Sunday, December 8, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Last year I had this dip at a football party I had attended and I fell in love.  Shortly after the recipe popped up in a blog I follow and I saved it for future reference.  I just copied and pasted the instructions from the blog, and my notes are in the parenthesis.

It's safe to say that this dish is not diet friendly, but I guarantee that it will make your taste buds dance (that is if you're a fan of hot wings). 

I made it myself for the first time yesterday for a Christmas Party I attended last night and it was a huge hit, it filled a 9x13 pyrex pan, and by the end of the evening only a small portion remained.

BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP


Ingredients:
  • 4 boneless cooked chicken breasts shredded or diced (I used Swanson's canned chicken, it's like tuna, and it worked out great, 2 large cans, 1 small)
  • 2/3 bottle of FRANK’S BUFFALO WING SAUCE
  • 2 bars of cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 16 oz. bottle of blue cheese dressing (I used Bob's Big Boy bottled dressing, it was delicious)
  • 3-4 cups of shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used a mixed bag of cheddar/monterey jack because I couldn't find pre-shredded Monterey Jack at the store I was at and didn't want to go to another store)
  • Tortilla Chips for dipping (Tostitos Cantina Chips are my favorite dipping choice)
Directions:
  • First, layer the chicken and Franks Buffalo Wing sauce in the bottom of a 13″ by 9″ pan.  
  • Mix together the cream cheese, blue cheese dressing and 2-3 cups of the Monterey Jack cheese. (SAVE THE REST OF THE SHREDDED CHEESE FOR THE TOP) 
  • Spread over the chicken.  
  • Put remaining shredded cheese on the top.
  • Bake at 350 for approx. 1/2 hour. It is good hot ,or warm!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ex Photosynthesis

When you find yourself single, or not, and you're reflecting on the caliber of people you've dated in the past sometimes you find that you've wasted a lot of oxygen talking about someone who in the long run of your life, didn't matter a whole lot. Perhaps you regret how you treated someone, or maybe the person you dated was such a monster, their entire life appears to be a waste of oxygen... either way rain forests are being murdered with all the carbon dioxide we're creating talking, breathing about people who are no longer our significant others.

The Elitist and I were discussing this very thing the other night and we thought it would be an amazing business idea to create a company (perhaps a nonprofit charity, save the trees type thing) where you can plant a tree to replace the wasted breath you've spent on a particular insignificant other. My mind took brain storming to hurricane levels and I came up with some types of plants that could be planted. Break my heart? I'm breaking ground on a Vegetation Meditation Garden to get over you, and create cleaner air for future generations, who's winning now?

Anyway, without further ado, here are some samples of trees that can be planted in honor of wasted breath. Do your part and give back to the planet already.


  • A Healthier Way to Pine
  • Hive-y Ivy
  • Don't Bitch, Birch
  • Shrubs for Flubs
  • Leaves for the Left Behind
  • Feeling Grappling Sapling
  • Stop Being a Crab Apple
  • ExMas Trees
  • No More Weeping Willows
  • Talk to the Palm
  • You're Coconuts!
  • What a Dogwood
As you can see, I'm highly amused by puns, feel free to add you're own in the comments section... or if you'd like to start a kickstarter to get this going for real, I'll let you have the idea for a small percentage of sales. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Single isn't a Terminal Disease

I realized that this is going to be my 150th post, and I thought I should make it one that matters, something beyond pretty pictures and funny stories.  Beauty and laughter are important elements of life, but there are other things to explore as well.

Hello, my name is Lauren, I'm 32 years old, and currently not in a serious relationship.  I have no desire to sign up for any online dating services, be set up on any blind dates, or hang out in dimly lit bars to meet Mr. Right.  I don't hate men by any means, but I do not feel the need to define my life by one.

I am someone who is comfortable in her own skin.  I don’t need to be a half of a couple to be whole.  While I thoroughly enjoy being in a relationship, I also value my independence, and while I can thrive in the company of others I’m not fearful of solitude.

I’m tired of feeling that I should be sorry I didn’t get married and start a family immediately after graduation (high school or college, take your pick), and I don’t want to disparage those who chose that route, but it wasn't the road I wanted to travel.  I haven’t dated the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with, let alone someone I’d want to raise children with.  That’s not to say I didn’t love some of the men I've been with, that some won’t always occupy a tiny space in my heart, but there is a reason why they are all ex-boyfriends, in the end we weren't compatible for the long run.  For me I’d rather find that out while dating, than after getting married.

