Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

This week I had the opportunity to entertain on a Monday. This is an odd evening to have friends in as it is the beginning of the work/school week, the festive atmosphere quickly confuses you into believing it’s a Saturday, and there is no recovery day at the end. Regardless, my out-of-town friend, his two sons, and our good friends and their two daughters joined my family of five for a fun night in at Casa 187. Knowing the week increasingly intensifies schedule-wise, I chose to make an executive decision and order pizza for our main course that my husband could pick up on the way home from work. I make fantastic pizza at home with a Boboli crust and my own homemade pesto sauce, but I was going for easy and my four year old who refuses to eat my pizza exclaimed upon hearing we were having pizzeria pizza, “Oh good, I LOVE that pizza!” So, the order was placed. But, being the diehard entertainer I am, I felt it necessary to add my own homemade touch to the evening. First I whipped up vanilla bean cupcakes with triple chocolate icing (mini chips in the frosting as added decadence) and had the four year old help me decorate them with 3 different kinds of sprinkles. Then I went to the market to assemble the ingredients needed to make my favorite antipasto to serve as an appetizer/salad before the pizza. It is that recipe that I am divulging today.

Chief 187’s Antipasto

The following ingredients are merely a guide; use only what you like, substitute your favorite items, omit what you don’t like. Amounts are based on how many are eating,


1 bag salad with Romaine
1 jar Giardiniera (pickled vegetables)
1 can tuna
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 can/jar olives (black, green with pimentos or a mix)
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
Several thin slices of salami, soppressata, pepperoni, and/or ham
Equal slices provolone or other Italian cheese thinly slices
Parmigiano  Reggiano shavings (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
Vinegar (balsamic/red wine)


Using the largest platter available fitting for the amount of ingredients you are using, lay the salad green all over the platter as a “bed”. Antipasto should be aesthetically pleasing so placement of ingredients is vitally important to create the overall effect. Next, place the Giardiniera equally over the four points of your platter – North, South, East, West – with a slotted spoon; reserve pickled juice for dressing. Hollow out a portion of the middle of your platter where the greens are and simply add your drained tuna (not prepared salad) to the center of your platter. Lightly add some of the reserved pickle juice to moisten and flavor your tuna. Open, drain, and rinse the can of garbanzo beans. Sprinkle them liberally all over the platter. Open the can/jar of olives, drain but don’t rinse. Place them liberally around the platter as well. Drain but do not rinse the artichoke hearts and scatter them around the platter. To make your antipasto look restaurant quality and artistic, take one piece deli-sliced meat and one piece of cheese and place them on top of one another on a cutting board, working with only two pieces at a time (1 meat slice, 1 cheese slice). Cut a slit from outer edge to the center and stop. Curl the meat/cheese into a cone overlapping the meat/cheese where the slit is. Nestle the cone onto your platter amongst the other ingredients as your ‘decoration’. Repeat until all remaining meat/cheese cones are scattered pleasingly around the entire platter. If using Parmigiano Reggiano, secure a hunk from the grocery store and, after letting it sit out for a short while, use a vegetable peeler to create shavings to strew over the entire antipasto. This cheese is flavorful and quite expensive. Use sparingly as a garnish. To dress the salad you can use more of the pickled juice from the Giardiniera or lightly spritz the entire platter with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar of choice (vinegar is actually supposed to be added first, then the oil); use less than you would to toss a salad. You don’t want to flood your ingredients. Put the oil and vinegar on the table for people to add more if need be. Finally, add pepper to taste.

If having a larger crowd simply double your ingredients or more! This recipe as it appears can serve as few as four people or as many as ten depending on what else you are serving to eat.

I am always curious how the recipes I post go over with the readers. If you try this, please let me know how your enjoyed it. If you have a recipe to share, please do so! I hope this starter/meal makes it on to your table in the near future. Thank you for sharing a part of your Thursday with me. I hope you return tomorrow for the Friday Music Blog, always a terrific way to rock our way into the weekend!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Love of the Theater

Broadway musicals have long been a passion in my life. Since I was a little girl the stage, the music, the costumes, and the stories stoked the fires of my imagination, and took me away to a fantasy world of unparalleled beauty. From Peter Pan and Annie to Dreamgirls and A Chorus Line I was luckily and thankfully exposed to the theater at its best. I was also equally thrilled to see local theater and high school productions as well. Upon becoming a mother I decided that my own children would be shown theater in all of its forms and hopefully I would foster a love and appreciation for musical theater in them.

As a little girl my mother took me to Peter Pan with another family and we had an amazing experience. I neither remember who the star was (Sandy Duncan?) nor the entire story, but I do remember vividly the feeling I got in the darkened theater watching Peter Pan sail through the sky and the magic I witnessed at every turn. Not long after I was taken to see Annie and I was overjoyed with the entire production. I knew a couple of songs and adored the rest of the score. I identified, strangely enough, with the young Annie although I had my biological parents who loved me, it was not the era of the Depression, I didn’t have red curly hair and FDR was no longer president! But I identified nonetheless and made room for Annie in my heart from that day forward! My mother loved musical theater as well and was enamored with Patti Lupone as Evita. She played the soundtrack constantly and I became a staunch fan of that show as well. As I grew older, but long before I was a teenager, my parents told me to choose a show I’d like to see from the “twofer” tickets available in my elementary school office. I watched television a lot in those days and where I grew up Broadway shows were constantly being advertised. I knew what I wanted to see and obtained the “twofers”; it was Dreamgirls. To my parents’ credit, even though they and my brothers were rather uninterested in seeing the show, I was taken. I loved the entire show and they all admitted it was excellent even though it wasn’t necessarily their taste!

Throughout my childhood I was taken to local theater and saw shows like Brigadoon as well as nonmusical theater like Death Trap and Equus, all of which I enjoyed immensely. When my brother became involved with the drama department in high school, (he was a sound engineer), I was exposed to Pippin. This solidified my lifelong fandom of theater. I saw young performers not much older than I bring characters to life in such a way that I became nearly obsessed! I saw the production numerous times, wrote a fan letter to one of the principles, and decorated my room in every bit of literature and paraphernalia from that specific production. I saw everything the high school put on each spring: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Barnum, and, when I finally was a student at the high school, The King of Hearts (a rather miserable show, but the one during which my husband and I finalized our romance).  Even after my parents moved and I was enrolled in a different high school I stayed involved in the drama department and worked on South Pacific and The Pajama GameI was continuously lucky to be taken to shows on Broadway while in high school like A Chorus Line and Me and My Girl. During college I was gifted tickets to one of the hottest shows on Broadway, Phantom of the Opera. It was good, but not until I saw it a second time a few years later did I truly understand all of the well-deserved hype. While living in Virginia for college I saw Fiddler on the Roof for the first time and instantly loved it. After college and back in the New York metropolitan area, I saw Big River, Three Penny Opera starring Sting, and Rent. Rent became an all-time favorite and I am still passionate about this musical; so much so that I am sure it deserves a blog of its own.

The show that takes this story full circle is called Les Miserables.  It was ten years old when I was able to see this on Broadway, but it still was dynamic, epic, emotional, and awe-inspiring. The music is brilliant, the staging impressive, and the cast talented beyond compare. From the moment the show started to its all too quick conclusion (it’s actually a rather long show, but I never want it to end) I was completely wrapped up in the world created. I saw the show twice before it left Broadway and was overjoyed when PBS aired the Tenth Anniversary Celebration Concert of Les Miserables. I have been and always will be a rabid fan. Now, twenty-five years after the debut of Les Miserables, a concert honoring that distinction has been performed and captured for audiences of PBS. This time my husband and I were able to share it with our three children. We were not sure what to expect as, at ages 8, 4, and 1, they are far too young to understand the many themes and nuances of the show, but they really liked it! My oldest keeps singing the opening strains of the show as he goes about his daily business. I love it! Through a shared love of theater and Les Miserables specifically, we can continue to welcome the theater in our home and expose our children to one of our strong passions.

