Uncategorized

The best Thanksgiving stuffing ever.

The night before Thanksgiving used to mean heading out to the local bar, catching up with old high school friends you haven’t seen in years, swapping stories and trying to outdo one another.

Um, no thank you.

Now the night before Thanksgivings look like this: drinking at home while cooking and preparing for the big meal the next day.

The day usually starts with a very long list and a trip to the grocery store (the order of the items mimicking the layout of the aisles). Then after a short day at work, the cooking and preparation begins!

One of the dishes I make ahead of time is my Sausage, Apple and Cornbread Stuffing. You can prepare the entire dish ahead of time and then just bake it on Thanksgiving day (once the bird comes out of the oven and frees up some prime real estate).

I made this recipe up, but I make it every year because it’s a delicious hit! Sorry vegetarians, it’s made with sausage. Though I imagine it could be made without.

Sausage, Apple and Cornbread Stuffing

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Ingredients:

1 cornbread cut into cubes (I use the Jiffy packed cornbread and combine 2 packages and make 1 Johnny cake; 3/4 of the cake goes into the stuffing, the other 1/4 goes into my mouth)

1 lb sweet sausage (casings removed)

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 granny smith apple, chopped (skin on)

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2 Tablespoons thyme, chopped

Chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare cornbread according to directions on package; bake both packages as one Johnnycake. Let cool. Cut into small squares.

Cook sausage in a dutch oven in a little olive oil over medium heat until browned and crumbly (I use a potato masher to break up sausage when cooking it).

Remove browned sausage into a bowl. Add onion, carrot and celery to pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften. Add the chopped apple. Stir until apple starts to soften. Add thyme and cook 1-2 more minutes. Add a splash of chicken stock to deglaze the dutch oven. Add the cornbread cubes and remove from heat. Stir in cornbread pieces. It will break apart, but that’s ok. Once combined – don’t over mix!– empty pan into a greased casserole dish. Add a splash of chicken stock to moisten.

Bake stuffing at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes uncovered, or until the top is nicely browned.

Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Uncategorized

Everything hurts and I’m dying.

I’m an early riser. As I open my eyes each morning and let them adjust to the darkness in the room, I squeeze my muscles and twist and turn every so slightly to take inventory, and to get an idea of where the pain is going to be when try to make myself vertical.

Waking up hurts.

There was a time in my life, when I could literally hop out of bed and start my day.

Now, I need time to “prepare” to get out of bed: I need to have a plan of attack. Roll to the side, dangle legs push yourself up on your elbow. Or, Sit up first in bed, test out your back, then swing your legs to the side and stand. Neither option is pretty, and not without grunts and groans.

But perhaps the best part of getting out of bed each morning, is that when I finally do achieve a vertical position, I’m half crouched over because I can’t yet stand up straight.

Getting old sucks.

I have always had issues with my lower back. And about twice a year it really acts up, and is so painful, I’ve often told Mr. KK to take me in the back yard and to just shoot me. This past April, my back pain came back after a 9 month hiatus, and was out for revenge.

The pain came quickly, on the week leading up to my birthday (fitting), and ended up preventing me from traveling for work. I have done a fair amount of work travel in my life, and I have NEVER cancelled a trip. But this time, I literally could not stand up, sit down, lie down or walk without excruciating pain. My days consisted of a continuous musical chairs of positions, each one last about 15 minutes until I couldn’t bear it any longer. Someone had to be with me at home to help me perform everyday tasks. Someone had to help with the Little Mister and walk the dog.

Long story short, after a chiropractor (which made it hurt more), muscle relaxers (which did nothing) and Oxycodone (which just made me loopy but didn’t ease the pain), I went to an Orthopedic walk in and was prescribed a steroid. And these magic pills changed my life. Not only did they ease the pain in my back, but all of my other aches and pains (remember my frozen shoulder?) miraculously went away. (For a short time, any way.)

