A little tug at the heartstrings

I’ve been MIA from the blog for a few weeks. Not because I want to but because life is just all over the place in good ways. David and I were away a few times, once with the boys and once alone. So my time to blog has been a little constrained for good reason. But I needed to share a little something near and dear to my heart.

logo_of_the_united_states_marine_corpsMost people close to me know that, David is a former Marine…let me add Once a Marine, Always a Marine, and he’s my Marine.

A few weeks ago he had an appointment and we ran into each other at the food store before he went to it, and would later meet up at home. While I was there, buying manzanella olives, and some pickles, I saw this older gentleman who seemed to have a little trouble reaching the canned vegetables. Now I’m a shorty, but I did offer my assistance to see if I could help him get what he needed. He was so thankful, and told me he was looking for the canned corn but couldn’t find it. It so happened to be on a lower shelf and I picked it up for him and he thanked me so much. I told him to have a good day and enjoy his dinner.

I finished up my shopping and checked out. When I got home, I made a little something to eat and cleaned up a little bit. David arrived soon after, and he had this look on his face. Something was off, but it wasn’t bad, it was just that he had a little sadness in his eyes.

What’s the matter? I asked

He then tells me before his appointment he went to the pizza shop to get a slice of pizza, and about 10 min later an older gentleman walked into the shop.

As David relayed the encounter he spoke as if he was the gentleman.

He walks in and asks the waitress “Am I allowed to eat there?” When she said yes, he then asks “Can I have chicken Parmigiano and do you have hot Italian bread?”. She said yes to both and she seemed a little shocked. He then asks “Can I sit here and eat it at a table? She tells him to go and pick any one he’d like and his food will be right out.

“I noticed right away he was wearing a hat, he was a WWII Vet. A Marine. I tried to get the waitresses attention, but she kept ignoring me. Finally I walked up to her and told her to add his meal to mine. And if he asked, Thank him for his service, from one Marine to another Marine”

 

David brought me to tears, and I’m sure he’s not to happy I’m writing about this, it’s personal, it’s at a level I didn’t understand, Marine to Marine, that is. But I do understand.

“He looked so alone, and as he asked if he could eat there, it just hit me.”

I asked if the gentleman was wearing grey sweatpants, and he said yes. I then told him my little story, it was the same man in the food store I had helped with his canned corn. We took a moment just thinking about it. I told him in his own way he made that mans night and I’m sure that he’d be grateful for the gesture.

 

Fast forward to yesterday, I’ve been having a few rough days, dealing with some stressful situations and finally got myself back to my chiropractor for a long overdue visit. It put me in a better mood, physically and emotionally. I had tried to meet up with my girlfriend for breakfast afterwards but being a new mom her little man was calling the shots. So instead I went to breakfast solo, and a little diner I haven’t been to in years. After my chiropractic session, I couldn’t imagine sitting at the counter on a stool with no back, so I asked the waitress if she minded if I sat at her 4 top table since there were 2 others available. She didn’t mind and I took the one closest to the door. image

I ordered my food, and table by table the place filled up. As I was finishing up my coffee and eggs, an older gentleman walked in, and he had a cane. I could see there were no tables left for him to sit at and so I took another sip of coffee and tried to get his attention. The waitress saw this and motioned to him, he turned around and I told him that if he would like he could have my table as I was finished with my breakfast.

“Thank you so much, it’s hard for me to sit on the stools with no back to them. These old bones don’t move that easily anymore. But I don’t want you to move or stop eating on account of me” he said

“Not a problem, I understand. And it’s not a bother, I’m finished and even if I wasn’t I’d just offer for you to sit with me at this big table. I always welcome company.”

He thanked me again and I moved my plate and cup to the counter. The waitress mouthed “Thank you” to me and I nodded. As I waited for her to take his order, it hit me.

Why not.

