Sunday, June 22, 2014

Get Your Sunday Dinner On

When I was a kid, adhering to my family's Sunday routine was non-negotiable - Mass in the morning, dinner with the extended family in the evening.

As much as I hated having to drag myself out of bed in the morning, then suffer through pinched cheeks and a seat at the "kiddie" table with my younger cousins, I'd give my left arm to be able to relive just one of those Sundays.

Crowded into my Nana's cozy rosemary-scented house, my grandpa, dad and uncles would sit around the kitchen table, talking and smoking, while the women of the family would help her get dinner ready. We kids would be shoo'd outside or relegated to their rumpus room where we'd play with ancient sets of Lincoln Logs or Pick-Up-Sticks.

I can actually feel my hair graying as I wax nostalgic.

My mouth still waters at the memory of a plated filled with my grandmother's roasted pork tenderloin, fluffy mashed potatoes and homemade gravy. But food wasn't the only thing I looked forward to.

As the youngest child of a dual-income family, I witnessed my maritally-challenged parents battle it out on a regular basis. But during Sunday dinners, fighting was verboten. Between anybody. Even us kids. Believe me when I tell you the last thing we wanted was our Nana to suddenly appear in our midst, apron tied around her waist with a smudge of flour on her horn-rimmed glasses, waving a spatula and scolding, "You kids keep it down. I'm cooking."

Seeing as I can't turn back the clock to relive this fond and somewhat dysfunctional family memory, I can replicate the food. Almost. 

This dish (from Cooks.com) comes mighty close and is super easy. Plus, it has the added bonus of filling my house with the same rosemary-laced aroma. Now, if only I had an apron...

Herbed Pork Tenderloin with Oven Roasted Potatoes

1/3 c. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried rosemary leaves, crushed
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 whole pork tenderloins (3/4 to 1 lb. each)
2 1/2 lbs. new potatoes, quartered

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir oil, garlic and seasonings; coat meat with 3 tablespoons of seasoning mixture. Place in large roasting pan. Toss potatoes with remaining seasoning mixture; arrange around meat in pan.
Roast 35 to 40 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 155°F and juices run clear, stirring potatoes after 20 minutes. Broil on top rack of oven 5 minutes to brown. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serves 8. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spin It Forward

Happy Friday, my plate-spinning peeps!

For many of you out there, it's the last day of your work week and all you want to do is chill before tackling your lengthy weekend to-do list. Maybe your plans for the day include going out to lunch with your on-the-job buds or taking your kids to the movies tonight because they've been stuck inside all week.

But what if your week was filled with nothing but deadlines, stress and pressure and all you have to look forward to is more of the same next week?

Your plans for today likely include slinking into the office (or hospital or school or store or board room or restaurant or nuclear power plant or wherever you go to earn a paycheck), averting eye contact with others, keeping your head down and rushing through your day just so you can get it over with.

Am I right? If this is you, listen up. There's a really easy way to make this day - and everyday for that matter - pretty flippin' amazing.

All you have to do is keep your bleary eyes peeled for an opportunity to do something really nice and completely unexpected for a total stranger. And it doesn't have to be a big thing. You could buy coffee (or breakfast or lunch) for the person behind you in line, or give that big juicy apple you brought from home to a homeless person you see on the street, or let someone else take that prime parking spot you had your eye on.

In other words, make someone's day. With no expectation of them reciprocating.

Now I know it takes everything you've got just to keep your own plates aloft, but trust me - this doesn't take a lot of time. Go ahead. Try it. I dare you. The spontaneity of spinning-it-forward will make you feel energized, alive and in-the-moment. And really, I can't think of a better frame of mind to be in when starting down my weekend to-do list, can you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Dog Ate My Blog

Okay, well, that's a lie. I don't even have a dog, but I had to come up with a really good reason for being away for so long, right?

Loyal readers, you know I'm an exceptionally busy girl. Five boys, a full-time job, aging parents, a dark chocolate habit to fund, 8ks to run. These things all take time. Lots and lots of time.

Oh, and did I mention I wrote another book?

It's a contemporary romance called "Fatty Mattie and the Comeback Kid."

What's it about?

I thought you'd never ask! Here's how I pitched it to three agents, three editors and one publisher at a recent writing convention:

When a jilted journalist with an unhealthy affinity for comfort food demands a raise, 
she instead gets assigned to cover the Chicago Marathon - as a participant. 
Her coach? None other than a local running legend who also 
happens to be her ex-fiance's identical twin - the same 
man whom she and the sheriff's department held 
responsible for his absence at the altar. 
Just how far will this unlikely duo be 
willing to go to regain what 
they lost at the wedding 
that wasn't? 

26.2 miles to be exact.

"So, what do you think?" the absentee blogger asks the best readers ever as she nibbles away at her already short fingernails.

Before you reply, did I happen to mention that the three agents, three editors and one publisher found it "intriguing." Some asked me to send them the first three chapters; some even asked for the full manuscript.

That was six weeks ago. Since then, I've been trying to keep busy, but still - I check my cell phone every half hour or so to make sure I didn't miss THE CALL. You know the one. It goes kind of like this:

me: "Hello?"
agent/editor: "Is this the new breakout novelist I'm hoping to sign?"
me: "Why, yes. As a matter of fact, it is."

...and that's about as far as my imagination will take me before I start hyperventilating.

While I am a firm believer that my most potent plate-spinning super power is patience, I have been tapping into my dwindling reserve on a daily basis. Good thing I have an ever-lengthy to-do list to distract me while I await THE CALL. Even New York Times bestselling authors have laundry to clean, children to feed and printer cartridges to replace, right?

At least I don't have a dog that needs walking.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stomach Flu and Mondays Really Get Me Down

It started yesterday morning when my second youngest, who is rarely sick, said he felt "weird." He then made a mad dash for the bathroom and spent the remainder of the day frequently visiting it.

Sick child notwithstanding, there are several tasks I simply must complete every Sunday or this family will not be ready for the coming week. You know the drill - buy groceries, do laundry, plan dinners, and bump all of the things on your to-do list that you didn't get to this weekend to next weekend.

As I went about my day, I racked my brain, trying to remember what my son had eaten in the last 24 hours. Was it something I made that didn't agree with him? Perhaps, but no one else seemed to be adversely affected by the pasta casserole I had made the night before. Not yet, anyway.

I took the precaution of scrubbing my hands every time I so much as looked at him.

When my boys were much younger and experienced similar symptoms, my husband would start them on the "Brat" diet - bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. As such, I procured these items as well as some popsicles and a gallon of an electrolyte-boosting sports drink.

By late afternoon, he was huddled under a blanket, watching a video. By eight, he was in bed.

Given the number of times I heard the toilet flush during the night, I'm guessing his symptoms have not abated. He seems to be sleeping now, finally.

I, on the other hand, am exhausted, but I still have lunches to pack and kids to get out the door. It is, after all, Monday morning and my plate-spinning show must go on. I believe it's time for me to start the "Cars" diet - caffeine-and-refined-sugar.

I'm pretty sure I have all the items I need.