I thought about using this as one of my Simple Joys entries, but as is evident, there was too much involved. My love of theater and the exposure of my children to such is obviously too much for a simple paragraph. I hope that whatever your passion is – racing, football, theater, etc. – you are able to enjoy it now and expose your children to it as well. There is little in this world more gratifying than sharing what you love with those you love!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Simple Joys

I was humbly overwhelmed by the plethora of Simple Joys I enjoyed this week. Some weeks are simply that way, an overabundance of blessings that bring infinite joy. These are the credits that need to be stored for a rainy day, when joys are hard to come by and times are crummy. Writing down my Simple Joys weekly is giving me a whole lot of credit in life’s bank; my goal is to deposit much more than I will ever need to take out. Without further ado, here is this week’s Simple Joys.

My niece. My niece turned ten this week.  I remember her birth vividly and the moment I held her for the first time. She was the first in our family and such a special little girl; well, she was young but has never been little! Long and lanky, athletic and statuesque, my niece is intelligent, artistic, creative, talented, sweet, and patient. As an only child, she relies on cousins and friends to provide familial sibling relationships, but is equally comfortable alone with a book or a sketchpad. My niece makes ten look like sixteen, but having two inordinately tall parents adds to her mature look; she towers over all of her little friends who are older or the same age! Swimmer, artist, student, friend, cousin, niece, and numerous other words cannot begin to describe the whole of my niece. She is quite simply put, wonderful.

My oldest. My oldest child, my son, had a particularly trying week. In addition to all of the demands placed on a third grader who has to work diligently to do well, this week my son had to test for his brown belt in Karate. This involved taking a test that is cumulative and tests his knowledge, techniques, physicality, focus, wherewithal, and confidence. From calisthenics to basics, Kata (choreographed fight scenarios) to partaking in a line fight, my son, eight years old, had his metal tested. I’m so proud and pleased to report that my son met all of the challenges with determination, confidence, strength, and focus splendidly. His father and I were so overwhelmed with emotion as these are particularly tough traits to teach and truly parts of a person that need to be developed from the inside out. Our son, thankfully, is maturing, learning, growing, and rising to the occasion in the appropriate times.

My middle child. My middle child, my second son, had an exciting week himself. Often taking a back seat to his older brother literally and figuratively, this little boy is a natural athlete, incredible student, and an impressive child. He, too, tested for a new belt in Karate. He is consistently the most mature in the class as well as the most coordinated and sharp when it comes to the actual Karate. He easily advanced. After the belt ceremony finished, my son was a participant in an inner-school tournament. He performed his own age-appropriate Kata in front of an auditorium full of parents, relatives, older students, and peers, and did so loudly, strongly, with gusto, and earned the first place medal for the effort! He was a shining star and was flying high on seeing his hard work pay off in spades.

My baby girl. My daughter is at an incredibly frustrating age for both of us! She is beginning to talk but her vocabulary has nowhere near caught up to her wants. She is teething and in what I fear is constant pain or discomfort. She is curious to a fault and pulls things down off every countertop courting danger at every turn. “No” is uttered from me more times than I care to count and often we both wind up in tears at some part of the day. But, having admitting all of that, I can tell you unabashedly and passionately, I love my daughter with every ounce of my being and am so blessed that she is here and a part of my family. These trying times are the ones that make parenting tough. I know over the years we’ll be battling each other over everything from clothing and makeup to boyfriends and careers. But having her in my life, savoring her hugs, kisses, and knock knock jokes (“Knock knock” she babbles. “Who’s there?” I respond. “Dada” she states – EVERY time. “Dada who?” I ask. To which she replies, also every time, with uproarious giggles!) makes my world complete. My family, the children I was meant to have, care for, love, raise, and cherish, are all here. I  am so very lucky and blessed to know that and appreciate them all in my life.

Twilight. Lest I get too overly sappy about my family, I wanted to add this final Simple Joy for the week. My friend, at my request, lent me her copy of the best-selling novel Twilight, a story about a teenage girl and the vampire with whom she falls in love! Although certainly not the most erudite of books nor the best thing I’ve ever read, it is entirely engrossing, fast-paced, and intriguing. Most importantly it is erotic and sensual without being overtly sexual. For me it captures all of the newness and insistence one feels in the beginning of a relationship. In a rush I was transported back in time to when I met my husband. I, too, could not wait to see him, be with him, talk to him, and embark on a lifetime together. The reminder made me fall in love with him all over again. So this book definitely makes the Simple Joys list for allowing me to revisit my own passionate love story.

I am finding it necessary to make a decision to end the Simple Joys blog as opposed to wondering if I have enough written. I am grateful that my cup runneth over. It is always a sincere delight for me to read your Simple Joys as well. Won’t you indulge me?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Welcome back to a new workweek and the Monday Movie Blog. As we continue our alphabetical odyssey we stop at the letter “L” today. Please list any and all movies that you enjoy that’s title begins with the letter “L”. Make sure to include some of the actors who star in the film and a brief synopsis or reasons why you like this/these movie(s).  This is the twelfth letter we have spotlighted making an even dozen. We’re closing in on the halfway point of the alphabet and thus nearly midway through the resource we are continuously creating.

Do you prefer watching movies in a darkened theater with a large tub of popcorn topped with a “butter-like” substance or do you rather enjoy staying home and watching from the comfort of your home couch/bed? Are you ever in line to see a movie the minute it premieres or do you see blockbusters a decade or so after they were released? Do you watch the same genre or do you dip from all the different types of movies?

Movies are a huge part of American culture. We value our actors as royalty of sorts and pay inordinate amounts of money to see movies. Escapism is what many are after for two hours and movies are a relatively affordable way to get away from ‘normal’ life. Movie stars are usually attractive and seemingly larger than life (although many are quite short!). What kind of movie lover are you? Why are movies a favorite way for you to spend your valuable time?

We lost one of American cinema’s leading ladies, royalty of sorts, last week, Elizabeth Taylor. She with the violet eyes, spellbinding beauty, and tortured soul was the epitome of grace and glamour in her heyday, and blossomed into a tireless AIDS activist in the latter years of her life. In recent years she had fallen ill and was out of the public’s eye. Her death, although not surprising, was sad and closes the door on an era of old Hollywood. Elizabeth’s jewels, never borrowed but hers to keep, were worn proudly and effortlessly to every event public and private; hair done, smile in place, Elizabeth worked hard at her acting, her activism, and her friendships. If you are a fan of the late Elizabeth Taylor, please list your favorite Taylor movies/roles.

Thank you for spending part of your Monday with the Monday Movie Blog and me. I hope you took some time to leave your selections and answer some of the questions about movies. Please join me tomorrow for my favorite feature of the week, Simple Joys. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome back into the Friday Music Blog! This week topic is taking a hard edge. The focus is songs that are considered to be from the era of Arena Rock. From the late 1960s through the 1970s and ending in the 1980s, name any and all songs that you think of as “Arena Rock”. As this is totally subjective, there is no right or wrong answer, but not answering is unacceptable!

From Led Zepplin to Boston, Black Sabbath to Bruce Springsteen, and Queen to Van Halen, list the songs that you consider “Arena Rock”. Educate your fellow readers/music lovers and me on what you consider to be classic Arena Rock.

Wishing you all a great weekend. I invite you all back here on Monday for another week of original blogs here at Chief 187 Chatter. From Monday Movie Blogs to Friday Music Blogs, Simple Joys to Tantalizing Thursdays, and a free day in the middle of the week for me to wax poetic on whatever is on my mind, I hope you find something each day that you identify, enjoy, or agree. It is my distinct pleasure to write these very personal blogs, and an honor for me to have you read them. Thank you!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Today’s focus is not about food; try take-out tonight or throw a frozen dinner into the microwave. We have a much more important topic to discuss, passion. I’m reading a book, the first in a series, that is a powerful reminder of what first love, infatuation, and passion feel like. When another person is all consuming, their smell is intoxicating, and the site of him/her is enough to make you dizzy. Every thought revolves around him/.her, food is a second or third thought, sleep matters not, and every decision is based around whether you can see or be with him/her.