I caught her attention as she started to walk back around the counter, and whispered, “Add his bill to mine” She smiled and walked away to put his order in. When she got back around the other side of the counter she asked me are you sure. I said yes, add his to mine. When I paid her I told her if he asked to tell him, I wanted to brighten his day with a smile.

As I turned around to leave I saw him sitting in my chair and noticed his hat. A WWII Vet. A Marine. I touched his arm, fighting back tears, and said

“Thank you for your service, have a wonderful day, and enjoy your breakfast”

“Thank you, and thank you for the table. Have a good day” he said

I walked out the door, with tears welling up. I don’t really know why, except that I did. I’m an emotional person, always have been. Heck as I’m typing this whole thing I’m fighting back tears.

I don’t write this post to brag about, David (he’s probably not going to like this at first because he doesn’t like to talk about himself or what he does) or myself for that matter. I write it because what a small gesture as these may be, can possibly make someones day a little brighter, a little less lonely. It is ironic that both men, completely different, yet so similar.

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What I do hope you take from this post is the next time you see someone, pay it forward, just for the heck of it. Buy a coffee, buy a donut, buy a meal. I did it because he was an older gentleman and he kinda tugged at my heartstrings, I had no idea he was a Veteran.

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The Big Duck 

It’s time to wish a Happy Birthday to The Big Duck who turns 85 years old today!

Random Musings And Wanderlust

Flanders Duck / The Big Duck
Sometimes a random drive to nowhere leads you down a road less traveled, and a surprise sight to see. Forgot this little fella was so close by. Was fun to stop and take a picture during today’s snowfall.

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Imperfectly Perfect With You

My heart in your hands
the weight of the world on your shoulders
you bear the burden of all before you

you tackle it with grace and strength
you set forth to conquer the demons
change the perception, the course of the world

you have the power
in the subtle things you do
in the words that you speak
in the actions that you take

you bring forth a comfort and calmness
you are unique unto yourself

you share your dreams, haunts, desires, and fears
you are all I could have imagined
and more than I could fathom

you are the sun
the moon
the stars
and galaxies
combined in one
fantastical expression of God

In my heart you can find
all that I am
and all that I have
aligned imperfectly perfect with you

love-smoke_00381277

 

 

Time to build the 6 ft cat tree. Or “Let’s see if this relationship will survive”

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“He won’t read directions”

“We can’t do any home project together without wanting to rip each others hair out”

“He’s a control freak and wont let me help”

“She gets all the tools, and hardware mixed up.”

“She doesn’t know what a flat head is compared to a phillips head”

Does any of this sound vaguely familiar to you? If so you might be suffering from ~ Incompatible Home Improvement Syndrome.

It affects 1 in 3 couples, and has been known to tear apart relationships before they can even have a chance to get off the ground running.

“Hey hun, I found a great painting that would look fantastic in the hallway. Let’s put it up?” Does hearing that question send shivers down your spine? 

If so, let me assure you, your compatible mate to home improvement projects is out there and waiting for you to find them. Quite possibly in your nearest home improvement store.

All joking aside, if you think about how many times you and your partner have worked together building something, working on a home improvement project, cooking, etc. it probably hasn’t been without some flaws, and sometimes you realize that it’s just better to not do something together. It’s not a bad thing to do your own thing. You may not be interested in laying tile, he may not want to crack a few eggs for brownies, you may not want to get down and dirty with grout, and he may look at you with three heads when you say you want to make a souffle with him. Or vice a versa if he enjoys doing the cooking and you’d rather paint the back deck. Whatever it is you like to do, it’s often fun to at least try to do it with your partner.

Sometimes it doesn’t always work out for the best. You can get on each others nerves for the littlest thing.

That has been my luck in some of my relationships. Often times, because I am a little extra independent and will do the home improvement project as well as the souffle, we can end up butting heads. Everyone has a better way of doing something that they think is the best way to do it because they’ve done it millions of times before and sometimes (yes I’m singling out men here from my perspective) men don’t like it if women know how to do something that they believe they should be doing. Especially if the woman does it faster and presumably better than them.

