Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s Off to Summer Camp We Go!

summer-camp-550x372What summer camp in Arizona would look like if we didn’t have fire restrictions.  Only YOU can prevent forest fires!

 

Last week I drove my oldest two hours north, up to summer camp in the cool mountains.  I reminisced during the drive–this is the same camp where I spent many of my childhood summers, too, and I have such fond memories of those experiences.

This highway, it used to be just one lane in each direction, and now it’s sometimes six lanes across.  That McDonald’s, that used to be the one and only place to grab a quick lunch en route to camp–now there are dozens of options, including ethnic food and even sushi.  Sushi!  (I wonder rural sushi in the remote Arizona mountains is anything at all like what us city folk are accustomed to?)  In the end we played it safe this year, interrupting tradition only for the shiny new In-N-Out.

I remember my parents having to drive me through a long, winding dirt road up the mountains, through the pine trees, past scenic lookouts before we arrived at camp.  But the small town we used to pass through in the blink of an eye has grown so much and expanded outward so far the “long, winding dirt road” is now mostly paved.

The forest still looks the same.  The pine trees still smell the same.  Those same familiar summer storm clouds creep in every afternoon like clockwork.

The camp counselors got younger, though, didn’t they?  When I was a camper the counselors must have been twenty or thirty or years old, right?  Now the counselors look like all of fifteen years old.  How strange.

Check-in took all of five minutes, and then my kid takes off running to her cabin-mates just as I held my arms out for a good-bye hug.  But that’s okay–she’s excited and has been counting down to camp for months.  I totally get it.  I hop in the car for that nostalgic drive home on that modern highway which looks nothing like the path I traveled as a kid.

summer capm“Dear Mom, Camp sucks.  The hot tub is too hot.  Help.”

 

At pick-up I was emotionally ready for her to be hiding in a closet, begging to stay another week.  What I got instead was a dusty, dirty, smiling kid thrilled to see me and anxious to come home.  Aww.   I think I’ll keep her a while longer.

*************************************************************************************************************************************

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

And This is Why I Love Men With Accents…

Oh to be 17 again…

If I could go back in time… I’d go back to when I was 17 years old. When I think back on my life… that was the time I felt the most free. The world was my oyster!  Much like now, I accepted adventure with open arms and I was fearless!  At 17, these adventures needed funding. I had been working since I was 15, but I needed to step it up. I needed pocket cash. Enter Denny’s.

The Denny’s was a symbol of my high school years. It was the place to hang out after football games and dances. It was where I first heard of a “dine and dash”. (Although I never had the guts to ever do that!) It was where I drank endless pots of coffee late into the night- giggling over Moons Over My Hammy and chowing on hash browns. I’d work there. It would be epic.

dennys

Summertime. I took on the coffee counter in the smoking section. I hated working the smoking section, but at least I could breathe a little easier at the coffee counter. I did well there. Friendly and quick to smile, I started acquiring regular customers. Mostly, older men. Truckers that were reminded of their granddaughter back home. And there were guys from the motorcycle repair school. Handsome guys. And there was one in particular. Let’s call him, Ethan.

Ethan sat down at my coffee counter one morning and I thought I was looking Val Kilmer square in the face. You know, 1986 Val Kilmer. Before he aged and all. Iceman, himself, was sitting at my coffee counter. Be cool, Kelly. Be cool. It was like magic. Our own little Denny’s coffee counter magic. Conversation was easy and smiles were plentiful. And oh… that accent! Australia. He could put another shrimp on my barbie any day!

Ethan came in everyday and asked me out everyday. But he was 20 and my parents knew better. Despite constantly turning him down… Ethan still came to see me at work, bringing me flowers and leaving me sweet notes. I think he enjoyed the chase. Don’t all boys? And then… one day… he told me he was leaving. He was done with school and was moving back home. Apparently, our motorcycle school is very prestigious. And. That was it.

I’ve never really forgotten about Ethan. It was an exciting time in my life. And every time we eat at Denny’s… I look at the coffee counter and I reminisce. Why did I tell you all of this? Because I’ve been chosen to be a Denny’s Blog Ambassador! Denny’s holds such a special place in my heart, despite being left pocket change as a tip after all the football games.