For those of you who are single and are searching, these feelings are likely to strike. Some may be so addicted to the feeling that new relationships are begun for these reasons, but once the newness wears off, a new relationship is sought to mimic the feelings. For others, you may be in a long-term monogamous relationship but the infatuation is long gone, replaced by comfortableness, routine, and security. But I resist the idea that because true love has been found, passion has to be the casualty. There are ways to rekindle the spark that drew you together like moths to a flame.

Our greatest sexual organ is our brain. Using this to our advantage we can trick our minds into feeling the newness, intensity, and passion again. By digging into our memories, reenacting the past, and highlighting the best of who we were when first involved, a stirring can be achieved. By treating one another with respect, valuing the time you have together, and paying attention to one another, a bond remains through the stresses of everyday life, raising children, dealing with ailing parents, dreadful jobs, and a miserable economy. By keeping the relationship strong, the pilot light of passion stays lit and can be stoked to an inferno when time permits. But it’s important to remember that in addition to treating your partner well, you must treat yourself well or you cannot be a happy partner. By treating yourself with respect (like you do your spouse), pampering yourself (like you do the children or your friends), and being kind to yourself (like you are to neighbors and strangers) you are investing in the best commodity you have, YOU. By allowing yourself to be comfortable with yourself, to accept yourself, and to feel good about yourself, you bring a happier, freer, and sexier self to the table. Passion is easier to tap when you aren’t beating yourself up for how you look, how you feel, or other negative things.

So, take a page from the bestseller Twilight I’m reading. Abandon your grown up self once in a while. Become engrossed with your partner like you did when you two first met and fell for one another. Breathe him/her in. Give in to passion and temptation (with each other), and delight in every phone call, every glimpse, and every word. Steal kisses, hold hands, and give in to urges. The reason the book is such a bestseller, in my opinion, is the building passion between the main characters. Of course, the vampire plot has a lot to do with it, too, but it’s the sensual scenes that are written superbly that are holding my attention and have me at a peak frenzy!

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog “Cheers to Life”, life is far too short to not live it passionately. So, find your partner (or go look for one) and start living a more passionate, intimate, and intense life – together. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cheers to Life

Yesterday I had to run an errand at the little post office I like to frequent. It is tiny, quaint, and run by a woman who is as good as gold; friendly, helpful, and kind, she is a wonderful woman and I go out of my way to throw my business her way. During my stop today I inquired about her as I usually do. She confided that her health was ailing and a lot was going on. I was disheartened and incredibly shocked.

This woman, I found out yesterday, is my age, thirty-eight. Our lives have played out differently. She has a child who is finishing high school and moving on to higher education while my oldest is eight. She is a single mom and I am married for the better part of my life (18 years). She is hard working and has had as many as three jobs at once, not including “mommy”; working in a pharmacy of a local grocery store, the post office, and as a police officer in a dangerous town in New Jersey. Currently she is a policewoman and postal worker. When I prompted her to tell what was wrong medically she relayed that she contracted MRSA from a recent hospital stay after emergency surgery. While treating that they found she also has Lupus and then they found a lump they were concerned was a tumor. So many problems for a woman who should be in the prime of her life! She is my age and yet she is facing major medical crisis, and, facing them alone (no spouse) and with a son who is still dependant upon her for love and support. I asked her if she handles stress well (before all of the diagnosis) and she replied, “No, I’m always stressed about everything.” This saddened me for her. I left things by telling her I would pray for her and would continue to send my best thoughts and wishes.

This story is sad and scary. But, unfortunately, it is akin to many others. Whether cancer or heart disease or any of the myriad other illnesses, lethal or otherwise, that can affect one, getting a diagnosis of that magnitude is traumatizing. A person’s true metal is called upon as well as the strength of their support system. It is a fact most people never think about until thrust into the situation against their will.

My focus today is on self. If you, like me, are relatively healthy, are living a comfortable if not lavish life, and can simply be at peace with yourself, you are all the better for it. All too often stress is the thread of undoing in one’s life. Not handling stress in a healthful way – exercise, diet, venting, or simply saying “no” when one’s plate is too full – can be detrimental to your health in the short and long term. Internalizing stress has been shown to eat away from the inside out. Instead of choosing to keep stress, learn to let it go.

My oldest son is a worrier. He gets that from me and I get it from my dad. But I’m learning that the worry I invite into my mind is usually far worse than the reality that occurs. When I face my worries straight on they dissolve and are most manageable. I’m trying to teach this to my son before life’s worries increase so he has the proper tools in place – confidence, coping skills, wherewithal – to tackle any obstacle or worry that he encounters. Worry, a type of stress, or stress-inducer, is truly a useless emotion that only hurts the worrier. It does not offer solution; it merely leaves you mired in the problem.

Living a healthy life is important; living a good life is, too. We never know when our time has come. Life is indeed short. I’m learning to never waste a moment. Fighting is pointless, but clearing the air and talking about disagreements is vital. Worry is pointless, but dealing with tasks is important and letting go of things we cannot control is necessary. Surrounding yourself with people who love and value you must be a priority. Enjoying life is the key. Find joy in every day. Appreciate the here and now, dig in deep with your passions, and don’t let fear, frustration, worry, and hopelessness color your world. Embrace your life, your family, and your work. Live the best way you can and, instead of choosing to see the dark side of everything, look to the positive; it may just save your life.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simple Joys

I have an over abundance of Simple Joys and for that I am grateful. By simply opening myself up to these gems in my life, I am more consciously aware of them and, thus, have more to share. Without further ado, here is this week’s Simple Joys.

Freedom ’90. I was on a rare journey in the car alone. My iPod was on shuffle in a playlist that is named for me because it is comprised of my current all-time favorite songs. I was unhappy with the choices that kept playing so I prompted the next song after song. Finally I heard the strains of this song start and put my iPod down to listen. This song still holds power for me over twenty years later. I love the beat, the lyrics, the music, and the sound. George Michael’s voice is strong and distinctive. The video that seeps into my mind when listening is iconic; George Michaels assembled the world’s top Super Models to lip-synch his song. It was a steamy, sexy video and it didn’t even feature George Michaels. I recall that when I used to commute to my teaching job, a mere 10-minute commute at best, I would often play this song to get psyched for the day. Driving home alone the other day I felt the same surge of excitement and freedom. Great song, great Simple Joy.

Grocery Store. I had a great feeling at the grocery store that I realize I’ve had for years. Clerk and customer alike know me in my store. From the produce department to the dairy I am smiled at, spoken to, and stopped by many for a moment here or there. Often my daughter is the reason as she is, empirically, a beautiful baby. But, before her, either one of my sons was the cause (also empirically beautiful children). Even alone, however, I am drawn into a conversation, an observation, or a story. I see neighbors, people from town, people I’ve worked with, and people I met last time I was in the store. I’m not overly gregarious, but I smile. A lot. And people just enjoy talking to me. It’s not a burden; I rather enjoy it. And a chore that can be tedious to many is actually quite a Simple Joy for me.

Writing. My writing has been a topic constantly at this site. But, this past week my writing has come to the attention of a NASCAR driver in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. I wrote about her in the NASCAR site Skirts and Scuffs and sent her the link. Well, she posted the link to her fan page with my name attached. I took the opportunity to request an actual interview with her, and, within a couple of days, she had followed me on Twitter and privately sent me her email to work out an interview! We are supposed to do something soon. My writing career took a new turn with this step! I learned that the only way to get what you want is to go after it and simply ask. Had I never asked I never would be in this lovely position. But,  had I never embraced the idea that I am a writer, a writer as a career, I would never have a had the confidence to ask her. Chief 187 Chatter provided me the courage of my convictions to own my profession and to conduct myself with confidence. I am a writer and a damn fine one. This definitely counts as a huge Simple Joy.

Radio Personality. Since February I’ve been an on-air personality at another site I write for called WhooBazoo. The program on their Internet Radio station is called “Around the Cooler” and airs every Tuesday 8-10p EST and is a sports show. I come on around 9:20p EST to talk NASCAR for 20-40 minutes. I love this job! The live broadcast, my fellow broadcasters, Curtis, Bill, and Eric, and the call-in audience energize me. From choosing the topics to discuss to the preparation to know my content I am overjoyed with what I get to do. Having a weekly radio show to do is a really huge Simple Joy in my life.

