Whatever Wednesday: Doughnuts at the Carwash


Do you remember when you were a kid? The littlest things made us happy, didn’t they? Like those machines that you put quarters in and get tiny toys that break the instant oxygen hits them? They were fabulous for all of 1.5 seconds, right? Or how about sitting in your room, building things out of Legos or playing with Play-doh? It did not take much to put a smile on our faces. Ahhh, those were the days.

Flash forward to adulthood. Get up at the break of down to drink did coffee, run around like crazy to get ready for work and/or get the kids ready for school and/or both, ultimately forget something, have to go back for it, drop the kids off, go to work, or run errands, then finally get home at the end of the day, dinner, maybe a little time to yourself, and then bam. Bedtime. How the hell bedtime get here so fast? Close your eyes after setting your alarm so you can do it all again the next day.

Did you take any time for joy? Any little things tucked into your day that made you smile and giggle as if you were a 5 year old who just got the toy you wanted out of the quarter machine? No? Well, that’s a damn shame.

The key, as a lot of people will tell you, to staying happy, is to maintain a stranglehold on that childhood innocence and wonder. Pick up just enough common sense and cynicism to function in the grown up world but dear GOD don’t let that childhood innocence and wonder dissipate. Do stupid stuff. Let go. Have fun. Laugh inappropriately and loudly at everything, anything, and nothing at all. Do things that make you smile, often, with people you love.

Stuff like I do with J.

Stuff like what we did tonight at the car wash.

We ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things to finish off dinner. Then, we spotted the doughnuts. Lately we had denied ourselves this guilty pleasure but tonight they were salacious sirens nestled in a forest of sweet treats, begging to be rescued. We reluctantly (okay, not so reluctantly) rescued six of them, planning to take them home and hug them ever so gently with our stomachs after sending them for a ride down the esophagus flume.

After the grocery store, we checked to see if the car wash was open. The past week and a half has covered the car in salt, snow, and other random ick but because of the frigid temperatures, we have been unable to wash it because well, the water would just freeze instantly.

The car wash was open, so we turned in after a horde of cars passed by. Two lanes were open, and we, we chose the one with the idiot. His driver side door was open, his feet on the ground, a cigarette hanging from his lower lip as if it were a man clinging to a cliff waiting for a stiff breeze to come along. He wore a hat, a fedora style hat, and glasses. He slid his card into the slot, tapped the screen, and stared curiously at the screen. One of the employees came over to help him, sliding his card in for him. As we idled behind him, we watched the vehicle in the other lane surge forward.

I evaluated the situation after we sat there for a couple more minutes, put the car in reverse, and headed for the other lane. We pulled up, I activated the screen, made my choices, paid, and moved forward as the winner in the other lane sat there, continuing to struggle with the machine.

An employee directed us onto the auto-fed car wash. As I popped the car into neutral, J grabbed the doughnuts.

“Which one you want? The cruller?”

doughnut in carwash“Sure! Just a minute.” I put my wallet away, then took the doughnut. I squealed like a little kid. Doughnuts. In the car wash. I took out my phone and snapped a pic. There was just something so gleefully delicious about eating a sweet donut whilst hidden in the soapy flaps and rollers of the car wash. It felt so wrong yet so damn good. Best damn cruller ever.

Joy in life is found in the simplest of things, the things we forget how to see when we get past a certain age. Just like Journey advises… don’t stop believing.

And now? I’m gonna have a doughnut at 10pm at night.

Because joy.

Heaven is Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (Oh So Much Cheese)


We just finished dinner.

It was…phenomenal. Fantastic. Deliriously and deliciously divine. Scrumptiously swoon-worthy.

Oh.mah.gawd.

I am sitting here, in shock, to be honest. Why? Because I made dinner without a recipe. Hell, I even went to the store for this without a real plan and ended up grabbing stuff on the fly. I often cook from scratch using just my imagination and it usually turns out absolutely delicious but tonight’s dinner stretched me beyond my comfort zone a bit in using an ingredient in a standard recipe. It was daring and I prayed like hell it would work out. It did – obviously. I had to stop at just one serving because it is the kind of dish in which you could easily over-indulge.