If you haven’t heard… Denny’s is revamping their menus, even the kids menus. I’m really excited by this, because, as you know, my Allison has Type 1 Diabetes. Eating out isn’t always easy, but a fun and healthier kids menu helps us out tremendously! I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve learned over the next 6 months as a Denny’s Ambassador. We’ve got some amazing content planned… from recipes to fun and games to a possible casual, local meet up at my old stomping grounds!

I would love to hear a story from your first job… Share one with me? Please?

xo

Kelly

100 Good Deeds

photo(5)

What exactly is a good deed? To me, a good deed is going out of your way to do something kind for someone else. Doing good deeds has always been something I love to do. It makes my heart soar, to know that I might have had a positive impact on someone’s day. What are some examples of good deeds? Putting a small gift on the desk of a co-worker. Passing on a positive compliment to someone’s boss about them. Leaving a little extra tip at a restaurant. Listening to someone who needs a friend. Asking what you could do to help a friend out. Picking up the coffee for the next person in line. Giving a compliment to a complete stranger. And in return? You ask for nothing.

I’m currently participating in a fabulous movement. The 100 Good Deeds Movement. I’m writing this post without monetary compensation. I’m writing it because I believe in the notion of performing good deeds. I believe in paying it forward and being a light to those who need it. Mary Fisher, renowned author and advocate, spend years in Africa, helping vulnerable women create jewelry and earn a living. Her brainchild, The 100 Good Deeds Movement, will give women in Haiti, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and Johannesburg, the opportunity to create a sustainable income for themselves.

I’m currently wearing one of the handcrafted 100 Good Deeds bracelets. It wraps around my wrist 3 times and it has a little rubber ring that I move along the beads each time I do a good deed. It’s a beautiful and tangible reminder of the impact I’m making… not only in my community… but around the world.

You can become a part of the 100 Good Deeds movement too! Simply send a tweet sharing a good deed someone else has done for you. Mention @The1GDbracelet, use hashtag #1GD and include the link to my blog post. The easiest way to do this is to click the “Sharing is caring” button at the top of this post. 15 lucky friends will be chosen at random to receive their very own 100 Good Deeds bracelet! The share button might give you an error message… but don’t listen. It’s just being silly.

I hope to see some of your good deeds floating around Twitter! #1GD

xo

Kelly

Okay–Maybe I’m Just Hungry

I have never been a dessert person.  I cannot be enticed or influenced by chocolate or Bavarian cream or even Tic-Tacs.  Sugar just doesn’t do it for me.  I can firmly say “No” to any sweet.  It’s my super power.   If you’ve ever spent more than thirty minutes with me you would know that I’m not sweet–I’m sour (and/or savory) and I don’t know why that is or if it’s a “which came first” chicken/egg question for the ages, but I definitely enjoy the ability to resist the goldmine of trans-fat and calories which come with a restaurant cheesecake and frankly I pity all of you who can’t.

Well, unless it’s like a lime cheesecake or something.  I do love lime, in almost anything.  Or lemon.  Like those lemon Girl Scout cookies?  Talk about perfection–especially when you eat them cold, right out of the freezer.  Okay, I guess adding citrus to a powdered-sugary dessert makes it more appealing to me.  I think that’s because citrus is so refreshing and light and, well, adds the sour element that I love so much.  Plus, citrus is great for our metabolism.  I can’t actually prove that’s true in any way, but I feel like it must be so every time I shovel those gooey lemon bars by the bushel into my facehole.  What?  Come on.  Like you don’t do this too.

lemon barThe powdered sugar prevents me from actually inhaling these.

Do you know what I am craving now, thanks to staring at these lemon bars?  Gooey butter cake.  Schnucks.  St. Louis, Mizzurrah.  I don’t live anywhere near St. Louis, but when any of the family here fly back to visit our family there they always fly home with at least three gooey butter cakes from Schnucks, and then we all congregrate like vultures at Grandma’s house and inhale that pastry miracle in one night.  But you see, this dessert is much more savory than it is sweet, thanks to all the butter and cream cheese–not that there’s not some sugar and powdered sugar and high fructose corn syrup also in the recipe, but I enjoy the savory layers of the cake much more than those sweet layers.  And let’s put it this way: I If I should ever find myself on death row, gooey butter cake from Schnucks will absolutely be my last meal.  Now it’s all I can think about.  I’m not saying I’d commit murder just to make sure that gooey butter cake is my last meal, but I am suggesting that you all keep it in mind in case that opportunity falls into your laps.