It’s difficult to know when to stop writing for this topic. I feel there is always so much more to share from the week, but I want to stop to allow you all to leave the Simple Joys you have in your life as well. Because as great as it is for me to live and relive these Simple Joys, it helps me to read others’ and gain perspective, introduce myself to more ideas, and simply find joys in others.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

The Monday Movie blog is back to start the week. My husband and I are ‘weekend movie warriors’ – we don’t have the time or consciousness to watch movies during the week, so we try to catch one on the weekend. With race season in full swing, we don’t always succeed in one per week, but we still shoot for a couple a month. We enjoy movies, but, since becoming parents eight years ago, have missed more than we’ve seen! Creating this resource was a way for us to have opinions of ‘the best movies’ to see in one place. So far we’ve been thrilled with the outpouring of responses and have increased our Netflix queue tenfold! And we’ve yet to get through the first half of the alphabet!

Today the alphabetical wheel stops at letter “K”. I can’t help but think Klute with Jane Fonda! I’ve never even seen it, but the “K” just jumped out at me! I understand it is an interesting movie; I just wonder if the storyline stands the test of time. So, in addition to Klute, please list your favorite movies that begin with the letter “K”. Please include any actors you remember and a small synopsis or review.

Once you’ve left your list of movies that begin with “K”, please plan to join me tomorrow for Simple Joys, the most uplifting blog of the week. I urge you all to join me tomorrow and every Tuesday for this blog and to think of your own Simple Joys to leave as a comment.  I’m finding the more time I spend focusing on life’s Simple Joys, the more joyous my life is in general.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome back to the end of the week and the Friday Music Blog! The week was eventful for me and filled with long days, excitement, sad news, disappointments, chores, and responsibility, probably just like yours. Professionally I had a career high and a sadness within twenty-four hours. The sadness was the untimely departure of Rowdy co-creator Buck Fever from his podcast/job. For those of you unfamiliar, is where I found my daily writing chops as a blogger. It is a social networking site for NASCAR fans and, at one time, was the greatest site for NASCAR fans on the web. Buck Fever is a podcaster who is entertaining, knowledgeable, and truly talented. He will be sorely missed. He was not just a guy on the site who was the 'talent', he was so much more - editor, music coordinator, interviewer, hunter/gatherer, blogger, etc. He is also my friend. I will miss him on Rowdy. And Rowdy will surely miss him.

As one door closes, another one must surely open. I believe that. I think many do. I'm hoping Buck Fever finds many fabulous doors opening and walks through the one that will bring him great happiness. Good luck Buck Fever. For today's Friday Music Blog topic, song's with "door" in the title or lyric or, for those of you who don't want to research too long, Doors' songs. 

Thank you for staying with me, reading, commenting, checking back, and supporting me. The weather is beginning to warm up and it's harder to dedicate time to reading blogs. I understand. But I hope you will continue to make Chief 187 Chatter a place to hang out, check out, and get a brief pop of positivity, a quick laugh, or a nodding in agreement moment. I'll be here doing my thing daily and continue to welcome you back when you can spare the time.

Join me on Monday as we embark on yet another week of original and varied blogs. In the meantime, please leave your song selections for this Friday's topic below - songs with "door" in the title, lyric, or Doors' songs.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Although I am not of Irish decent (to my knowledge) I don the color green, wish everyone I greet with a “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”, and don’t mind eating green foods. As this is Tantalizing Thursday, I thought it appropriate to highlight foods to eat and beverages to imbibe on this, the greenest of the holidays.

Certainly there are traditional foods that can be purchased, prepared, and consumed on St. Patrick’s Day. Corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and beer spring to mind as traditional favorites. I recently tried Irish soda bread and found it to be a lot more delicious than I remembered from childhood when I detested it. The raisin and I, however, have embarked on a new relationship since I entered adulthood and the bread is rather tasty with it being chock full of them! But the rest of the offerings are not really my thing, so this post will showcase my unique way of adding some green into your St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Whether a purist or someone just looking to have a good time, these ideas are all meant to enhance your St. Patrick’s Day.

Bagels with green food coloring, although difficult to wrap one’s brain around, as they look quite rancid, are an acceptable way to start your morning on March 17th. Take it a step further and add a green cream cheese. Pour a bowl of Fruit Loops and pick out all of the other colors save green. The milk will eventually get dyed green, too! Don’t forget the Dr. Seuss classic green eggs and ham as a breakfast option. “Try it, you may like it. Try it I say.” Some of you are culinary geniuses and may be able to whip up a healthy and delicious green smoothie. Good for you, I just don’t have those superpowers.

For lunch have a green salad (you’re welcome) with Green Goddess salad dressing. Quite frankly, I don’t know what it is or what it tastes like, but I’ve heard the name a lot recently and it must be good.  Other green options include guacamole and chips, green apples or pears, and… blue cheese. Well, I know it’s “blue” but a lot of times it looks green! And, after lunch, when the dreaded 3:00p slump occurs, go buy a pack of M&Ms and, you guessed it, just eat the green ones.

Dinnertime is a time to eat pasta with pesto! If you are a meat and potatoes type, throw some dill on your spuds, and have some frozen vegetables like carrots, peas, and little onions. The colors are the same as the Irish flag! If there is any left, have the guacamole with a Mexican dish instead. Don't forget all of the leafy greens and veggies like spinach, Romaine, broccoli, asparagus, and artichokes. The choices are limitless and you are only held back by your own imagination.

Of course beer is on many people’s minds, but, if you are like me and can’t stand beer, whip up some frozen margaritas! They have a green tint and go well with the guacamole! Limeade is good or a Sprite with a green cherry might be refreshing! I don’t know where to get a green cherry, but they are often in fruitcakes so I recommend cutting the one you still have from Christmas and picking some out to add to your soda. Lastly, when I was in Portugal a few years back I was introduced to Green Wine. It is very tasty, has a lower alcohol content, and a slight bubbliness. It is fantastic and, after having several that I feared would land me in hangover Hell, I was absolutely fine the next morning.

For dessert, whipped cream can be dyed green, the Christmas fruitcake can be recycled if you left the green cherries intact, pistachio pudding can be prepared, or mint chocolate chip ice cream can be savored.  For those of you who enjoy, I understand Irish Crème in coffee is delightful.

Whatever your taste is, wherever your St. Patrick’s Day takes you, I wish you a very happy one, a safe one, and a green one! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Difficult Being a Child Today?

Is it more difficult being a child now than it was when we were children? Are there more pressures, less innocence, and no time to be kids? I am bleeding from the heart for my eight-year-old son who is in third grade. He is a very good boy, tries hard, and is really quite smart, but he is not a fast worker. He is working on grade level, understands his assignments, and is overall a happy child, but it takes him an inordinate amount of time to do his homework. He walks off the bus at 3:00pm and is usually not finished with his homework for a solid hour or more later. This doesn’t include a relaxing snack or a half hour to unwind; this is unloading and beginning homework immediately and working straight through until he’s finished. This is not about blasting his teacher, who I adore and think is wonderful, nor the school, it’s just a matter of the issue of whether our children are missing out on childhood.

Every generation can look back with rosy glasses and reminisce about the good ol’ days. I am not one of those people as a rule, but I do look at all my children have in their lives and I find it overwhelming. From twenty-four hour cable news to social media, from cell phones and texting to Disney stars going down the wrong paths in public forums, children are losing their innocence far too soon. Pre-school clothes are indecent, boys’ clothes are offensive, and adult clothes are laughable. Appropriateness is missing.

