Thursday, December 18, 2014

Celebrating 10 Years of Cookies

This year marks the 10th year my sister, my mom and I have been baking cookies for the holidays.  For those of you who do not know the story, we decided to take over for Grandma who couldn’t bake like she used to anymore because of her arthritis.  Its become an event we plan ahead for, we have an inventory spreadsheet, we even have a list of all the cookies we’ve ever made since 2004. 
 
This year we had two little helpers, my 8 month old niece and 2 year old nephew, who played with mixing bowls and a whisk.  My nephew helped bring us our ingredients too.    We were very thankful that we all could be together this year in Albany, NY, unlike last year when we were separated by a snowstorm and had to do this in two different locations.
 
After 4 days – 20 hours and 40 minutes of baking (including naptime, storytime, lunch, dinner and babysitting so my sister and her husband could finish Christmas shopping) here are the Top 10 Cookies we made this year plus the new ones* (and any extras made with the ingredients we had left):

Anisette
Washboards
Spritz – Happy Little Trees
Spritz – Red Bells
Peppermint Meltaways
Orange Creamsicles
Double Mint Chocolate Chip
Snickerdoodles
Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Cinnamon Chocolate Drops
Sugar Cookie Mint
White Chocolate Cranberry
Minty Pretzels
*Chocolate Krinkles
*Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
*Whole Grain Cherry Almond Cookies
*Holiday Eggnog Snickerdoodles
*Kitchen Sink Cookies
*Chocolate Cappuchino Cookies
(recipes available by request only)

 


Key Phrases during the cookie baking:
  • Italians like them hard and dry – American’s like them buttery
  • Let me wash my hands, then I’ll roll my balls
  • Balls aren’t sticking
  • I can’t hold a pen
  • What if we make denture friendly cookies?
  • Roll roll roll your balls
  •  Let’s make some Italian dressing for the Italian cookies 

Phrases from the little helpers
  • “The deer are all gone”
  • “The turkey are all gone”
Our cookies are baked with friendship and love and we look forward to continuing this family tradition once a year in December to bake our hearts out and create new memories to pass on to the little ones.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Cards – To Send or Not To Send


SEND
 
Why not? I always sent out Christmas cards, I can’t tell you when it started, probably after college sometime and definitely after I got married. You take your wedding list and send out cards to who attended.  The next year I took it one step further, I added columns to that excel sheet I call an address list (which was originally an Access database), and added columns with years.  I began tracking who I sent to and who sent one back.  It wasn’t a game, it was courtesy.  I take the time to write something in the card, rather than stick a family photo printed from Shutterfly and leave the personalization to the printer.  I WRITE something in the card, I may even say ‘Hey wanna meet for lunch in January?’  Unfortunately anyone who doesn’t send one back gets dropped from the listing for the next year.  Anyone who doesn’t respond to my attempts at meeting up I no longer waste efforts to try.  But I still send Christmas cards, signed sealed delivered.  At least this year the list is down to 30 people, 30 of my closest friends and family (imagine if I got remarried, wow my budget would love me).  I do think any glitter cards should be disbarred, I’m sure the CDC or NIIH will find something wrong with glitter eventually, inhaling it could be hazardous to your health besides making a god-awful mess.

 
On the annual cookie note….my cookie goodie bag list has diminished too. I no longer just hand them out to the usual suspects, especially if they don’t talk to me all year.  I consider that list a list of VIPs, not the occasional acquaintances.  No apology here, treat me the way I treat you and perhaps you’ll get a card and a bag of treats. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Last Time I Made Pancakes

I have put a lot of thought into what I’d actually call this one, and this title stuck with me.  Today November 21st it will be 10 years my father has passed, he’s never far from my mind and I miss him more this year than ever.

It was a Sunday morning in November, I had just started making pancakes for breakfast when the phone rang.  My now ex-husband answered the phone, and he walked into the kitchen with this solemn look on his face and told me I needed to sit down.  Some of this is still a blur, I do not remember what time it was, or speaking to anyone on that phone call, but he told me it was my dad’s girlfriend calling to tell us that he had died that morning.  

I honestly do not remember what happened next except tears and tissues and composing myself enough to gather a list of numbers I had to call, and trust me those phone calls are very difficult to make.  I aged a few years that morning, taking deep breaths, trying to be the strong one.  How do I tell my grandfather, his father? How do I tell his brothers?  More importantly how do I tell my sister?  Things you aren’t prepared for at 29, things no one can prepare you for.   Phone calls you never thought you’d have to make – ever.