Bacon. Cheese. Potatoes. Onion. Garlic. Breadcrumbs. BACON. CHEESE. POTATOES.

For additional nutritional value, I tossed in a can of quartered artichoke hearts which actually worked quite nicely to balance the dish.

I did not keep track of exact measurements of ingredients but I will do my best in recreating the recipe below because you HAVE TO MAKE THIS and then bask in the heaven that is Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (OH SO MUCH CHEESE). You HAVE TO…it’s a food coma-inducing meal.

baked gnocchi

Baked Gnocchi & Cheese (OH SO MUCH CHEESE)

  • DeCecco Potato Gnocchi (1 pkg made a 9×13 pan)
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 8 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 lb Peppercorn crusted Center Cut Bacon (Or any Center Cut/Thick cut bacon will do)
  • 1/2 finely chopped/diced red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper as needed
  • Pinch Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
  • 2 cups Swiss Cheese, Shredded
  • Sargento’s Cheddar Blend, 2 cups
  • Panko Bread Crumbs

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut 1lbs of bacon into quarters. Cook in large deep saute pan over medium heat until crispy, place in a bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb fat. Let drain. Set pan aside. (If you’re the drinking sort – you can save the bacon fat, put it in a clean mason jar, add 1 cup of Vodka, cover, then let it sit overnight in the cabinet. Then put it in the freezer, let the fat freeze. Remove fat. Strain through tea filter, then coffee filter, then cheesecloth. Bacon Vodka. Boom.) Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes.

Large pot – fill with water, add a couple tablespoons of sea salt (kosher will do too), bring to a boil. Add Gnocchi. Once it starts floating, strain it. Put strainer (if you can) over the large pot to let the Gnocchi continue to drain while you start on the cheese sauce.

Chop garlic into fine pieces. Dice/chop onion as well.

Drain the bacon fat from large saute pan. Discard if you want or use it as recommended above. Add 3 tablespoons of butter to pan. Then add garlic. Let it saute for a few minutes before adding onion. Once onion starts to get translucent, add half of the gnocchi, place the other half on a clean plate. Pan fry gnocchi until it is golden brown, 4-5 minutes if you leave it alone and don’t stir it a lot. (Live and learn!) Remove pan fried gnocchi to colander you used to drain the gnocchi after boiling it. Add other half of gnocchi and pan fry until golden as well, removing to colander once complete. While you’re waiting for the gnocchi to pan fry, put 2 cups of milk in the microwave for 2 minutes.

Add 3 tablespoons of butter to pan. As it melts, add all spices – Cayenne, Paprika, Salt, (1/2 tsp or so), few turns of the pepper grinder. Using a wooden spoon, stir until spices and butter combine and turn a light caramel colour. Add flour. Stir until combined. Add slowly (and I mean SLOWLY), warmed milk. Whisk constantly as you’re adding it in order to avoid any creepy lumpage. You don’t want lumpy cheese sauce. Seriously. Trust me. EWWW. Stir constantly, and lower heat to low medium. Get your cheeses.

Add 2 cups of mixed cheddar, 1 cup of swiss, 1 cup sharp cheddar. Stir until melted. Lower heat and add additional milk to thin, up to 1 additional cup. Let simmer for a few minutes.

Open can of artichoke hearts, drain, and squeeze until no more liquid releases. Toss into cheese sauce along with bacon and pan fried gnocchi. Stir until combined and turn off burner, letting it gently simmer in remaining heat.

Spray 9×13 pan with non-stick spray. (We use Misto so we don’t use propellant chemicals). Pour cheesey deliciousness into pan. Top with remaining swiss cheese, then with remaining sharp cheddar cheese. Sprinkle lightly with 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs.

Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

Melt remaining butter in small bowl.

Remove pan, sprinkle with additional panko, maybe 1/2 cup. Drizzle with melted butter.

Adjust oven temperature to 400. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until top is golden.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving to let cheese settle & cool. We want to enjoy the cheese, not have it sear our taste buds off. Warm gooey cheese is good. Molten searing cheese is bad.

Eat intentionally, savoring every single bit, wishing time would stop so you could eat this forever.

 

Lessons Learned


On December 31, I promised a more intimate peek into my life these days. Over the past few years, I have intensely valued my privacy with all things personal. But you’re a blogger. You’re supposed to spill your guts, right?