The litigious society in which we live is restricting my children’s playtime. With the reasoning “no recess today because the wood chips are slick from the rain” my son’s school kept the children inside again earlier this week. Add that to the list of “too snowy” “too rainy” and “too windy/cold” and my son’s school hasn’t had many outdoor recess days in the last four months. Physical education is either one or two days per week depending on schedules, so there is little activity for my son. For those of you with children, and boys specifically, it is nearly torture to sit in a classroom all day long, come home and sit for more time to do homework. Children need to be active; it clears their head, gets the blood pumping, and is part of their nature. We spotlight obesity and Type II Diabetes in our society, yet my child is not getting nearly enough physical activity during his school day. We supplement with two nights of Karate and one weekend morning of swim class, which my son adores, but he could truly benefit from more activity during his school day.

Sexual scandals, drug problems, a television star who is #winning with #tigerblood while, in reality, his life and health are deteriorating at a rapid rate, are the stories circulating in the world. Even the horrific scenes of the recent earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan are far too disturbing for my eight-year-old to handle. It seems that everywhere one turns there is a crisis, a natural disaster, a person who is self-destructing and an audience profiting and watching with great interest, and no way to shield oneself from these constant images.

I refuse to give into the negativity and hopelessness. My goal with Chief 187 Chatter as well as a parent is to concentrate on all that is positive. What he is too young to handle I shield him from, but I do use other stories and incidents as teaching tools. He’s not too young to learn that drugs and alcohol are harmful to him at a young age and drugs are never a solution. I teach him about self-respect, respect of authority, and what real #winning is all about. We model by example the necessity of a strong body in tandem with a strong mind. We preach hard work through our own work ethic. We show compassion, live with discipline, and encourage through tough times. And, when it seems like there is only “work”, we bust out the fun, the silly, and the relaxing. Society may be trying to rob my children of their childhood, but I will not allow it.

Do you think it is more difficult to be a child now than when you were a child? Do you find the sources of information, the influences, and the dangers lurking are robbing the children of today of their innocence far earlier than when we were children? Weigh in with your opinions of then versus now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Simple Joys

Simple Joys is now officially my favorite regular feature of this site. Having to put my Simple Joys in black and white weekly has made me a more positive and aware person. I allow ever more joy into my life knowing how good it makes me feel, how easy it is to accept, and how contagious the act is. I hope by simply reading these weekly blogs you, too, have added more joys into your life and are more aware of the joys around you.  And now, without further ado, this week’s Simple Joys.

Pillow Talk. My favorite times of the night are when I can lay down next to my sons, individually, and simply talk. We may talk about the day, a wish, a coveted toy, or an upcoming event. We stare at one another in close contact; I stroke his hair, and tell him how beautiful he is. We may laugh, yawn, or be pensive, but we’re together, sharing a special moment. The oldest child, 8, may confide in me about an issue at school, a fear, or a joy. The middle child, 4, may tell a lengthy story, a silly joke, or tell me how beautiful I am! We do this talking after I read a story and before it’s lights out. It is a way for us to stay connected, wash away any unpleasantness from earlier in the day, and end the evening on a loving note. My daughter is a bit too young for this as she is only seventeen months old, but I look forward to our own version of pillow talk! I also utilize this custom with my husband before we turn in to bed. It is a calming, enriching, and sacred part of the bedtime ritual that keeps us solidified and individually valued as members of the family.

Team Work. My husband has a rare opportunity to work on Sunday and earn some overtime, something we desperately need. I was sorry to lose a day with him, but happy to have this financial windfall. My children and I awoke, had breakfast, cleaned the house together, and ran an errand. We made lunch at home, put the baby girl down for her nap, and started our big chore of the day. The chore was to get rid of all of the sticks and debris in the backyard. We have a nice-sized yard with a lovely lawn my husband cares for passionately. At winter’s end the lawn is in need of resurrecting and decluttering. To surprise my husband I told my sons that we were to go outside as a team and start to remove all of the sticks we could find. I sent them out ahead of me so I could clean up the lunch dishes. When I peered out the window I could see them clearly working and taking their task seriously. By the time I joined them they had done more than half the job and done it well! I helped get the job finished. When we returned to the warm house, the yard looked fantastic and ready for some much-needed TLC that my husband is famous. I couldn’t have been more proud of my boys for pitching in and working hard when I know they’d rather play Legos or watch television. To reward their efforts I even gave them a couple of dollars each – they were thrilled! I told them that they were expected to do certain chores around the house as part of living in our home, but they had done a phenomenal job without complaining so they had earned the money. I am a proud parent.

Random Acts of Kindness. I have been the recipient of several of these acts throughout my life. Here are some recent examples. I took my four and one year old to our local McDonald’s for lunch and ordered them each a Happy Meal. The girl toy was nothing great so I asked for two boy toys. My son desperately wanted a Batman toy but we were given two Superman toys. The young lady, a manager who knew I was a regular customer, asked me to hold on to the toys, unopened, until she had a chance to check the back for the Batman toys. We ate our lunch, which is always delicious, hot, and prepared properly at this location, and she came back to our table holding 2 Batman toys! My son handed his Superman toys to the lady and she told him no, he could keep them all. Then she asked him if he’d rather have 1 Batman and 1 Robin. He agreed and she disappeared briefly only to return with the promised Robin. She insisted he keep all four toys at no extra charge. That is truly a random and most lovely act of kindness. Is it good business? Yes, but she knew I’d return even if she’d only conducted a trade. By gifting the two extra toys she simply added to our joy factor.
The other random acts of kindness are from my friend Bill. He constantly champions my writing and radio career, tweets my links, and leaves me helpful and encouraging messages. These little acts add up to joy everywhere I look. As a teacher I have had no real understanding how far my influence has been. As an online writer and friend, I’m seeing that my “nice” personality (which I promise is genuine!) is returned to me tenfold. Smiling, issuing a compliment, and truly inquiring after someone often encourage returned acts in the same manner. We should all be so lucky to have a friend like Bill, a sweet manager at the local fast food store, or someone in our lives who simply cares.

I hope your day is filled with unexpected surprises and niceties. I also hope you are compelled to write your Simple Joys of the week. If nothing else, I truly hope you are someone who spreads Simple Joys as you go about your business.

Thank you for reading. Please join me tomorrow as we dissect yet another interesting topic.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Welcome back to a brand new week and a new half-year at Chief 187 Chatter! As I announced on Friday, on Sunday, March 13, 2011 this site turned six months old. It is a labor of love and a work in progress. It is a living, breathing document that evolves as I do. As readers and responders, you are as much a part of its success as I am. So, I thank you for your contributions and look ahead as we embark on more topics, ideas, resources, and fun.

As it is Monday we are in the Monday Movie Blog. Since January the Monday Movie Blog has been focused on creating an alphabetical resource of movie titles. Each Monday a new letter is introduced and all responses are welcomed. The movie title that fits the letter, a list of actors in the film, and a brief synopsis or reason you liked the movie is appreciated.

Today’s topic is movies that begin with the letter “J”.

Thank you for joining me. I hope you return tomorrow for what is the most uplifting part of the week, Tuesday’s Simple Joys blog. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome to Friday, the end of the workweek and another new topic for the Friday Music Blog. While formulating a topic for today I kept hearing the deafening sound of the persistent rain falling. Rainstorms have beaten my state on Monday and then on Thursday and through the overnight into today. Many areas are flooded, houses ruined, and streets impassable without boats. I am fortunate to live on very high ground and am not in harm’s way, but I feel for those who are.

The topic, thus, that makes the most sense to me is songs with “rain” in the title or in the lyric. By opening the topic to wider parameters, a more comprehensive list can be constructed. So, see how many songs you can think up and list for this category. All genres, including children’s music, are admissible.

On Sunday this weekend, my middle boy’s half birthday, I will have been working on Chief 187 Chatter for a full six months! For half a year I have written every weekday (and one or two weekend days) for this site I created. And, for the most part, you all have been with me every step of the way. I thank you sincerely and hope each day when I post a topic you’ll be there to read it, leave your comments, and check back. It has been an incredible experience and one that I am fully committed to continue.  We are on the brink of 10,000 pageviews – we have a few more hundred to go to reach that milestone. That number simply blows my mind! When we reach it, we’ll be doing some serious celebrating! In the meantime each pageview and each comment mean the world to me.