I’ve been really lucky in the sense that David and I work really well together, either in the kitchen or in the project fix it area. We have our moments where I’d like a little extra space while mixing up something in the kitchen, or he would like me to hand him the allen wrench a little faster. Like before he asks for it he expects I’d already know he needs it and have it waiting for him lol. I also have moments where I think he should know when to hand me an egg for mixing up a cake, but we don’t always get what we want.

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Last week, we had a lot cut out for us. We decided to tackle the project of the 6 ft cat tree for Lilo and Stitch to play and lounge on.

We almost bought one in Petco, but found this huge one online at Chewy.com at a really great price and it was larger than the one in the store.

What did we get ourselves into, we thought. Actually it wasn’t that bad.  25 some odd parts, screws, hoozywatsis, and about an hour later, we came out with a stronger sense of self. Or each other if you will.

It didn’t happen without a few little hiccups, let’s be frank, because at one point we thought we had an extra screw. It turned out to be the anchor for the wall if we chose to use it. We worked well together, until part 10 had to go into slot b, then it was all a mess…for a moment.

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He expected that I knew he needed the allen wrench at that exact moment.

“Hello where’s the wrench?”

“Why, we don’t need it yet, I’ll get it when we get to screw 19.”

Expectation is the root of all evil… or a grumpy moment for some people. I turned around and pointed to the wrench…

“If you want it so bad, reach over and grab it!”

He perked up pretty quick, and made a joke out of it as usual with a grab of my bum and we were off to finish up our project.  But then Stitch decided she was making home of one of the cubbies, before we could get to it. Finally after some coaxing with the treats, she came out and let us finish up.

All in all we worked very well together, and that in and of  itself is a huge accomplishment in many relationships. The ability to work together on a project when both partners are strong, independent people that know what they’re doing. Hell we even read directions together. It was fun, and we made it fun. We didn’t make it a chore. Heck we painted the laundry/walk in closet room together a few months ago and even worked on taking apart the washer and dryer to spruce it up and replace one of the belts in the dryer.

Teamwork.

So I think it’s safe to say it was a success, for us and the kitties. They seem to have settled into their new treehouse quite nicely if I do say so myself. Although Stitch seems to like that top perch wayyyy too much lol.

 

 

Pepperoni Pinwheel Bites

My Mom used to make something her and her sister called a Not-So-Hot. Something like a Calzone, a Stromboli of sorts, depending on who you are and where you’re from. Soda/Pop/Cola kinda like that.

I didn’t have enough energy to do that, not that it was extremely time consuming, but I didn’t have a rolling pin, and it was late in the day after David had his dentist appointment. So I wanted something a little quicker to make and just as tasty.

Pepperoni Pinwheel Bites it was.

 

I already had all the ingredients I needed to make it, although they were bought for the Not-So-Hot I was going to make, but nothing would go to waste and it was sure to taste just as good.

At least I hoped it would.

I haven’t made the pinwheels since going gluten free. I haven’t found a pizza dough that I like, and haven’t been able to create a dough I liked enough either. So there I was in the frozen section of the food store and I saw the Pillsbury Gluten Free Pizza Dough.

Why not? The worst that could happen is that it tastes worse than all the other gluten free pizzas that are out there, and the best that could happen is that we enjoy it.

So the process began.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb Boars Head Slicing Pepperoni (From the Deli Counter. You want the large slices of Pepperoni for this, although smaller pieces would work as well.
  • 1/4 lb Sliced Provolone Cheese
  • 1/4 lb Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
  • Pizza Dough I used Pillsbury Gluten Free Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Preheat oven to 400° and bake for 20-25 minutes until the dough is cooked thoroughly.