It wasn’t until my back pain had eased that the appointment I had made with the orthopedic surgeon weeks early had arrived (God forbid you’re able to see a doctor when you actually have the pain, instead of describing what the pain was like 15 days earlier).

They took an x-ray of my lower back. And I was diagnosed with Old Age.

(The actual diagnosis was degenerative arthritis in my spine, but tomato tomahto.)

I was told to stretch every day, keep active and work out, and to try and avoid sitting for long periods of time without getting up (ie: working).

Every now and then I feel a twinge of my back pain coming back, but it’s never gotten to the point it was near my birthday. I’ve been working out regularly doing kickboxing, barre and pilates. So now when I wake up and I hurt, I have to categorize the pain as being either “old age aches and pains” and “workout muscle pain”.

The joys of getting older!

 

Uncategorized

Death of a monitor.

It’s the end of an era.

Our monitor is dead.

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I have always been a paranoid person: barricading hotel room doors, triple checking the house locks and obsessively holding the monitor to my ear when Little Mister was a baby to make sure he was breathing.

Out of habit, I’ve kept the monitor. We technically don’t need it – our house is so small I can see Little Mister’s room without getting out of bed. But every night, I turn it on, the blurry image illuminating our room. There’s something comforting about waking up in the middle of the night and looking over and seeing my little man tangled in his blankets under a mountain of stuffed animals.

I knew it was on it’s way out. If the plug wasn’t in just so, it would beep incessantly. You couldn’t touch it or breath on it, and it would work. But, I was still connected to my little boy.

We have always been very lucky that our Little Mister rarely wakes up in the middle of the night (cue the sound of me cursing our lives). I can count on one hand the number of times he’s woken up. And even when he does wake up, he never gets out of bed. He simple SCREAMS at the top of his lungs from his room.

“MOOOOOOOOOOM!”

Me, jumping out of my skin and a deep sleep.

I open the door to his room. “What’s up, bud?”

“My teddy bear fell on the floor, can you pick it up?”

SERIOUSLY?

I guess I should be glad that as he gets older he still needs me?

Well, this morning, the monitor died. A piece fell out. It’s over.

And even though we probably haven’t needed it for years,  I haven’t slept without the buzzing (after a few years, it started making weird sounds).

But I guess this is part of us both growing up.

RIP monitor!

1821, Home renovations, Patio, Uncategorized

The summer of the patio.

Summer (and fall) of 2019 will forever be known in the KK house as that time we built a patio.

When we purchased our house (where Mr. KK’s grandmother used to live), there was a concrete “deck” off the back of the kitchen that Mr. KK’s grandfather had built. It was not the prettiest thing, but it allowed us to have our grill close to the kitchen, with enough room for our chiminea, table and chairs, and my potted herbs in the summertime.

Unfortunately, it started cracking and wasn’t in the best shape, so we had to take it down. And with it, went our only outdoor space (that had a floor, anyway) where we could eat outside and hang out.

We knew when we took away the old patio that we would eventually build a new patio off of the new family room. We had beautiful french doors that would be the perfect gateway to our outdoor living paradise.

And this past July, in what will be called the “Summer of the Patio”, Mr. KK spent every waking moment working on this creation with his friend. From drawing the plans, to changing the plans, to picking out the stone (this is where I came in!), to clearing the land and digging in, this project took over our lives.

When we started, it was July and it was HOT. Notice the lush green trees, and my lone lounge chair.IMG_0008

The was was the first thing to get dug and built.IMG_0029

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I believe this photo was taken during the hottest day of the summer, it was about 100 degrees and 1,000,000% humidity. But these two soldiered on:

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And, oh, all the deliveries! Stone, gravel, sand, more stone, more gravel. Our yard was a disaster:

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Check out that wall!

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From what I could tell, the wall was the “hard part” and it was finally over!

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Next up, digging and clearing where the floor was going to go:

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It may be hard to see, but it’s the beginning of fall here. You can see the leaves in the grass in the back of the yard. Summer was over, and we were yet to enjoy our first drink on the new patio.