I look forward to reading your lists of songs that have “rain” in the title or in the lyrics. I’m delighted to begin a new week of blogging on Monday and to embark on the second half of this first year. And I am so thankful to have you all here along for the ride. Have a wonderful weekend, stay safe, enjoy, check out the comments throughout the weekend, and see you all back here on Monday!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tantalizing Thursdays

This weekend the clocks spring ahead, another indication that Spring is on its way in short order. In northwestern New Jersey, where I live, the precipitation we get is rain instead of snow. A lot of rain, in fact, that has plagued the low lying areas of my region. Flooding is an acute and devastating problem afflicting many areas. It is cold, wet, raw, and gray. The earth is saturated and so is the collective moods of those around. To combat this pervading melancholy, I'm focusing on comfort foods today!

Comfort foods are the ones that bring you back to a time when life was simpler; meals that evoke peaceful, happy memories, fill your tummy and your soul, and satisfy hunger as well as emotion. One should eat to live, not live to eat, but food is an art and comfort food is the stuff you want in your home to cheer and satisfy. The list of what is considered comfort food is completely subjective, yet many of the same items would probably appear on myriad lists. I won't presume to offer recipes for the food mentioned in this article, only remind about the type of foods that may fall into the list and, in some cases, the way I do things.

Chicken pot pie. I was at the grocery store for my weekly big visit. I saw that a rotisserie chicken breast was on sale and smelled scrumptious. Adding it to my cart I knew that with the ingredients I had at home (refrigerated pie crust, frozen mixed vegetables, and chicken gravy) I had the perfect "comfort meal" to serve my family. I added a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and remembered I also had some fine quality instant mashed potatoes (mashed potatoes = comfort food) at home and the meal was set. This meal, of course, can be made from a chicken one roasted, homemade gravy, and whatever fresh vegetables on hand with a homemade prepared pie crust from scratch, or purchased by a reputable frozen foods brand, but the version I outlined above is easy, delicious, pseudo-homemade, and highly satisfying. Whatever route you go, just put some chicken pot pie on your menu and watch the smiles.

Spaghetti and Meatballs. Pasta is a mainstay in our diet. I love to experiment with different sauces, different shaped pasta; I add a salad and bread, and dinner is served. I've made everything from homemade pesto to a mock alfredo sauce with shrimp (recipe in previously published Tantalizing Thursday). Recently my children discovered they enjoy meatballs. I found this so interesting as they have never enjoyed the homemade bolognese (meat) sauce my husband and I concocted. So, at the store yesterday, I found a bag of frozen meatballs made from Angus beef. My middle boy is hooked on frozen Angus beef cheeseburgers his father buys from Costco. When I told him about the Angus beef meatballs I found, his face lit up. So, tonight's dinner in the 187 household is spaghetti (or penne) with a tomato basil jarred sauce and the Angus beef meatballs. Simply start the pasta water (I always use whole wheat or whole grain pasta for added flavor and nutrition), and, in a separate pan, heat the meatballs through in the sauce (about 25 minutes). I'm serving a salad (I use bagged) and some garlic bread. A comforting dinner two nights in a row! For those of you who prefer making your own sauce (gravy), make your own meatballs by combining three different ground meats, etc. that's wonderful. For the rest of us, this works, too.

Brownies. Rarely does anything smell as good and comforting as a pan of brownies baking in the oven. Whether from scratch or 'from a box', brownies are consistent dessert winners. Moist, chewy, fudgy, and sweet, brownies are rectangles (or squares) of joy. I prefer to "doctor up" a boxed mix, saving time and energy measuring out dry ingredients. I do so many different combinations of add-ins that my brownies need never taste the same, but my family has a definitive favorite - chocolate, marshmallow, peanut butter chip. Upon the last stroke to mix the brownie batter, I add a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestles'), a handful of mini marshmallows, (I use the grocery store brand) and a handful of peanut butter chips (I use Reese's). I incorporate the ingredients, bake at recommended times (or a bit longer if the toothpick comes out too wet) and cut to serve once cooled. I'm convinced this is yet another reason my husband is so loyal to me and my children always tell me my brownies are best.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Rainy days often make me think of hot lunches (or dinners) of the classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup. For the soup I am brand loyal to Campbell's, but I am sure the other soup makers put a quality product on the shelf, I'm just a creature of habit. Grilled cheese can be as simple as American cheese between two pieces of white bread slathered in butter grilled to a golden perfection or as different as artisan bread and cheddar, rye and swiss cheese, or any other combination. The duo is warm, richly pleasing, and uncomplicated. Treat yourself soon.

Other comfort foods may include meatloaf, tuna melt, macaroni and cheese (the new Kraft Homestyle recipe is quite good), and stew. Whether homemade, prepared with help from the store, or bought entirely in the frozen foods section, comfort foods offer a respite from a hectic day, a stressful situation, or dire hunger pangs in the stomach and the soul. Food shouldn't be used to self-medicate, but perhaps, as long as it is time to eat, it is okay to nurture your mind and soul along with your body.

I hope you enjoyed, were inspired, and are anxious to resurrect some of these comfort foods. Drop a comment to let me know what your comfort foods are and how you prepare them! Thanks for spending part of your day with me and checking out today's edition of Tantalizing Thursday. Please join me tomorrow for the Friday Music Blog as we wing our way into the weekend.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Infomercials have been around since as long as I can remember, but the products showcased used to be so humorous I couldn’t imagine anyone actually calling to buy the items. Over the years, marketing and products have become more sophisticated and now, as a consumer, I get really enticed by the twenty-two minute commercial I watch.

I have watched infomercials for over twenty years. They used to keep me company in the wee hours of the night when my husband would work closing at a fast food restaurant and he wouldn’t come home until 3:00am. Whether it was the “Flow Bee” hair cutter/vacuum or the Suzanne Sommers wonderful Thigh Master, there were hours of entertainment to watch in the overnight.

Once I had a regular job as a teacher I rarely if ever saw an infomercial. I was too busy sleeping in the nighttime and working during the day. Not until I was home with my first baby did infomercials reenter my life. Using the television to ward off sleep while nursing my child, I would see the most bizarre things being peddled. I asked for one of the Time-Life compilations album sets for Christmas one year and my princely husband came through! At one point, when delirium from lack of sleep set in and, experiencing a dry spell that was tortuous to say the least I even thought the Girls Gone Wild videos were intriguing! Seriously, for $10 I could have owned 3 videos of co-eds, spring breakers, and naughty girls doing sexy things on camera whilst drunk! Surely that would have been a jumpstart to a libido that had gone cold. Fortunately my senses and sex drive returned and I did not have to charge that set to my credit card. But, I was thisclose!

Recently I’ve been using the early morning hours to work out on my elliptical machine in the basement. We have an old television down there hooked up to a VCR. Yes, a VCR. I’ve watched everything from home movies of the last thirty-two years to hits of the 1980s and ‘90s like The Untouchables, Tombstone, For the Boys, and Forrest Gump. These movies are fantastic and I’ve enjoyed watching them all again, but I wanted a change this past week. I tried watching the morning news, and that’s great to see all of the day’s headlines by 5:00am, but news is actually fifteen minutes long and then repeated constantly, and that includes traffic and weather! So, once I’ve seen the daily news, I still have a good fifteen minutes plus to kill on the elliptical. While surfing I found the newest slew of infomercials. Now I want the “Ahh Bra”. I am so easily taken in by the testimonials of the “real women” who are interviewed for their “candid reviews” of the item. If it works for them, I think, why not me? The “Ahh Bra” is made of some space-aged material (nylon and spandex) and is an over-the-head bra that has no closures, adjustable straps or underwires, just this flimsy material that is soft and layerable. The bra, whether for a small-chested woman or a well-endowed one, is supposed to fit perfectly and offer immense support, lift, and comfort. It all looks well and good, and I’m all for comfort and looking good, but I know if I were to pay my $60 (which would get me not one, not two, but three “Ahh Bras” which is considerably less than one foundation at the store that can run over $100) and have the “Ahh Bra” sent to me, I would put the thing on and wind up sporting a “uniboob” – one boob in the middle of my chest that is neither comfortable nor attractive. Upon telling my girlfriend this she started to use her announcer’s voice stating, “It’s Uniboob” like I was a superhero. She went on to say that my superhero uniform would have a large “U” where my single boob would stick out of, protruding to the world. I just can’t, in good conscious, go there. I’ll keep my $60, my underwire, and my two boobs while I try to keep the world safe for democracy and uncomfortable yet attractive shapewear for all.