I believe in true love, I believe in forever, and I believe in not settling because you’re scared of being alone.  I believe in being content with your own company, in finding great friends who will stand by your side throughout the trials and tests of time.  I believe in putting good thoughts and deeds out into the universe and that they will be repaid in time, but that often times the rewards are in the deeds themselves. 

Being single has given me the opportunity to find things that challenge me and expand my mind.  I've rediscovered a love affair with my camera and taking photos of local landscapes, it reminds me of what a beautiful part of the world I’m lucky to live in.  I have time to write without feeling rushed or like I’m being selfish with my time when I just want to be lost in my words.  I can read a book without having to hear sports in the background.  I don’t have to divide my time between the people I love and the people I tolerate because the person I love loves them.  Maybe that’s selfish or self centered, but I think it makes me a more balanced person and adds to the list of life’s experiences more than it subtracts.  I don't think you can really know someone unless you really know yourself.  How can you know yourself if you've never spent real time in your own company?

I have friends and family members that are completely baffled by me not being panicked about being single and in my 30s, and I’m equally baffled that they would rather be miserable in dysfunctional relationships than get to know themselves without their partners.  I’d rather take a hot shower, read a good book, and drift off to sleep alone than to feel the coldness of emotional distance from someone that wasn't right for me even if he was right next to me.  Sleeping alone is better than sleeping lonely with someone.

I know when I find someone to share my journey with he will be someone who values my intelligence and independence.  He will be someone who is content to travel beside me as my equal, not in front of me dragging me down his path, nor behind me being pulled down mine.  I’m not in a hurry to find him, we’ll discover each other when the time is right, whether that be tomorrow or sometime in the more distant future, maybe he’s someone I know or is a complete stranger, I don’t know what is in the cards, but I do know that I’m okay with being single.


Being in a relationship is a great feeling, but if you aren't able to appreciate yourself for you who are, no one else will either.  You don’t need to have a significant other to be significant.

Monday, November 11, 2013

High Fructose Corn Syrup

This post isn't what you think it is... this isn't a health blog, I'm not railing against the obesity epidemic or GMOs... nope, I'm just talking about guilty pleasures.

In one of my many hot tub epiphanies I discovered that some men are a lot like high fructose corn syrup... stay with me here friends... let me explain.

1. They're harmless in small doses
2. They're deceptively sweet and the more you have them the more you want them.
3. In high doses they're absolutely toxic.
4. You want them when they're gone, even though you know they're bad for you.
5. The memories you made with them always make you smile (you know you have memories of eating super sweet popsicles as a kid and running around with a Technicolor mustache... it's the same idea)

Sound familiar?

These guys are often short lived flings, you part on good terms and wish each other well when you inevitably move on, but they always hold a special little corner of your heart and mind.

They're part of growing up, learning what you like or don't like (ew green popsicles), and making memories that will last a lifetime. We should be unapologetic about our love affairs with HFCS, but try not to make them a habit, because in the long run they're all filler and no real substance.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall Winery Photos

This past Saturday a good friend of mine Karla had a photo shoot with a really cool family that she has known for years and she asked me to tag along to help with child wrangling and carrying equipment, so of course I said YES! and brought my own camera along so that I could shoot the beautiful fall landscapes. Here in California we don't always get to witness the leaves on the trees changing colors like on the East Coast, but the vineyard leaves were reflective of the season. It was a gorgeous day, and I'm excited to share some of my favorite photos with you.

Most were taken at the Laetitia Vineyard on the Wine Trail.







Monday, October 21, 2013

Dream State Escalate: 42

early this morning I was awakened by a nightmare that made me sit up, get out of bed, turn every light in my studio apartment on, and make sure all my locks and deadbolts were firmly in place.... and even then I wasn't so sure that it was okay to turn the lights back off for at least another hour.

in hindsight the dream wasn't that bad as far as my vivid scary dreams have been in the past, but I still woke up in a cold sweat. In the dream I had been driving through my grandmother's old neighborhood, the one she lived in while I was growing up, often times my dream state takes me back to this house, this neighborhood. Anyway as I was slowing my car getting closer to her house, I saw that she was backing out of the garage in her old car (I don't think she's had this car in more than a decade) and that she was on her way to work (she retired more than 15 years ago) so I kept driving so that she wouldn't be late to work. I was super anxious in the dream so I decided to go to Starbucks to get some herbal tea to calm my nerves (don't judge, it's a dream). On my way to the coffee shop I got stopped at a red light on the bad side of town and I felt someone kicking the back of my seat... so hard that it adjusted my seat forward, I reached around behind the seat feeling around to see what could have jostled me and felt someone's legs. I jumped out of the car in the middle of what was now fairly busy traffic and started beating on the person who was hiding out in my car, I was screaming for help and trying to get the other driver's attention so we could get who ever was in my car out, except no one would help, they were just honking because the light had turned green and I was blocking them.