I could go on and tell you how the rest of the day went, how it felt as if the day went on forever and how the next three days is somewhat a blur.  Family coming, flooding of sympathy, picking out the flowers, the casket, the service – those were decisions I had to make along with my sister.  I did lean on my ex a lot for this, and I must thank him for being there.  My father’s cousins, along with his friends and mine, were a huge support too.  It was then I realized who some of my true friends are.  The wake seemed to blend into both sessions, the line was endless, it was out the door on a chilly November night.  I don’t think I ever sat down.  The support I had from family and friends really helped me through this.

While everything else was going on, I had also been blindsided by my dad’s girlfriend who tried to say she was the ‘fiance’ so her name would mean something in the obituary.  She also produced a ring.  If my Dad was engaged he would have told us.  That was just the beginning of a very long drawn out legal battle my sister and I went through with her for almost two years.  I never want to see her again.  Had I been a stronger person as I am now when this happened I would have shut her out completely.

I was made Executor of my Dad’s estate, along with that came responsibility. In hindsight I should have taken the time off from work to do this properly and not run myself to the ground like I did, although it did keep me busy and kept my mind occupied.  I should have not included my dad’s girlfriend with me at all during this process before it got ‘legal’, I should have never trusted her.   Decisions some of us should not have to make at 29, yet I did with the help of my sister.  We became each other’s rock during this and we still are. 

One of the longest weeks of my life, one of the saddest Thanksgivings and Christmas’ I’ve ever spent, not a day goes by when I don’t think about him.  For months I would sit on the couch in the living room and just cry, I wanted to know why he was taken from us so young, without warning.  I still want to know why.  There are a lot of unanswered questions, some timelines that do not add up, conversations best left to be had with the Scibetta family around the dinner table.  Every month I went to the cemetery, it made me feel better to visit him and my grandmother and my Uncle.  I spent some time there, I talked and cried and said ‘goodbye’.  It was a way for me to cope and now I go twice a year on his birthday and the day he passed away.

There were months afterwards he would appear to me in dreams, as if he was trying to tell me something.  I’m not sure when those stopped but occasionally he’ll make an appearance.  

I didn’t quite come to terms with everything until after I was separated and started counseling (yes I went to counseling) and I learned a lot.  I actually got some closure with a few things but never an answer to ‘why’.  While we were separated my now ex husband said he should have sent me to counseling earlier to deal with losing my father, had that have helped me then, probably not.  I was so consumed with work, finishing my second degree, then the legal battle, I didn’t have time to think about anything else.  Not everyone reacts the same way, we all don’t suffer at the same time.  We will eventually deal with it at our own pace except when it starts to affect our health, our work and our life and those around us, at that time you need to seek professional help. 

I was not crazy for going to counseling, I needed to talk to someone other than my now ex-husband, my sister, my friends who have lost a parent.  I need to talk to someone from the outside, without judgment.  I’m glad I did that, and yes maybe I should have gone sooner than 3 years after the fact, but I went.

Four years later, I made pancakes.  At the time they were plain pancakes, only now when I make them they have added ingredients (chocolate chips, bananas, pureed apple, pumpkin spice).  I don’t think about the phone ringing on a Sunday morning while I’m making breakfast anymore.

For those of you who have ever lost a parent I know its not easy but we do get stronger and we have to lean on those close to us.  Eventually your fb posts aren’t going to get you the closure you need, go seek professional help.  You do not need to sign up for a year, just a session, just talk it out with someone else, you’ll learn an awful lot about yourself and the situation and how to deal.  I’d much rather see my friends go talk to a professional than to hit the bottle, that’s one coping mechanism I never went to.

 
So today Dad I visit your grave with Grandpa, and call my sister who will Skype with your two grandkids, Matthew and Madeleine with their Great Grandpa.  I know you’re proud of us, you’re always watching over us and your memory lives on in each of us.  (Matthew’s a lefty just like you!) 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Surviving the Big D: My Photo Albums

Yes this deserves a mention, because had I known I would have taken them with me.  In the midst of the separation, his parents moved into the Dream House while their new retirement residence was being built, and also sometime that year or the year after (since it took over a year to finally get divorced) he was storing his friends things at the Dream House.  Somehow my photoalbums went missing.  Years of my childhood, pictures of friends at the beach, softball, pool parties at my house in Carteret, parties at the apartment in Edison, my head in the trash can after a New Years Eve party, pictures of my sister and I at Halloween, how my mom dressed us in similar outfits at the holidays, pictures of my Great Aunts and Uncle Mickey, my Grandmothers and my Grandfathers left behind and now are missing.  Some of the last pictures taken with my father before he passed away are somewhere in that Dream House, especially a picture of him that I recall from my wedding where he just looked so GQ, my Dad all dressed up in a tux.  They are albums in a brown box, probably with the word ‘PHOTOS’ on all four sides somewhere in that house unless he tossed them or his parents took them with them OR his friend accidentally moved it out with his things.