I may never break down and buy a product from the infomercials, but I’m quite sure I’ll always be enamored by their pull. I am usually compelled to watch, at least a few times, all of these miraculous products that I’ve lived without for a lifetime but now don’t need to. Infomercials may be one sign of the Apocalypse, but I can’t help but sweat it out on my elliptical machine and watch.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Simple Joys

There are so many ways I’ve been enriched by writing Chief 187 Chatter.  From finding and owning my voice in the typed word to exploring myriad topics that interest, disturb, and confuse me, I am learning, growing, and expanding my knowledge base exponentially. Winter, typically a time of hibernation, isolation, and depression in my former life, has now been redefined as a time of self-exploration, wellness, and outreach. Among the ways I’ve made this transformation is through this feature of Simple Joys.

My Simple Joys are numerous and personal. What turns me on and enthralls me one week may not be the same the next, whereas other things are truly universal week in and week out. This week the following have made the list for my Simple Joys.

Pizza. The family and I treated my brother-in-law, his bride and their son to lunch at the local pizzeria on Saturday. This is our favorite pizza place, but the pizza is not consistently great. In fact, going on a Saturday afternoon we have gotten sub-par pizza, but they are only in town for the weekend and wanted pizza. We ordered, enjoyed scrumptious fried calamari that was crispy, tender, and delicious, and then was treated to our main course, pizza. To my delight and satisfaction the pizza came out picture perfect, smelling great, and tasting amazingly good. All were happy with their portion and I was relieved that our pizzeria delivered a terrific meal for us. I love pizza.

Sushi. With our out-of-town family visiting and wanting to partake in our area’s finest in dining, we packed up our two families, met our good friends, and ate in our all-time favorite sushi buffet. Buffets are usually not the way I enjoy dining out as the food sometimes sits out too long, gets dried out, and is flavorless to try to appeal to the masses. This restaurant is different and superb. Asian food, including numerous types of sushi, is freshly prepared before your eyes and constantly being refreshed when supplies get low. Nothing stays out too long and the food is the freshest I ever ate. If you are not a sushi lover or you prefer different kinds of Asian foods there are dishes such as teriyaki chicken, spare ribs, fried rice, crab cakes, and cooked cod. There are salads, peel-and-eat shrimp, crab legs, and soups. And, once dinner is sufficiently dined, there is a huge and luscious dessert bar as well as a crepes station and soft ice cream machine. It is a magnificent place! My husband and I enjoy sushi, as do all three of our children. The children are charged only a fraction of the full price fare based on their height. I feel sorry for the restaurant as when our children eat there, they eat more than they are charged!

Baby. We met our eight-month-old nephew for the first time. He lives in Dubai with his mom and dad and this was their first visit back to the States since his arrival. He is a handsome and precious boy who has big dark eyes, a full head of brown hair, and a wonderful demeanor. He was, however, stuck in a nine-hour-different time zone, suffering from jet lag, and in foreign land where nothing save mom and dad were familiar. I love this little tyke and completely sympathize with him. Hearing him crying in the middle of the night, however, did strengthen my resolve, that I am completely happy with the size of my family. I am confident that my baby making days are over and I am moving on to the next chapter of my life with my three children. This is a liberating and joyful decision. I can look at his little clothes and think “how cute” not “I want one”. I was blessed with the three children who made my family complete. And, now that they are here, I’m at peace.

I am always delighted to read what your Simple Joys are. Keeping the focus on the positive in life helps offset the negative. It has been and is my goal to keep the positive as the nucleus of Chief 187 Chatter. I hope you will assist me in keeping with that goal.

After you respond, please remember to join me tomorrow for an examination of infomercials. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Movie Blog

Welcome in to the Monday Movie Blog. As we continue to create a comprehensive list of movies alphabetically I implore you to continue adding your selections. The more movie titles we have the larger our resource becomes. Today’s topic could prove to be challenging, but with a few extra minutes to research your movie database, it will be well worth it.

Today’s topic for the Monday Movie Blog is movies that begin with the letter “I”. Please list the movie name and any stars from the cast.  A brief reason why you loved the movie or a short synopsis of the plot is also appreciated.

Please check back to this blog throughout the day to see what titles have been added. Then, I ask you to join me tomorrow for the popular Simple Joys blog that appears every Tuesday. The best way I know to keep joy in your life is to think about the joys you have. I have gotten a huge boost since writing this feature and urge you to leave your list weekly of the Simple Joys you enjoy in your life.

Happy Monday! I look forward to reading the list of movies that begin with the letter “I” today!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Music Blog

Welcome to Friday and the Friday Music Blog! We are now in March and that means spring is on its way! I found this week to be most enlightening, enjoyable, and trying. Yes, I still run into my frustrations, annoyances, and pity-parties, too. Fortunately this outlet and spending a post-dinner conversation with my husband unhampered by children (they were all playing elsewhere) last night allowed me to get back on track and I'm feeling great as we springboard into the weekend.

Today's topic asks you to think back to your youth. The focus is songs that were popular the year you got your driver's license. This does not completely indicate your age as many states vary the legal age to drive and some may not have gone for their license at that specific age. This isn't about outing your age, but rather what songs were popular when you got your first taste of real freedom. When the open road beckoned and adventure lay ahead. Whether you drove to and from school, to a job, or to the movies, what songs were the soundtrack of that time?

Please include the song name and the artist. These topics are meant to be fun and a great collection of music that showcase, in a small way, who we are. It is my profound pleasure to read your responses and am always delighted by all who take the time to write. The songs are only part of the blog. If you'd care to write about the car you drove (your own, a parent's), any anecdotes from your first year as a driver, or what songs played on your first driving dates, then please, type away (you, too, Dad!).

Many thanks to you all who continue to stay with me, read the blogs, leave your comments, and encourage me. From Simple Joys to The Secret of Life and from Monday Movie Blog to Friday Movie Blog and a little Tantalizing Thursday thrown into the mix, this has been a full week and I'm so glad to have you here to share it.

I look forward to reading your responses to today's topic and hope you will check in over the weekend. Then, join me on Monday as we start another new week of topics together. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tantalizing Thursday

Thursdays are great in that you can see the finish line for the end of the work week, television is usually good, and relaxation can start to set in. I ease into weekend mode on Thursday evening and picture myself on the other end of the Friday work schedule. Thursdays hold such promise, relief, and excitement. I hope you enjoy your Thursday. As is usual for Tantalizing Thursday I am sharing a recipe that has served me well in recent months. It is fitting for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a late-night snack. It is as rich and sinful as you want it to be, or can be tweaked to fit your dietary needs. Today I'm offering up this workhorse recipe in my repertoire, Quiche Lorraine.

Carnation Quiche Lorraine
obtained from by Nestle Carnation (Registered)


1 (9 inch) unbaked (4 cup volume) deep-dish pie shell  I use Pillsbury Pie Crust
6 slices of bacon
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 (12 fluid ounce) can Nestle CARNATION Evaporated Milk
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F.

2. COOK bacon in large skillet over medium heat. When bacon starts to  turn brown, add onion. Cook until bacon is crisp; drain. Sprinkle cheese into bottom of pie shell. Top with bacon mixture. Combine evaporated milk, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in small bowl until blended. Pour into pie shell.

3. BAKE for 30-35 minutes or until knife inserted halfway  between center and edge comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes on wire rack before serving.

4. NOTE:  Quiche fits a variety of meal occasions from brunch to dinner and also makes an outstanding appetizer. If using metal or foil pans, bake on preheated heavy-duty baking sheet.