GooeyButterCake-1St. Louis, if you won’t share your gooey butter cake with the rest of us then you can keep your diabetes to yourself, too.

If there is a reason to suck up to me in order to get something you want, try using cheese.  I love cheese.  I love sharp cheddar.  Creamy goat cheese, maybe in a quesadilla with some caramelized onion and mushroom?  And crumbled bleu cheese–I could eat that with a spoon right out of the package.  I’m not snobby about it, though–I am such a sucker for those grocery store cheese sampler trays, the kind from the deli department?  Or if you really have cash to spend, gift me a big bag of those pre-cut cheese cubes.  Cheese?  In a bite-sized cube??  How luxurious!  And we all know what goes with cheese—wine.  So bring wine with the cheese.

cheesewine_01Exactly.

 

Predictably, I don’t care for the sweet wines.  I’m more a fan of the heavy reds.  Or a locally brewed craft beer.  By the way, I’m going to begin calling them “artisanal beers” and hope that catches on, because I can see it becoming a thing. I’d kill to hear the hipster guys in that one hipster pub order “an artisanal beer, please”.  That would make my day.

beerNobody is too good for artisanal beer.  SAY IT OUT LOUD.

So in summary, by paragraph:

  1. I’m not a “sweets person”
  2. Citrus is not only nutritious but also delicious
  3. I would commit crimes if it meant gooey butter cake
  4. Cheese goes with wine
  5. I got bitchy about the hipsters

I bet all this means I’m PMS’ing.  Happy Friday!

 

***************************************************************************************

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Goat Cheese & Dill Potato Salad

My salivary glands can’t even handle the title of this blog post.

Goat cheese?  I’d eat it everyday, given an unlimited supply of goats and people to milk them and turn that into cheese.  Wait a minute–I live in America!  I think I already have this!  Why don’t I eat goat cheese everyday, then?  I should.  Mmmm goat cheese.

And dill?  I only grow a ton of it in my garden and I’m always looking for ways to use it up.

This was a recent experiment–a savory, delicious experiment which I must share.  And this was so timely of me, given that we have embarked upon BBQ-and-picnic weather and everyone can use a new dish to try or share with your friends and family–don’t be the lame-o who brings the same old, tired, uncreative mustard-based store-bought potato salad to your next potluck!

The dressing here is based on fat-free yogurt, olive oil and goat cheese–I understand that this may seem non-traditional to some of you, so hold your judgment and disdain until I can explain some things at the bottom under “Helpful Hints”.

 

Ingredients:

  • a half dozen or so red potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese (eyeball it–it doesn’t have to be exactly 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup of plain, fat-free yogurt (eyeball it, this time with your other eyeball)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (I used a micro plane, seen in the above photo)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch of radishes, thinly sliced and then halved (half moons)
  • fresh dill, chopped–about 1 cup, or the entire contents of the clamshell you buy in the produce department
  • 4-5 green onions, sliced

 

Steps:

  1. Cover the potatoes with water, using a large pot.  Add some salt.  Bring to a boil.
  2. While potatoes cook, whisk together your dressing ingredients: goat cheese, yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, grated garlic, and salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Remove and drain the potatoes when fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Return potatoes to the hot pot, add the white wine vinegar.
  5. Add the sliced radishes and fresh dill to the warm potatoes.  Cover with the dressing and give it a mix until the spuds are evenly coated.
  6. Walk away, put on leather motorcycle jacket, light up an e-cig and reflect on how cool you are because nobody else at the neighbor’s BBQ will bring anything as delicious as what you just made.