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That rush of laying down the first stones!

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Fall meant shorter days, but that didn’t stop these two. They worked well into dark, using the floodlights to see.

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And…done!

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The patio itself is officially finished, but there’s still a ton of work to do. Besides cleaning up the yard and scraps, there are planters to be filled in, walkways to plan and lighting to think about.

All I know is that I’m going to have a celebratory drink on this thing of beauty, even if I have to wear a parka and boots!

 

Exercise, kickboxing, Uncategorized, workout

I tried kickboxing, and here’s what happened.

If I had known that my metabolism was going to up and disappear one day without so much as a ‘good-bye’ I would have been nicer to it. Showed it more appreciation. Maybe thanked it more often.

Because, man, do I miss it.

Over the years I’ve found it harder and harder to stick my goals, keep weight off that I’ve lost, and not fall victim to a “I should be able to eat whatever I want because life is short” mindset. (Though, I am a firm believer in said mindset, which is why I will never give up cheese, wine or beer).

Earlier this year, I was pretty committed to a workout routine of barre and pilates reformer classes. I was attending classes 4 (or more) times a week and was eating very healthy (read: no ice cream or alcohol) and I felt really good and even lost about 10 pounds or so. (Of course, Mr. KK was ALSO exercising regularly and eating the same things I was and he lost twice the amount of weight. This, my friends, is why men suck.)

I really enjoy my barre and pilates, and I’ve kept that up. But, as to be expected, life got in the way of me attending classes as much as I would have liked. Mr. KK and I were trying to sync schedules, while also balancing him building a patio in our yard all summer. Workout time became time I needed to spend going to the grocery store, or catching up on work, or watching the Little Mister.

I was also feeling like I needed to find a workout that would make me sweat. I am not one who sweats a lot to begin with (I once ran a 5k and my face was red, but not damp at all), but I tend to equate losing weight with sweating, so I was looking for something to supplement with my current toning and conditioning classes.

Enter: kickboxing.

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Targeted digital marketing was doing its thing, and I was seeing sponsored kickboxing posts in my social feeds. My gut instinct was that I would not like it. I had gotten used to very small, intimate barre classes, in a dimly lit studio, in my own zone. Kickboxing was the complete opposite of that: big, bright room, loud music and an instructor with a headset, tons of people around me, and a general feeling of intimidation.

Curiosity got the best of me, and I signed up for a 3-class trial with free boxing gloves. Plus, there was a promotion, so I ended up paying $9.99 for the 3 classes and the gloves. Even if I only go once, it’s a good deal, I told myself. And I never turn down a deal.

I knew I was in trouble when they called me to pick a day for my class. I liked to plan my workouts privately. “Can I sign up online?” I asked, hopeful. I was told that I couldn’t because I needed to have a mini orientation before my first class. There went my plan to sneak into a class, hide in the back and go un-noticed. Reluctantly I scheduled my first class and the dread set in.

On the day of my first class, my enthusiasm was around 10%. Don’t get me wrong, everyone I had been in contact with was very friendly and helpful. I was the issue, not the outgoing, super energized skinny kickboxing instructors. People who know me may describe me as outgoing, which I am, in certain situations. But when it comes to participating in large group activities where I don’t know anyone, I’m not in my comfort zone. I much prefer to be alone.

I wasn’t sure what to expect the other class attendees to be like. Would they all be svelte kick boxing pros? Would they make fun of my pathetic right hook? Would the class be filled with men who actually knew how to box? (None of this was accurate. The class was a mix of all women from early twenties to mid-fifties, all fitness levels, who only paid attention to their own workout.)

In regards to the actual class, a friend had told me about a grueling warm up, followed by the actual class, and some sort of partner drills at the end. From that description, I was hoping to stay out of the way and finish the class.

Here’s what the kickboxing class was like:

The warm up. It’s a HIIT-style warm up that lasts about 15 horrific minutes. It starts with jogging around the room, transitions into a million burpees, and then morphs into some combination of jump squats, push ups, planks and surrenders. And then more burpees. Thank god there aren’t any mirrors, because if I saw what I looked like doing a burpee, I would never return to class. I can safely say it’s the hardest 15 minutes of the class.