*If you are using this brand of dough, it suggests (for pizza) to pre bake the dough for a few minutes, then top with your toppings and bake again. I was fearful that this wouldn’t work as a one time bake, but it totally did.*

 

I mentioned I didn’t have a rolling pin, right? Well I improvised with a can of black beans that would later make the black bean brownies and got to rolling out the dough. I placed it between two layers of parchment paper, that I would later use to line a cookie sheet and bake the pinwheels on.

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Once the dough was rolled out very thin, I kept it on the parchment paper and I put it back into the refrigerator for 5 minutes. All the manipulation of the dough had made it very warm and I feared it would stick and not be able to roll up.

I took the dough out and layered both cheeses, in rows, as to alternate the flavors.

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Then came the layer of pepperoni to cover all of that delicious cheese. You want to make sure you get both the cheese and pepperoni to the edges of the dough.

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Next was the rolling part. Although in this photo I am rolling the dough from the widest part over, I would attempt rolling in from the narrower sides, so the ends of the roll don’t lose any cheese or seem empty.

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Once the roll was complete, I transferred it to a cookie sheet and put it back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

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Then the fun part. Cutting them into pinwheels. They do get a little flat bottom on some of them, but all you have to do is reshape them into circles. Or leave them as is.

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After cutting them into pinwheels, I placed them on the cookie sheet, and popped them into the oven to bake away.

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After 25-30 min baking, I didn’t even have time to take a decent picture, as David was already trying to get his hands on them lol.

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They looked just as good as mom’s real pinwheels!

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And they tasted fantastic. No leftovers here, sadly. But that’s ok, because they were so easy to make, I’m sure they will be on the menu again very soon.

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Serve with your favorite sauce, and enjoy.

Caramel & White Chocolate ~ Chickpea Blondies

Yep I was at it again.

After the pool party last Saturday, and bringing my Dulce de Leche Black Bean Brownies, I felt bad for one of my dear friends who is allergic to chocolate. She obviously couldn’t eat these delectable treats, but I told her that I would be trying my hand at some that she could eat.

She asked what I would be using in place of the black beans, because well, even black beans sounded odd in a dessert.

Why, Chickpeas of course! I figured that I should be able to pull it off. Why not? Chickpeas make humus and that is thick and creamy, so transferring them to a blondie, could um work, right?

I was going to find out.

I adjusted the recipe for the Black Bean brownies just a little.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can 15 oz low sodium chickpeas (I used Goya)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon oil
  • 1  tablespoon Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ~13.4 oz can of Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche Caramel

Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 8×8 square baking pan with baking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches exposed on all sides.

Using a blender, or food processor if you have one,  add chickpeas, egg, sugar, cocoa, yogurt, vanilla, oil, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Blend until smooth and creamy.

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Transfer batter into a bowl, and fold in half of the white chocolate chips until combined.

Pour batter into baking pan and spread evenly. Using a teaspoon, dollop as much as you’d like of the caramel on top of the blondie batter. Finish it off with the remaining white chocolate chips.

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Bake the blondies about 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into batter comes out clean. You will notice a little gooeyness from the white chocolate chips, but it should still be fairly dry.

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Allow the blondies to cool completely on the counter in their baking pan before removing them out of the pan, along with the parchment paper, to cut into bite sized squares.

Here’s a little oopsie on my part. Well, Davids lol. I had baked these beautiful blondies, and had them cooling on the counter for about an hour. David knew that they would eventually be placed in the fridge to cool for a few hours, and decided to help me out. He graciously covered them with foil, and placed them in the refrigerator. I didn’t think anything of it and just saw it as being thoughtful. Until the next morning, when I uncovered them and saw the moisture. I went to cut them into squares, and their texture changed slightly. They were more moist than the night before, because of the condensation that developed overnight in the fridge. No harm, no foul. I sent them off to my lovely friend, and to some of the Baristas at the local coffee shop. To my surprise, because I’m always harder on myself for shortcomings, the blondies were a hit! Yes they were more moist than one would like, but the flavor was still there.