I use a glass pie plate, the Pillsbury pie crust, and the store brand evaporated milk that is typically on sale. I've made this recipe more than two dozen times since the holidays and it is scrumptious each time. This is a fail-safe recipe that yields tremendous results. I use regular bacon but turkey bacon can be substituted. I use fat free evaporated milk instead of regular. I omit the onion as my family does not like it and I omit the salt because I feel the bacon is salty enough. I up the pepper and nutmeg amounts and enjoy the infusion of flavor.  This egg dish lends itself well for an on-the-go breakfast when you need a protein punch and, paired with a traditional green or succulent fruit salad can transform into a meal at brunch, lunch, or dinner. Take the basic recipe and add vegetables or whatever you'd like. If you've never tried making your own Quiche before, this recipe is easy and will make you feel like a Rock Star! My oven, which is calibrated well, still needs 40-45 minutes to set this meal. Use your eyes and nose and you will know when it is done.

I hope you give this recipe a go and let me know what kind of results you get. I had always bought Quiche at the grocery store and was less than enthused, especially with the price tag. Now I make extraordinary Quiche Lorraine for the fraction of the cost! I keep the ingredients on hand weekly so I can literally "whip one up". During this cold winter my husband refueled with this in the mornings. In fact, I'm off to make one now!

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you enjoy the recipe, let me know your thoughts and, it you are so inclined, leave one of your recipes. Please join me tomorrow for the week ending and interactive Friday Music Blog. Happy Tantalizing Thursday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Secret of Life

Many throughout the ages seek the Secret of Life. Books have been written, motivational speakers have been hired, and prayers have been uttered to discover this ultimate knowledge. I am in no way claiming to have found humanity’s answer, but, for me, I think I’m reaching an enlightened state. Mostly I’m in a good space and that is part of the Secret.

Returning from one of my myriad trips to the grocery store with my daughter slumbering in the backseat my iPod randomly chose James Taylor’s “The Secret of Life” to serenade me. I was struck that James Taylor is somewhat of a prophet. He sings his own words that speak to me so richly. From “Shower the People” to “Fire and Rain” and “The Secret of Life” I get transfixed, lost in thought, and introspective. Does James Taylor hold The Secret to Life? Perhaps, but although I do believe it is simple, I think the secret is a bit different for each individual.

I only ever speak for myself. As I’ve often said this project is a journey, I’ve learned, to date, that surrounding myself with family of the heart (not always related) is one of the secrets. I am lucky and blessed to enjoy my family of origin, the family I created, and my friends who I care about like family. These people make me enjoy each day and add fullness to my life. When good or bad occurs, it is my family I turn to for celebration or healing.

Doing what you love would be another Secret of Life I’m discovering. I loved being a teacher. I reveled in the rapport I had with my students, my co-workers, and my subject matter. From seeing a student have an “aha moment”, having a student confide in me, and the shared camaraderie with fellow teachers, I immersed myself in my career and enjoyed every year I spent in the field. But, upon leaving the career to have and raise my children, I wanted to explore a different path. Writing was always a passion I had put on the back burner as an adult. I never made the time to commit to it and thus that part of my life stagnated. Once I started writing as a hobby my life changed immensely for the better. And, since I’ve embraced the idea that I am a “writer” my “career” in writing has exploded! I write for several outlets that publish my work on the Internet and have this site that lifts me to a higher plane each day. One of my writing gigs even parlayed into a segment on an Internet Radio program where I get to talk about NASCAR weekly. I am discovering that I love that, too! When work is what you enjoy, when you are inspired, invigorated, and correctly challenged, then work is no longer a four-letter-word, but a joy. Now that is a Secret I truly am thrilled to know and put into practice.

Accepting faults but trying to better myself without beating myself up is another Secret of Life. This one is a difficult one to master. I err; I’m human. But by being a parent who must model appropriate behavior and lifestyle choices, it is burdensome when I fall short of goodness. I am always motivated by love, but my frustrations can get the better of me. Learning to live in the moment and remembering clichés like “this too shall pass” and “will this matter in 10 years (10 minutes)?” is vital. I’m working on this. I haven’t mastered it yet.

Mostly it comes down to those lyrics of James Taylor again. He wrote, “The Secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time”.  I’m finding many things each day that I am grateful for and thankful. I try to keep a smile on my face, stay in the present, and engage in my life, my children, and my world. As simple as that seems it isn’t easy. I am constantly refocusing and getting lost in the quagmire that is life, but pieces like this, songs by James Taylor and other artists, books and magazine articles I read, all help to bring me back to centered. Being able to do that is yet another Secret of Life.

The Secret of Life is a living, breathing concept. Like life, it changes. Change is a constant in our world so I try to embrace it rather than turn my back to it and fight it. The Secret of Life is not one thing for all people nor is it only one thing for me. And what it is this week may actually alter over the weeks, months, and years. But, I feel empowered thinking I’ve touched upon some of the Secret and hope you gleaned some of the Secret for you, too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Simple Joys

Happy Tuesday! Today is one of my most favorite days of the week as it is once again a day to discuss Simple Joys. From the time I end the Tuesday column to the next time Tuesday comes around again I think in terms of what I get to write about for this piece. It truly is a joy to get to share what I get the most pleasure out of from week to week. Without further ado, here is this week’s Simple Joys.

Curling iron. That’s right, the curling iron. I owned one of these hair appliances for my whole adult life, but the one I owned dated to 1988. It worked, but took endless (precious) minutes to warm up and did a mediocre job at best on my hair. Finally, on a whim, I broke down and purchased a brand new curling iron at the local discount store. I chose a brand name model that has twenty-five settings! Twenty-five! The one I owned previously had one setting, on! This new model heated up in thirty seconds, and had an automatic shut-off. The best part? It cost me only $10! It took me a while before I opened the curling iron, but the first day I did I was so thrilled with the purchase. I looked like I stepped out of the salon after just a few minutes of working on my hair! I realize this is not huge in most people’s lives, but I do love to have good-looking hair. For $10 I scored that and a smile that still hasn’t been wiped off my face!

Spring clothes. This revolves around buying again. I didn’t mean for that to happen in one column, as Simple Joys for me are really not about spending money. But, as it has been such a long winter, I really needed to amp up my mood and wardrobe for spring and the “Southeastern Media Tour” I’m taking in April. I went to my local T.J. Maxx, got out of my normal mode and tried on clothing that was to my liking but different than I had in my wardrobe. I tried to imagine myself in a makeover program and find items that would be modern, hip, comfortable, flattering, and workable in my existing wardrobe. Mission accomplished! I am thrilled with my bounty and anxious to premiere it this spring. Best part is, I got a lot for the money I spent and they are timeless, classic pieces I’ll be wearing for many seasons to come. I don’t recommend ‘retail therapy’ as a cure-all, but I do think it is important to infuse one’s wardrobe on occasion to make oneself a priority in one’s own life.  Once spring arrives I’ll post pictures of these great looks!

Paper airplanes. My four year old enjoys when I make paper airplanes out of magazine pages. We rip them out and he watches me fold them into makeshift ‘airplanes’. What this young, innocent boy does not know is that his mother, however well intentioned, never learned how to make a proper paper airplane. My designs are less than aerodynamic and shoddy at best. They rarely fly straight or at all. But my four-year-old son thinks they are tremendous machines and uses his imagination to supplement what reality is lacking. He even decorates these paper planes with stickers and makes up great tales of what the stickers represent. The moral of this for me is that the child could care less how good I am at something; he simply wants to spend quality time with his mamma and have my undivided attention. It is sometimes difficult to stop doing the dishes or get off the computer to give the child that, but if I can remember how vastly rewarded I am by the simple action of spending time with him, it is worth every precious second.

Anticipation. My brother-in-law, his bride and their baby son are coming to visit us from Dubai this weekend. We haven’t seen them in over two years and have never met our nephew before. We are beyond thrilled and are beside ourselves with anticipation. I have known my brother-in-law since he was twelve. He is simply my little brother. He makes me laugh hard and often. His bride is a lovely woman who I genuinely enjoy and adore. Family is the very core of all that is good, simple, and joyful. I wish you all a wonderful week and one brimming with an abundance of Simple Joys.