when I woke up my left hand was super sore (it still is) like I had been fighting (or what I'd assume it would feel like anyway).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Album Review: Jack Johnson: From Here to Now to You

Artist: Jack Johnson
Album: From Here to Now to You
Point of Purchase: iTunes 
Price: $11.99

Thoughts: I almost bought the album earlier in the week at Target ($13.99 with two bonus tracks) but ended up putting it back because it wasn't on the shopping list (along with a lot of other impulse decisions that I decided against). The next day I found it on Spotify and listened to it... twice back to back. It's that good. It's probably one of my favorite JJ albums to date, and I love them all. 

Tracks:

I Got You: "Back when all my little goals seemed so important, Every pot of gold fill and full of distortion, Heaven was a place still in space not in motion"
Washing Dishes: "I want you to wonder what's my name, Because I need you to want me the same"
Shot Reverse Shot: "You're the rock and I'm the paper, You're the scissors I'm the rock"
Never Fade: "I tried to play it cool and attached no strings, But by the end of the day, I needed the whole thing"
Tape Deck: "We're just specks of love, directionless"
Don't Believe a Thing I Say: "Are we free or afraid, Of what we're told, Are we out of or under, Control"
As I Was Saying: "I've been erasing, Rewrote the second half like this, So my protagonist, Might find his way back home"
You Remind Me of You: "Your daddy gave you daydreams, And more cushion in your seat"
Radiate: "As you walk you believe, Every part of the dream"
Ones and Zeros: "In the future we'll be laughing at who we were right now"
Change: "Turning page after page after page, It gets stranger day by day"
Home: "this old trail will lead me right back to where it begins"

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Castle in the Clouds

A couple of months ago I won a complimentary pass for two to go to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, it's about a 90 minute drive north from where I live, and while it's really close, I haven't been up there in more than 2 decades.  I've driven past multiple times, but never actually stopped.

The tour was much shorter than I remembered, and I somehow managed to pick the one rainy day of the year to visit, but I have to say it was just as magical and awe inspiring as my childhood memories.

Here are a few photos from the trip, maybe they'll inspire you to take a visit as well.


























Thursday, September 12, 2013

Operation Letting Go

I find that in our day to day lives we all get caught up in things that don't really matter. Drama on Facebook, opinions of strangers, bad drivers, that guy who didn't call back after a mediocre first date, rude people in line at the grocery store, we all have our stories about what makes our blood boil.

Here's my advice (and some I really want to take for myself) if whatever is causing your blood pressure to spike, tears to fall, or hand reach for the baseball bat under your car seat doesn't matter in the long run of your life, don't let it matter in the short run either.

Now when I say that they don't matter I mean it in, they aren't part of your life anymore or they play such a bit part that they'll go uncredited or as "Bad Date #45" when they roll the credits at the end of your story. I don't mean that as a human they don't matter and that they should jump off a cliff post haste. I don't mean they should be treated poorly or that you hate them... just that it won't change your life if they aren't part of it. This list can include an ex that you haven't seen in years and don't think you'll ever see them again... they can be people who once were a big deal but aren't on your radar anymore. They can be a childhood friend that's life took a different direction than yours and now all you have in common are a few social network sites. So on that note:

Life is too short to let people who don't matter hurt you or to let them ruin your day. It's nearly impossible to be rational with irrational people and it isn't worth the strain or stress to hang on to your anger.

I'm not saying you aren't entitled to your emotions or that you're feelings aren't warranted, you can feel whatever you want, I'm just saying that guy who cut you off in traffic doesn't even know he's a terrible driver and he doesn't care that you slammed on your breaks, being angry about it for hours/days/weeks later isn't going to solve anything.

When I saw online that an ex of mine (who I haven't had any contact with in getting close to two years now) has moved on and is having a child with someone else, yeah it felt like I was punched in the stomach for a good couple of hours, but after I thought about it, it was good news. It was the final push I needed to really let go, no hurt, no anger, just an overwhelming sense of relief. I know he's gone for good now. He's happy and honestly I'm great with that. I don't want to go back to being the person I was when we were involved, and now that bridge has been so completely destroyed that it's almost like it was never there. We can finally be the strangers we were always meant to be.