 
I’m still angry, I still don’t know why someone would want to hold onto my photos, photos from before his time.  Photos that he wasn’t apart of.  Photos that mean something to me.  I’ve stopped calling and texting for them back, at the time the refinance was more important (even that took 5 years after the D), but now I’m still angry, I think I always will be angry. 


I’m angry that I lost part of time in photos, that I can never show my niece and nephew pictures of their Grandfather, their Great Grandmother and Great Great Aunts and Uncle.  I can’t show them what it was like back then, I can only tell stories of the past.  I’m angry that they were never returned to me.


Yet I learn now that when I leave a relationship even if its for a temporary ‘break’ take everything with me, leave nothing behind because the person you once trusted for all those years is mostlikely not trusting with your things. 

 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

30 Day + Challenge

After completing T25(plus Gamma) and Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution (my way – 1 dvd per day) I decided to try something else to keep in top form.  This time I’m going to try to keep up with blogging about it, the exercises I did, the food I ate, maybe not tell you exactly what was on my plate every night, but at least give you a sense of what I ate that week.  You can do abs, arms, legs and cardio till you’re sweating but unless you combine healthy meals with that you are wasting your time.
 
I don’t buy into the 30 Day Calendar Challenges where you are repeating the same exercises over and over again and just increasing the reps.  That doesn’t work, especially if you are using it as your main workout and not as an extra added workout bonus.  Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now. 

For this round of workouts I decided to try Melissa Bender’s 30 Day Ab Challenge combined with her Bikini Competition Workout (3 months).  In her first day of abs she first explains the moves and then does 1 minute intervals of each. (Had I thought this through properly I would not have done my own set of 210 abs last night).  She does this move called Down Dog/Up Dog which not only works your core, but it also works your shoulders.  After the interval I was felt it (I will be doing this again)! 
 
So far the Bikini Competition Workouts are good (I have three months of different workouts to do), I have been doing two rounds of them (she says you can do 2-3 rounds of them depending on how your body feels).  I do them depending on what else is going on that week – do I have a game? A 5K? Am I training on the bike? 
 
How am I doing this?  I can stream Youtube from my TV (thankfully) and there are a ton of workouts from everyone under the sun. I’ve even done a few kettlebell workouts and the free TapOut one with Mike Dolce.
 
Week 2 is in the books, although its been rough this week with working later hours, recovering from riding 35 miles and softball.  I will say I got in a great workout today:  Bikini workout + abs + T25 

Speed 2.0 + batting cages which might have contributed to all the pent up frustration of people ‘accepting’ work related meeting invites for 8 pm EST and then not showing up.
 
Example of what I ate in Week 2:
Breakfast: 1 egg white + 1 egg, multi grain toast with almond butter or Kashi Go-Lean Crunch cereal with FF Milk, plus 1 cup of coffee w/almond milk
Snack: Apple
Lunch: Homemade Turkey Burger with brown rice and garden ground string beans + H2O
Snack: Celery sticks with hummus
Dinner: Baked Salmon with low sodium soy sauce and steamed veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots) + H20
Snack: Arugula, baby spinach with almonds, black olives and carrots w/homemade dressing (Grapeseed oil, white vinegar and garlic pesto spices)

**Protein Shakes w/ FF milk or Almond Milk w/ cinnamon, flax seed on workout days only or if I have a sweet craving.
 
Cheat Day - Saturdays: which really isn't a cheat day for me except that I have alcohol and maybe dessert!

 
This is my neverending journey to continue to be fit and healthy, not everything I do may work for you.  If you want to be fit and healthy you have to start somewhere and continue the lifestyle.  It will be challenging at first, but with the support from those around you, and perhaps if they embark on that journey with you will make it rewarding.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

#LikeMyself

After watching the “Like a Girl” campaign by Always twice, almost three times I’ve finalized realized why it’s bothersome.  When I was growing up the ‘like a girl’ phrase didn’t exist.  I was picked on in grammar school, not because I was a girl, but because I had different shoes, I had a bad haircut, I had braces, all the things one would get picked on for.  When I started learning how to play softball at 7 years old I wasn’t told that I ‘throw like a girl’, or ‘run like a girl’ in fact, you’ll find all the awards from those days at Field Day where I beat out boys in sprints and long jump.  My parents always encouraged me to be myself, they didn’t segregate me from playing with the boys or encourage the now infamous appreciation for doing things ‘like a girl’ and to be proud of it.  So I’m a little lost as to where Always is coming from.  If we are a society where ‘all men are created equal’ then why segregate the way young people (and those adults) do things ‘like a girl’ or ‘like a boy’.  From as long as I remember I have been told and encouraged to be myself – not to do things ‘like a girl’.  Don’t be like everyone else, be yourself.  I guess society is slowly getting more sensitive in a world where today some of us all still compete on the same playing field (with the boys). 