Not exactly, Einstein.

The beauty of having my own space here on the Internet is that I have final say regarding what I share or do not share. For instance, I wrote an intensely personal post about this past Saturday but chose not to post it because I don’t want to ruin the beauty that was Saturday.

However, I do have something rather personal to share today: I have learned a few lessons over the past few years as I have moved from marriage to divorce to living with my parents again to girlfriend and co-step parent.

Those lessons, in no particular order, follow:

1. Focus on the act, not the response. I am happiest when I am doing for others, particularly when it makes them happy. Service is my language. I realized that for quite some time, instead of focusing on the act of giving/doing, I was focused on the response. When the response was not what I expected, I would become disappointed. Now, however, I work to focus on the actual act of doing/giving. It doesn’t matter what the response is as long as you have done your best with a full and giving heart.

2. It is okay to have emotions. You are human, yes? Not Vulcan or Android. We have emotions and they are all over the place. It is okay to own your emotions. Now, if your emotions are interfering with day-to-day living and causing rifts with others in your life, then they may be worth exploring with a professional. But do not ever let someone make you constantly second guess your emotions and reactions.

3. Take time for yourself. You matter. As I said in a post the other day, it is impossible to fill an empty glass with water from an empty glass. Time for yourself does not have to cost a thing, it is not something which is out of reach unless you make it out of reach. It can be as little as making a favourite tea or coffee. Or watching a favourite show, reading, singing, exercise, sewing, knitting, etc. It’s about doing something that sparks your soul and is an essence of you. Yes, you are a mother, a wife/girlfriend, sister, daughter, cousin, whatever.. but you are also YOU. Remember that and don’t lose yourself in what everyone else requires of you.

4. It is okay to need help. For some reason, we, as women, have been conditioned to not ask for help. In days gone by, women had plenty of help nearby. But with the destruction of the extended family and increased reliance on self, that help has faded into the past. Now, we go online and ask for advice from friends who are nowhere near us geographically. Some of us are fortunate to have friends and family nearby but others are not. Research your area – find the Mom’s group, maybe look into a daycare. Accept help when it is offered. There is no shame in saying yes or giving yourself a little bit of breathing room. If you were in need of oxygen, you’d put on an oxygen mask pretty darn quickly, right? THIS IS JUST LIKE THAT.

5. Laugh loudly, deeply, and often. When things get bad, don’t forget to laugh. Laugh at the inappropriate. Giggle at the ridiculous. Find people who appreciate sarcasm and humour. Befriend them. They will be your light when everything else is pitch dark. Laughter is the best medicine (unless, of course, you have a cracked rib or a weak bladder….then it’s just painful or messy). This, more than any of the other lessons, is what has kept me afloat through all the dark. Laughter. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who was incapable of laughing at themselves or at life. We’re just not here long enough to be serious all the time.

6. Find the beauty in the smallest of things. Take nothing for granted. The smallest moments, the sparkle of snow on a sunny day or a smile from a child – these are the things that stay with you. The best moments don’t happen on Instagram. They happen when we’re simply living. I have learned to unplug and leave the Internet behind because while I adore the friends I have made in the land of the World Wide Web, I love the real people in my life even more and do not want them to ever feel I take them for granted or that they are less important than the people who live inside my computer/phone. A funny thing happens when you take the time to see the beauty in everything – everything becomes beautiful whether it really is or not because it really IS in the eye of the beholder.

7. Be spontaneous. Sometimes, life requires planning. But the best life is lived spontaneously. It’s about saying yes to opportunities in the heat of the moment and following through. It’s about living outside your comfort zone. Life is meant to be lived. I am still working on this one myself but it’s one I really hope to dive fully into this year. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, mind you. It may end up just being a quick trip somewhere to run an errand for the heck of it. Or it may end up being a surprise weekend away. Regardless, spontaneity is about telling the rigors of your daily schedule to go to hell and running with opportunity.

8. Throw yourself into a hobby. For me, my hobby is cooking. Cooking was formerly my escape but now, it’s something I truly adore doing. I love finding new recipes and trying them out. I have cooked more in the past 18 months than I have ever before. Breads, Asian soups, bacon wrapped meatloaf (YUM!) and other various recipes that I’ve discovered or even just made up completely. Picking a new hobby is challenging and gets your creative juices flowing. The bonus to cooking? You get to EAT your creation…and make other people drool over them.