So heed my warning, cool them off completely on the counter before transferring them to the fridge. 

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The result will be absolutely delectable, I mean look at that caramel and white chocolate! And no one tasted chickpeas, or even remotely thought of humus while eating them. Success I say!

Dulce de Leche ~Black Bean Brownie Bites

Boy is that a mouthful! And a deliciously chewy, fudgey, mouthful at that.

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These brownies might be bite sized and Gluten Free, but it’s far from small on flavor and as for the Black Beans, you can’t even tell they’re in there. Even the most discerning of pallets won’t notice a difference in texture or flavor in these brownie bites.

How do I know?

I set up some of my closest friends and a group of strangers at a pool party Saturday afternoon, and nonchalantly placed a tray of them among the other items on the desert bar.  Let’s just the treats remaining after everyone had their fill of decadent sweets didn’t include any of my brownie bites.

That’s right. They were all gone!

All except for 3 little bites, because the lovely lady who tried them isn’t a brownie fan to begin with and finds brownies too sweet for her liking. However she did try one as a great sport, and although she said she wasn’t fond of it, it was based on the sweet factor. She didn’t notice anything off texture or flavor wise, and when I finally revealed that these brownies had a secret ingredient everyone was floored to find out it was black beans.

My friends are aware if I’m baking or cooking and they see me eating the dish I’ve brought, it’s 100% gluten free. So that comes along with the territory. But this was a gathering of close friends and some new, so not everyone had my background info. Black beans in a dessert? That they surely weren’t expecting from me.

But the compliments, and asking if there were more left made my day. These brownies were among donuts, real chocolate brownies, cannoli cake, munchkins, cupcakes and a slew of other treats. Yet these were devoured.

So enough talking about how great they are, get to baking my friends.

By the way, while mixing the batter, which is seriously so simple, Dave had to lick the spoon. Don’t worry I used another one to finish up 😉 and although he knew there were black beans in it, he didn’t even taste them. And trust me, if he didn’t like it he would tell me. This was also before the chocolate chips and caramel got into the mix. I think it’s safe to say, these brownie bites will leave everyone thinking they’re just good old-fashioned “real brownies”.

Ingredients

  • 1 can 15 oz low sodium black beans (I used Goya)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon oil
  • 1  1/2 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar (I used Trader Joe’s White Modena Vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 1~13.4 oz can of Nestle La Lechera Dulce de Leche Caramel

Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 8×8 square baking pan with baking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches exposed on all sides.

I don’t have a food processor, which would probably make this even easier than it was using a blender, but this is still so simple to do that you’ll be making them quite often.

Add black beans, eggs, sugar, cocoa, milk, vinegar, vanilla, oil, baking soda, and baking powder in the blender until smooth.

Transfer the batter into a bowl and mix in 1/2 of the chocolate chips until combined.

Pour batter into baking pan. Using a teaspoon, dollop as much as you’d like of the caramel on top of the brownie batter.

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Next, sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top.

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You can swirl the caramel throughout the batter if you’d like or leave it as dollops on top. Totally up to you

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To swirl or not to swirl, that is the question, and I couldn’t decide so I did a little bit of both.

Bake the brownies about 30-35 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. You will notice a little gooeyness from the chocolate chips but it should be fairly dry knife.

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Allow the brownies to cool completely before removing them along with the parchment paper out of the pan to cut into bite size squares.

I left them on the counter to cool for a few hours, and then transferred the whole pan into the refrigerator to cool overnight, cutting them in the morning.

 

 

You could cut them into any size you’d like, I just prefered the smaller bite sized ones, because of the caramel and chocolate chips making them that much more decadent.

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I ended up with 28 bite size squares, yes you only see 24 in that tray above because what kind of baker would I be if I didn’t try out the confection before bringing them to the party? 😉

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These little bite sized wonders really hit the spot. Admittedly I’m not a fan of the brownie either, but boy oh boy did these hit my sweet tooth in all the right places.