 

Helpful hints:

  • You can serve this potato salad warm or cold.  I prefer warm, because I like to be accused of being difficult.
  • This dish is pretty vegetarian-friendly.  If wanted to “beef” it up a little, you could add bacon crumbles or diced ham cubes.
  • This recipe calls for plain, fat-free yogurt instead of mayo.  It’s not that I’m some kind of animal or un-American, but mayo really creeps me out (raw egg yolks, you guys!) and plus is responsible for literally millions of incidents of food poisoning (I literally just made up that number).  Don’t worry, though–as long as you use plain yogurt (i.e. not vanilla) the tangy-ness won’t bother you.  Also, feel free to use plain Greek yogurt if you like all that protein.  The texture won’t matter in the end, so as long as you buy plain yogurt you’ll be in good shape.
  • Regarding the crumbled goat cheese, all of us smarties with Costco memberships will be pleased–they sell logs of Kirkland brand goat cheese cheaper than anywhere else (around $6, in the cheeses aisle).
  • You could swap white wine for the white wine vinegar if you don’t usually keep that on hand–and you only need a splash, so get your wine glasses ready while you make this dish!
  • If you don’t own a micro plane, consider buying one ($10-15, scroll up and click the Amazon link to your right and add one to your cart).  I used it for grating garlic in this case, but it’s also good for grating fresh ginger or cinnamon sticks and for zesting.  It only comes out of the drawer once or twice a month, but it’s inexpensive and handy to have.

Any thoughts or more ideas on this recipe?  Leave them in the comments, please!

dill radishes

 

***************************************************************************************

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Everalbum

The innovative folks at Everalbum approached us with the news that their app for iOS has been released and I am loving it!  It’s the most intuitive and advanced way to edit, organize, and share my photos that I’ve used yet, and once I tried it out I knew that it was something I wanted to share with you here.

Everalbum

 

Everalbum is free in the iTunes app store (Android coming soon) and allows me to store 2,500 photos from my camera roll up to “the cloud” at Everalbum, for free.  When I’m ready, I can upgrade to the premium membership so that I can store 50,000 photos in the cloud for just $7.99 per month.  For the cost of one glass of wine a month at that hipster pizza joint I like so much, I can safely delete the pics from my camera roll and access them from my laptop, iPad and iPhone if I want to because they’re all on Everalbum.  This feature is a biggie for me–right after my daughter’s Make-A-Wish experience, I had to perform a “master reset” because my phone locked up.  The tech on the other end of the line didn’t tell me that doing this would delete all of my photos, and I lost some precious photos when that happened.  I so wish they’d been backed up somewhere, but I literally did not have the opportunity!  This was about an hour afterward and I didn’t know that I was about to lose them all.  Ugh.  That still makes me feel sick.

photo2

Friends don’t let friends run out of photo storage space.  Everalbum is your friend.

The default privacy settings for every photo and album is strict–I am the only person who can view my photos unless I specifically choose to share it/them with someone, which is a relief for me.  When I want to share a photo with my sister, I click “share” and select her name from my contacts list and poof–she has it.  My sister is often stuck in a chair somewhere nursing one of her twins, so now she could flip through her Everalbum albums and choose which dozen photos she wants just me and our mom to see and which ones she wants to post directly to Facebook or Twitter via the Everalbum app on the iPhone she always has with her.  And we can edit a photo within Everalbum using all the same editing tools found in any photo software: adding filters, frames, crop, add stickers, adjust focus, sharpness and correct red`eye before I share it.


enchiladas
Believe me, these seafood enchiladas needed no enhancements–but if I wanted to I could do it very easily.
(I’d probably make the scallops look bigger.)

 

My albums are organized by date, and the user interface is beautiful.  My photos are backed up from my camera roll directly to my Everalbum account, so I don’t have to remember to do it myself later.  And if you’re like me and always take about five shots of the same image so that you can go back later to save the clearest/best photo and delete the rest, removing a photo from an album is quick and easy.

You will want to check out this app before the kids are all out of school and summer getaways begin, so that you can take the photos and Everalbum does all the work!

photo1

And I was free to enjoy a baseball game with the twins while Everalbum backed up all my photos for me.

 I was compensated by Everalbum to review their product here, and it is genuinely a great app.  It’s a powerful tool for backing up and organizing your pics, it’s very fast, it’s secure, it’s free and it’s pretty–it’s like my antithesis.

***************************************************************************************

Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.