Stretching. Who doesn’t love stretching?! Especially if it means the burpees are over! My favorite line from this portion of the class, said breezily and all NBD by the instructor, “And whenever you’re ready, you can slide into that full split.” (Honey, this body hasn’t been in a split in 25 years.)

The kick boxing. This was my favorite part of the class, which consisted of six 3-minute rounds of punches and kicks to the bag. These mini routines focus on skills and form, and generally make class go by quickly. My arms got tired and I was sweating, so I felt good. Plus, there is something about hearing the satisfying whap! of your shin connecting with the bag with a solid roundhouse kick.

Partner drills. (Ugh, shoot me.) “Find a partner!” the instructor commanded, and I was immediately taken back to middle school gym class when we used to pick people for teams. I was the newbie, so I didn’t have kickboxing friends to gravitate towards. But I found a partner, and I wasn’t the odd woman out who had to spar with the instructor, either.

Cool down. More stretching, some instructor announcements and a fit tip of the day. The second best part of class! Except for the ceremonial hand drumroll on the mat, two slaps and a loud WOOOO! that is required of class members. I don’t do group WOO-ing.

The vibe. If I can get past this part of the kickboxing experience, I may be able to hang in there. The instructors are very good at keeping the energy level up, and encouraging class members throughout the routine. However, there’s lots of group chanting and answer-backs…which is not my style. Things like, the instructor yelling, “LAST ROUND!” and the class shouting back, “BEST ROUND!” Or the occasional ask of how everyone’s feeling, only to be answered with WOO-HOO and general hollering. (See note above about group WOO-ing).

The class photo. After every class, the instructor asks to take a picture of everyone, that they will use on social media, etc. I never participate in these photos. I don’t know why I run away and hide in the locker room, but I do.

I’ve been taking classes for about a month and a half now. I try and average about 2 classes a week, more if my schedule allows it.

Here are the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • I feel good after a class. I sweat and know I got a workout.
  • The hour goes by quickly.
  • I have a decent roundhouse.

Cons:

  • The warm up. I literally DREAD those first 15 minutes. They don’t make me feel good, they make me feel out of shape. And slow. And old.
  • Class participation in the forms of woo-ing, shouting, hell ya-ing, etc.
  • Post class photos. No thank you.

I haven’t seen any “results” yet. But I assume that takes time. Honestly, if I burn enough calories to still enjoy a frosty beer with Mr. KK each night, it’s worth it.

Uncategorized

How to lose your tip as a waiter (aka: that time I felt old)

One day I was out to lunch with my two millennial team members and our millennial digital account rep.

Our waiter was also a twenty-something, and not very good at his job. He was awkward and was trying a little hard.

After we had finished our lunches, he blushed his way back to the table. In an effort to bond with us, he started-telling some jokes.

As the waiter was reaching for the leftover dishes, I grabbed a fork and spoken off the plate to make it easier for home to stack the dishes.

“Thank you,” the waiter said to me. And then, in what I refer to as the most critical and awkward moment of grammar school he said to me: “I love how the generation before me has common sense .”

Oh no he didn’t!

But, alas, he did.

“The generation above you also has the common sense to know when someone doesn’t deserve a tip,” I tell him

#andscene

dogs, Kids will be kids, Life, Rocco, Uncategorized

Where do babies (and doggies) come from?

We recently dog-sat my in laws’ doggie, Enzo, for a few weeks. Like Rocco, Enzo is a rescue dog. He came to them earlier this year, was around 2 years old, and is hand’s down the softest dog I have ever felt. Guys, this dog is like CASHMERE.

Enzo and Rocco are both some variation of a dachshund – Rocco is mixed with a Min Pin and/or Chihuahua, and Enzo might very well be 100% dachshund (do doxies have odd 6th toes, because this dog has weird extra toes hanging off his feet).