I also went through a phase where a friend of a friend was constantly posting things online that would fill me with such hostility that it was affecting my friendship with my ACTUAL friend. I took a deep breath, deleted the person and never looked back. I have found that it was great for my blood pressure and my real life friendships, win-win. Sometimes we just need to cut ties that unnecessarily bind us.

If someone hurt your feelings and they're someone you want to keep in your life, work on resolving the issue so you can both let it go. If it isn't someone you'd like to keep in your life, start making the necessary changes to cut them out. If it's someone that you feel you can't delete from your Facebook friends list hide them from your newsfeed and change your privacy settings so that you don't have to see their posts that make you seethe. If they are someone you can delete/block do so.

People only have as much power over you as you allow them to have, so if they don't matter, don't let them matter.

Dream State Escalate: 41

I know it's been a really long time (months maybe?) since I posted here in the dream journal, and it's not that I haven't been dreaming, it's more that by the time I get to a computer to type it out the details fade, I get busy, or life and work get in the way.

Last night's dream was bittersweet. I was at my grandmother's house from my childhood (she moved 10+ years ago) and my little brother walked in the door. My brother that has been dead for 4 years. He came home, he was back... and not a raised from the dead, can't be in the sunlight because he's a vampire back, he was real and here. I was so surprised I put a cast iron skillet in the microwave and turned it on.  No worries though, it was just a couple of seconds and I didn't burn the house down. The whole family was shocked to find out that it was all a terrible mistake and he had been in hiding (the reason was never clear) for the past few years.

I also had a dream that I was a Broadway star and was playing Roxy in Chicago. During intermission we would go out (in character) to the lobby and teach dance moves to the kids at the performances, as I was dancing and singing with a little girl, a young woman in the concessions line started heckling me, and I stormed over (in really tall stilettos) and had her thrown out of the theatre. Because Roxy Hart is badass. Apparently.

Friday, September 6, 2013

When Reality Checks Your Privilege

I want to say that last night I witnessed the worst display of parenting in my life... except that it would imply that some sort of parenting was involved.

Even as I write that it makes me wonder what these kids' lives are like, I just got a snapshot, I don't know what life is like at home for them, what their parents are like, or if they even have adults looking out for them in the slightest... if their parents have 3 jobs and are never home just to keep a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs, the children all seemed fairly clean (although they were in a swimming pool, so who really knows) and well fed, so at least they had that going for them.

I know these statements seem to start in the middle of a story that I haven't told yet, and I will get there, but those are the thoughts that are running through my mind presently.

Last night started like any other night might, a friend of mine texted me asking if I wanted to come over to hang out at the pool in her apartment complex. My only plans for the evening included drinking a beer and watching One Tree Hill reruns so I of course jumped at the chance to beat the heat at the pool. The original intent of the evening didn't include anything more than sitting on the pool deck with our feet/legs in the water, but after witnessing some abysmal swimming skills in the kids that surrounded us, we decided to suit up and school the youngsters (in the best, most patient, looking out for their best interests, not letting them drown in 3 feet of water manner)... also the cute 10 year olds had been cajoling us to get in and play for the better part of an hour.

So we helped the kids with their technique for awhile, then decided to get into the hot tub (it was getting cold outside, it was after 9pm at this time), and the kids followed us in like lost puppies. It was painfully obvious these kids were starved for positive adult attention... even while we were helping them with their swimming every once in awhile one of the boys would get a panicked look on his face and ask "Is this okay? Am I wrong?" it was heartbreaking. We talked about school, and how important it is to do homework and get good grades, and you could tell this was something new to these kids. They were so excited to talk about their accomplishments and dreams for the future, about who they wanted to be when they grew up, and if they should worry about finding a girlfriend now or wait until they're older (we advised that they wait).

As the minutes tick by we notice that no parents or even adults are showing up to pick up the kids as the pool is getting ready to close. One of the boys mentions that they all walk home to neighboring complexes, and one had quite a bit further to go alone (probably about a mile away, but it was late and not on the best side of town), my friend and I were horrified that someone would allow their 5th grader to not only go swimming without adult supervision (or stronger swimming skills) AND that they would allow them to walk home that late at night, we were slightly less horrified that it was close to 10 pm and he still hadn't done his homework (because honestly, his safety is more important than a spelling list). Then we were faced with a really tough decision. The boy asked us (strangers) to give him a ride home, normally he'd walk, but it was getting cold outside.

