julianna was not a happy camper about the “no kneading” part). As you can imagine that didn’t put a dent in my day so off to the next project, Homemade Pasta. I looked the recipe  up just to see if I had the right ingredients and to my surprise it only takes egg and flour, done!

Please don’t ask why I decided making homemade noodles sounded entertaining. My brain was considering it something like this, “I think I’ll spend a bunch of time and make a mess for lunch, sounds fun!”. However since I rarely turn back once I set my mind on something, here is how my pasta making adventure went.

First of all I didn’t want too much pasta so I started with a 1/2 cup of flour and 1 egg (oh and a sizable amount of flour on the counter which as it would turn out added way too much to my dough making it extremely tough and landed it in the garbage).  On to attempt two. Even though the recipe said 1 egg per cup of flour and I was cutting it in half I decided I had better add no more than a heaping quarter cup of flour after failed experiment one. That with the “lightly floured” surface was precisely the right combination. Five minutes of kneading then five more minutes of rolling it flat as flat can be later and it was time to cut the pasta (which was I might say rather exciting to be doing since I wasn’t entirely sure I was ever going to end up with anything that resembled real pasta). Pizza roller in hand…


From beginning to end it took about 30 minutes to make about 2 cups of cooked pasta and really didn’t make the big mess I was expecting (plus  it only took 3 minutes to cook). The final touch was to toss it with butter, garlic, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Oh and the littlest food critic of the house gave it two thumbs up.

What Not to Wear

If you have ever seen the popular TLC show What Not To Wear then you have definitely heard a broad range of advice on which of your wardrobe items should already be on their way to the local Goodwill. Ranging from bold print to lousy undergarments the hosts frequently remind viewers to be modern, modest, and bold but never tacky. I have only seen the show a few times but I imagine they also teach what fashions are suitable for given venues.

Now lets jump off topic for a minute. See I happen to be a substitute teacher. Which means I work at multiple schools in a given week and sometimes I end up at sites where I am not known. Which means I walk past multiple teachers in a day who slap on a smile and perky demeanor for their peers only to drop it as they round the corner. Note: in this scenario I am virtually invisible. I walk through the same office, eat in the same break room, and make copies in the same work room only to be ignored, which I can live with. However sometimes I feel a slight temptation to say to these “professionals” that even though they may have cute shoes, an adorable skirt, and flattering top they happen to be wearing a hideous scowl on their face which destroys the rest. Might I add its not just a scowl that ruins the image, attitude and body language can sabotage a perfect look as well. So here’s the point. Don’t frump around sporting a nasty frown. Stand tall, don a smile, and say hello to strangers even if it kills you.

Thursday Thirteen: Favorite Sounds

Piano1. “Night-Night“: One of the most calming parts of my day is when these words are finally uttered by my kids.

2. “Lets go“: I love getting out of the house.

3. Lively music: Having waitressed for 11 years, I found myself driving to work with a scowl on my face way too often. Instead I would play my favorite tunes to lift my spirits. It still works! No matter what my mood, upbeat music always makes it better.

4. “Mommy!” (when said with enthusiasm) Mostly the girls call out for Daddy, but when I hear them call out for me I LOVE it!

5. Live Piano: When Damien first brought home his childhood piano I thought it would make a nice addition to our decor, but I never knew I would love hearing him play it so much. It is very relaxing.

6. “I Love You!” Who could get tired of hearing this?

7. Laughing: One of the best sounds ever, esp. when it is kids.

8. The final “schools out” bell of the day…awww sweet harmony!

9. Silence: This is actually quite the opposite of sound, but it tops the list anyways.

10. Running water (like rivers and streams)

11. Holiday Jingles: As soon as the time of year comes when they start playing Xmas music it starts to feel so magical.

12. Rustling Leaves: No explanation, just love it!

13. Anthony Hopkins & Morgan Freeman: These guys could turn the “books on tape” market in to a multi million dollar business with their calming voices.

"I get to play all by myself"

The first four years of his life, my oldest was an only child. Luckily we lived right next door to two of his cousins so playmates were close by.  Still though friends go home, and he was left all by himself. To this day we tease him about trying to bribe  them with candy to stay and play,  and when that didn’t work, throwing himself in front of the door screaming so that they couldn’t possibly get out. Oh the life of an only child in a single parent house can be a touch lonely.

Now, however, our home situation is very different. There are five of us, two adults for the entertaining, and three kids to keep each other busy. The youngest Riley doesn’t quite view this as a positive though. She never gets anything to herself, and has to share everything. Given that I was the youngest of three I feel like I can relate to her frustrations, but afterall she is only two so their isn’t much I can explain to her as of yet.

For all that, times are changing. See the big sister just started school. So now, when mom isn’t working, all attention is on her. The first day all by herself she was pampered with a manicure, pedicure, and haircut (thanks to a good friend). Now today is day two. She got to pick the cartoon, has all the toys to herself, doesn’t have to cut the banana in half (which I learned was apparently a very exciting thing), and is getting ready to go out to run errands with mom…all by herself. Out of the blue she said with more enthusiasm then I have seen in a while “I get to play all by myself” (to which I replied) “is that a good thing?”…”uh HUH!”

One thing for sure, her demeanor is very different, from the aggressive child who screams and shouts when big brother and sister are home to a reasonable one who is almost serene when they are gone. Poor thing just needed to get some time to herself.

Live for the Moment

cartwheels in the surfI was stumbling today when I found a quote that read “the best things in life aren’t things”. I instantly thought of how true the statement was, since as I see it the best things in life are moments. Moments we spend with family, friends, and even strangers. So why do we focus so adamantly on obtaining “things”?

As a society we strive to have the best house on the block, drive the finest car, or show off our newest purchases. Yet year after year these items fade, get older, and stop being exciting to show off. So what do we do? We get more things to show off. It seems like such a silly practice when in the long run we hardly remember our loved ones for what they owned. We remember the times we spent with them and how happy we were when we were with them. We remember the moments.

Yet here I sit writing this thinking about how infrequently I invite others over because my lawn is all weeds, or because the furniture is worn and the pool is missing tiles. I certainly do not want to be remembered for the car I drove, nor for having the biggest television set, but for being friendly, and willing to adapt. Don’t most people want the same? We hear this message in sermons, in music and find it spliced into movie scripts. It really shouldn’t take much thought to put into practice, but it simply does not come naturally for most. When you think about it, it takes far less effort to put experiences before objects.  So the challenge for myself and for you is to stop being concerned with surroundings and things, but to live for the moment.