Enzo and Rocco – the Italian doggie mafia – are still feeling each other out and getting used to each other. They LIKE each other, but most of their time together is spent wrestling, playing tug of war, and then power napping.

One of Rocco’s and Enzo’s favorite past time is doing this:

FYI, that’s my innocent boy, Rocco, on the bottom trying to play with a stuffed rabbit while ENZO, the manipulator, takes advantage of him.

“What are they doing?” Little Mister asked me one time.

Me: “Enzo is giving Rocco a super special doggie hug.” (I know. I’m sorry!)

Little Mister: “Do they do those hugs at night?”

Me: “Sometimes.”

Little Mister: “Do they do them when they are in bed?”

Me: “Umm…sure?”

Little Mister: “Do you and Daddy do those special hugs in bed, too?”

And…scene!

Fast forward to the night we had just picked up Little Mister from school, when he was telling us about the babies and astronauts.

Little Mister: “So there’s this astronaut who goes into outer space, and he saw me as a little baby and grabbed me! And he held onto me while he floated down to earth and then he carried me to the hospital and gave me to you.”

Yes, that’s exactly how it happened.

(Can someone get me a drink?)

Rocco and Enzo really do love each other:

IMG_1253Rocco is on the right, Enzo is on the left.

Most of the time, they fought for my attention…and my office chair.

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For 3 weeks I was surrounded by wieners in my house; I was completely out-numbered.

And Enzo – god love him – was attached to me. He followed me to the refrigerator, to the bathroom and to bed. He whimpered when I put a gate up and he couldn’t come down the hall and see me. He spooned me at night in the big bed like we were on our honeymoon. And above all, he gave me those puppy-dog eyes that just melted my heart.

Unrelated – I think – was the night Little Mister asked me at dinner whether or not I was going to the hospital to “buy another baby”.

Flustered, I told him that, no, we weren’t going to buy another baby (has he no idea how much babies costs these days??)

To which he replied, “Ok. Can I have a snack?”

If that’s the worst of it, then I’m totally ready for the next stage of parenthood.

Uncategorized

Happy cancer-versary to me! (Also: last day #NaBloPoMo!)

Happy Cancer-verary (1)

I made it – 30 posts in 30 days!

The last day of NaBloPoMo is a sentimental one, as it falls on my cancer-verary. This year marks 14 years of being cancer free. I’ve never been more reminded of my survivor status than in my new job, where I’m marketing to young survivors who want to build a family. My job hits so close to home, it’s pretty awesome.

Next year is the big 15-year cancer-versary. To celebrate that AND my birthday, I’ll be traveling for work and participating in Cancercon. My company will have a booth where young survivors can stop by and chat with us about starting a family as a survivor, what their options are and how the whole process works. But, more than that, I believe I’ll actually be speaking on a panel about my survivorship, and growing my family through surrogacy.

Speaking to a crowd is not new to me, I did it so often in my last job. But speaking about cancer, that IS new to me. It’s not that I don’t like talking about it, I just don’t usually find myself in a situation where cancer is the topic. Also, not many people knew I was a cancer survivor. Not that I was hiding it, but if they didn’t know me when I HAD cancer, it felt like a weird thing to bring up out of the blue.

I spoke about cancer and survivorship one other time, about a year after my diagnosis. My oncologist had asked me to come and speak at a women’s cancer conference at Dana Farber Cancer Institute (where I was treated).

There were about 100 women in attendance. Mr. KK came with me as moral support (he was definitely a minority in that room!). We took a seat at a table where 5 other women – in different stages of cancer and survivorship – were sitting.

One woman struck up a conversation with me. “You’re awfully young to be here,” she told me.

And I was. I was diagnosed at age 30, just 8 months shy of my wedding.

I just smiled at her. I knew I was young. But cancer doesn’t discriminate against age.

“What type of treatment are you going through?” another woman asked me.

“No treatment,” I told her. “I opted for surgery.”