We didn't know what to do. We didn't want him to walk home without an adult, but it's inappropriate for adults to have strange children in their car. What would happen if for some reason we were pulled over and couldn't explain why he was there, or who he was for that matter. What if his parents saw him with us and were pissed off that we intervened. What if we let him walk home by himself and someone hurt him, kidnapped him, if he got lost didn't make it back to his house? In the end we were more concerned that something bad would happen to him if we let him walk by himself (even though he does it all the time and doesn't even know what a curfew is) than what might happen if someone saw him in the car.

My heart is still heavy 15+ hours later.

Reality hits hard.

I lived in that same complex (as the pool was, not that he lived in) when I was his age, 22 years ago. My mother would have NEVER allowed me to go to the pool unsupervised, and I was a fairly decent swimmer. She would have never let me out of her sight after dark. If she had to work late there was always someone to take care of me and make sure I was safe and warm.

I think I knew in the back of my mind that there were kids like these boys out there. That at a young age were basically on their own and dealing with life without supervision, but I hadn't really seen it in person... or maybe I never paid attention.  My mind was completely blown that there are people in this world who would be okay with their kids playing in a pool without a lifeguard, adult supervision, anyone with basic knowledge of CPR or First Aid, that they didn't know that there would be some one there to jump in and pull their kid out if he got into trouble. That they were okay with their kids in a swimming pool without really knowing how to swim. There was no one there to tell them that running on the slippery pool deck was dangerous, that diving into the shallow end of the pool could lead to catastrophic injuries, that it's not polite to splash strangers (okay this was the least of my worries, but in the beginning my biggest annoyance). These kids didn't even know there was anything wrong or (I hesitate to say) abnormal about the situation.

Looking back I realize that any time I ever felt like my mom was too strict, that I should have been allowed more freedom, more independence, any type of less involvement I WAS WRONG. She made rules and had expectations to keep me safe, smart, and on track to having a decent future. I never had to look to strangers for anything. I never felt unloved or unimportant. When I spoke to her she listened... and while like a lot of kids I was afraid of failure, it was because I didn't want to disappoint her because she believes in me, not because I thought that if I did something wrong that she wouldn't love me as much.

I may not have grown up in a mansion, but I always knew I was loved and well taken care of, that I never had to want for anything truly important, and that's really the biggest privilege of all...and I realize that it's incredibly sad that those things are a privilege and not a right of every child.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Another awesome dinner in the books

This was Pampered Chef inspired, but I'm not sure that I stuck to the recipe. I didn't have it handy and didn't want to look it up.

Ingredients:

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (I had some cutlets leftover from the last time I cooked chicken so they were perfect)
  • Olive Oil
  • Pampered Chef Sweet Basil Rub (this stuff is amazing)
  • Tomatoes (I sliced up about a dozen cherry tomatoes)
  • Garlic (I used 5 cloves)
  • Fresh Basil
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Box of Penne Pasta (it was way too much for the amount of chicken/tomatoes I had 1/2 a box would have been better)

Directions:
While a large pot of water was heating up to boil I seasoned the chicken with the rub and olive oil, then set it aside to mini marinate while I chopped up the garlic and tomatoes. 

Sprayed my frying pan down with a light coating of Pam then tossed in the seasoned cutlets. 

Once the chicken was about halfway cooked I put the pasta in the pot of water and also added a little garlic to cook with the noodles. 

Back to the chicken. When it was mostly cooked I added in the tomatoes and garlic and stirred in the pan frequently. As the meat was starting to brown I tore strips of the basil leaves and cooked along with the other ingredients. 

By the time the pasta was cooked (al dente) the chicken mixture was ready to be added in. 

Sprinkle Parmesan to taste and serve up.

Central Coast Thursday Night

 
 
 
 

 
 
 


 


Can't get enough of the California coast? Check out my flickr set here. There are pics that range from San Luis Obispo County to Orange County.  I need to find my way north to get some of the rest of the California coastline.
 

 
 

 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dallas Cowboys Training Camp 2013

This summer I had the opportunity to go to Dallas Cowboys Training Camp in Oxnard, California. It was a really cool experience and one that I can't wait to do again next year (although, I think I'd like to do it with a little more planning involved so that we can get to the field earlier in the day). I learned some cool new things about my camera and I was pleasantly surprised at it's capabilities. All the photos that follow were shot from about 2-3 feet behind a chain link fence, my camera edited it out for me WHILE I was taking the pics.

If you want to see more, you can view the set on flickr here and I'll be updating it periodically (as they get edited).