 

Now this is where I get mad about “Like a Girl” because I don’t throw like a girl, I don’t cycle like a girl, I do not run like a girl.  I do not care if I break a nail, if my leg gets cut up from sliding into 2nd, I’ve played thru stitches in my hand from a line drive, I’ve continued to ride another 10 miles with blood running down my leg from one of my first falls on my bike when learning to clip in (my wolverine attack as I like to call it).  I play, run, cycle like Natalie.  Not like anyone else.  So if I say that you run, cycle, or throw ‘like a girl’ its only because you won’t go the extra mile, you want to participate so I’ll give you that, but you won’t play hard to win, you want that towel after getting dirty because the ball you just picked up was wet, you walk your bike up that hill instead of seeing if you can push thru it, you don’t want to get your hair wet if it rains on the field.  I think that is where the line is drawn with this campaign and why many of us women athletes are upset about the overall message.  When my niece is old enough to throw a ball, ride a bike, run to the mailbox, I’m going to encourage her to play like herself, not like anyone else.  We are all unique, we are all individuals and in the end there is no comparison.  Make the world like and respect you for what you do and your accomplishments, not because you did it ‘like a girl’.

 

 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2 Dings = Hey Bartender

For those few who have had the privilege of flying the friendly skies with me trust me it is a privilege to bear witness to how I handle those next couple of hours.  I am not a good flyer, which doesn’t necessarily mean I panic, I need pills to calm the anxiety, I throw a hissy fit.  What that means is I have learned how to remedy my stress of the entire flight experience. 
 I sleep well the night before, I usually don’t start panicking until we’re in the air as I patiently await the two dings.  If its an early flight I do not have caffeine of any kind, trust me the calmer I am the better passenger I am.   I eat breakfast, I buy a snack, I bring things to keep me occupied.  Whether that means my trusty notebook for jotting down things that are said in flight like “amazing what you can fit between your toes”, my Kindle (Kudos to renting movies this trip), or my mp3 player (which I neglected on my trip to San Diego).  I’m sure everyone has their peeves, their flight preparedness activity package ready to go.  This sounds like a cakewalk right?
I thought I was a bad flyer until this trip to the DR when one of the people in our group, whose name will not be mentioned, met the takeoff and landing in throws of what I could assume to be close to hyperventilation.  In the air this person was fine with.  I love taking off and landing for some strange reason, even after the Miami incident when we were seconds from landing the pilot pulled the plane up sharply and we had to increase altitude to avoid hitting another plane taking off.  (The guy next to me got a free thigh grab for that one)
The in-between is what I dread, the unforeseen turbulence.  I patiently wait for the 2 dings, the cart to roll by and its “Hey bartender, a bottle of red please.”  With that I down the bottle of red in seconds, others would say “you drank it like it was a shot”.  Depending on the length of the flight I’ll have two bottles.  My trip to London I drank the entire way there (including the 3 glasses before boarding), I was awake the entire time watching the sunrise over what I thought was Ireland.  (Its always a bonus when the drinks are free!) I’ve tried vodka sodas but the sugar increases the chances of having a headache the rest of the day.  The best part of this is I’m completely sober when we land.
Drinking in flight numbs me, it puts me in a ‘buzzed’ state where turbulence doesn’t matter.  I’m less aware of my surroundings.  Some may say that’s a bad thing, but considering I’d tried muscle relaxers, sleep aids at least alcohol is something I can control and know works for me.   If we hit turbulence I won’t be white knuckled in my seat, I’ll just be like “la-de-da” and continue watching my movie or writing down what hideous shirt the guy in front of me is wearing.
Now if it’s a later flight and the bar is open I’ll be there, drinking away.  The Pasadena trip was fun and better yet when the bartender gave us a free round.  The Angel I was traveling with didn’t remember getting on the plane!  She has since told me flying has never been the same.  I have learned that drinking before a flight can be hit or miss especially if your flight has been delayed – there goes your buzz.  I rather not drink before boarding though because the amount of time it takes to board the plane, taxi the runway and get in the air is just about the amount of time it takes to lose a buzz.
At least this trip everyone was drinking with me, I got to clink glasses (bottles), hold my bottle up high in the air like a shot and say “Salute”!