When presented with my choices for treatment, I just wanted the cancer OUT. I chose surgery.

“Well, you’re lucky,” she said, touching her scarved head. Lucky? I’m 30 years old speaking at a cancer conference, I thought.

As if reading my thoughts the woman next to me spoke up. “No, being lucky would mean not even being here in this room.” She gave me a slight nod, survivor to survivor.

That day, I told my story with a shaky voice. It was all still so new at the time, and I’m not sure I had processed it all. Next year, though, I’m ready. To share my story, how surrogacy changed our lives for ever, and reflect on what I would do differently. I’m ready for you, Cancercon!

Well, this is the end of NaBloPoMo. Thank you for reading along. I won’t make empty promises that I’ll continue to post often because, let’s face it, that never happens.

Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite NaBloPoMo posts from past years:

About my neighbor: animal hoarding and duck rape

Why I prefer Target over Walmart

The prologue to my novel that I will be forever “going to start”

Happy reading!

Uncategorized

Holiday decor that’s making a comeback.

It’s no secret that Christmas is my most favorite holiday. I love everything about it: the hustle and bustle, 24/7 Michale Bublé, and the decor. I love transforming an everyday room into a magical wonderland.

Ever since we put the addition of the family room onto our house, I’ve had one very large room (that we keep free of toys and clutter) in which to go all-out with decorations. The day I drag out the Christmas bins and rediscover my holiday decor is a momentous one. I love unpacking each item, mentally recalling where in the room it was placed the year before. Because while I love lots and lots of decorations, I also love order, symmetry and a theme.

One of these decorations is not like the others…

There are only a few items that don’t fit into my holiday color scheme and theme: a large ceramic church that was handed down through Mr. KK’s family; our little nativity set that hails all the way from Puerto Rico, and was a gift from my Mr. KK’s parents; and – perhaps my most prized possession of all – the old school green ceramic light-up Christmas tree.

 

Ceramic light-up Christmas tree
Circa 2014: This is the REAL deal. The ceramic tree finds a home in the bookcase.

Even though we have the big family room to decorate, this little bookcase nook is still where the ceramic tree resides each year. It’s the first thing I pull out of the boxes and assemble. I take my time inserting the colorful pegs into the little holes; and each year, no matter how hard I try I still can’t seem to decorate it in such a way that I don’t have 6 blue pegs next to each other.

It was hand-painted by Mr. KK’s grandmother, so this tree is truly one-of-a-kind.

So you could imagine my surprise when I was walking down one of the Christmas aisles at Target and saw this:

Faux ceramic light-up trees.
Faux old-school ceramic Christmas trees. They are just a little too shiny for their own good.

 

Mass-produced green ceramic Christmas trees! For $30! So now everyone can have a little piece of an old Italian grandma in their homes this holiday season!

(I’m not going to lie: the green tree is a little too shiny and fake-looking to me, and the green is a little too green, but I’m diggin’ the retro look the white tree has going on)

I love that items like the ceramic Christmas tree are making a comeback. And not just the items, but what the items represent.

I have no doubt that this ceramic tree was painted by Mr. KK’s grandmother during a ceramics class that she took weekly with her friends. They’d meet up, pick out what they’d like to paint, and then chit-chat and gossip while they turned the plain, white objects into colorful masterpieces.

And today, we are bringing back that nostalgia: there are painting and craft classes that you can do with friends or family, where you gather together, probably imbibe, gossip, and unleash your inner craft maven.

These old school decorations – like my beloved ceramic tree – are making a comeback. They are kitschy and cool, and up until recently, you couldn’t buy them. You either had them in your family, or you didn’t (or you bought them on eBay).

For us, this tree will go up every year, even long after Little Mister no longer believes in the man in the red suit. The little bulb inside the tree will burn softly, illuminating the little pointed lights and glass birds that grace the branches.

And maybe some day, Little Mister will want the tree, because he’ll have the story of its origin from us, and he’ll want to keep the Christmas magic and spirit alive in his own home.