9. Let yourself cry. You would think being okay to cry would belong with “it’s okay to have emotions” but I am separating this one for a reason. As a divorced mom, there are times when I just need to bawl my eyes out because well, there are a LOT of emotions you go through during a divorce. I have found that crying is the one thing that I deny myself. Not just during my divorce, but overall. I have never been much of a crier. But sometimes, you just need to cry to release all the emotions inside. Give yourself permission to do so. I have a few movies which will trigger crying and I am not afraid to use them. (Simon Birch, My Dog Skip, and Hachi are total tearjerkers. I also bawl at Rudy.)

10. Do not compare yourself to anyone else. You are you. Everyone else is not you. Just because someone else who started the process at the same time as you is doing better than you at the same point that you feel everything is falling apart does not mean that you are failing and they are succeeding. All that means is that you are processing things at your speed and they are processing things at their speed. It’s okay to go slower. It’s okay to go faster. Be the best you that you can be and you’ll be just fine.

11. Steep yourself in your faith. Regardless of what your beliefs are, find and connect with like-minded people. For me, this is the Christian faith. People who are members of your faith will know how to respond to any faith-based challenges which may crop up. Sometimes they may be a bit heavy-handed, but if it weren’t for prayer and the faith-strong in my life over the past few years, I honestly do not know if I would have survived. I am eternally grateful.

The Best Part of Peer Support


One of the things I adore most about what I do is getting to know PEOPLE.

I tell you, people, for the most part, are amazing, especially those who are fighting back against the hard.

Their spirits are indefatigable and their hearts are so full of love they long to let spill out. There’s a lot of laughter because laughter is honestly, one of the best medicines out there. So sometimes, we get crazy. Like last night.

Yesterday’s conversations ranged (at least the ones I was involved in) from mini-woolly mammoths to a full on Twitter-sing-a-long of “Part of Your World” with a bunch of fabulous women from the #PPDChat community. Thing is, the sing along was spontaneously inspired because I was watching a program about Mermaids (which, um.. we won’t ever mention again because yeah…).

Bottom line – there’s that tremendous sense of community and silliness.

You KNOW you’ve found your tribe when they inspire you to draw something like this:

PPDChat Woolly Mammoth

Yep. That’s a mini Woolly Mammoth smooshing Velma (intrusive/negative thoughts).

That’s love, people.

Mawwiage, Mawwiage is what bwings us twogether twoday


This post is part of a week-long celebration of the wedding of a dear friend of mine. I hope you’ll go check out the other celebratory posts too!

“Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us twogether twoday…”

This weekend, a dear friend of mine is getting married. A’Driane will tie the knot with her beloved Bert. I’m honoured to call A’Driane friend. She is a force with which to be reckoned. She is passionate, dedicated, and tenacious. She is fierce.

Like me, Addye has faced her own challenges and is vocal about them. She also knows when to pull away and take time for herself. Getting to know Addye has been a blessing. I am truly excited for her this weekend and am wishing both her and Bert all the best. I will be there in spirit.

Marriage is a blessing, a continuance of the journey of two hearts who have found each other and decided to cling to the other as they go through life. It’s not an easy thing, it’s not a simple thing, but when you find the right person, as Addye and Bert have, it is a spectacular thing. It is worth fighting for, worth aching for, worth rejoicing for, and worth celebrating. That’s where the wedding comes in – the ceremony celebrates love and the joining of their hearts.

As you join your hearts together for eternity tomorrow, may both of you be blessed with all the happiness and tenacity the world has to give. May you lose yourselves in the passion you hold for each other and never forget what it was that brought you together in the first place. May you always love as if you are in a state of perpetual youth. May you always face whatever life throws at you with hands held, looking forward and never back. May you both be filled with continuous awe of the precious love you hold for one another.

May you always hold hands, laugh loudly, love deeply, and above all else, cling to each other fiercely even when times get tough – and cling to each other just as fiercely even when times are not so tough.

Congratulations to you both.

Addye Heart