Monthly Archives: September, 2012

Day 115: The Best Little Carrot Pineapple Cupcakes Recipe

For a baby shower I attended recently, I was asked by the new mom to make one of her comfort foods — carrot pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing. And NO NUTS! I stumbled across pretty much the best recipe ever, and was asked to share the recipe by many friends.

What makes these cupcakes so delicious is that about half of the batter is chopped carrots and crushed pineapple. Combined with some oil, these cupcakes are amazingly moist. You have to hold them carefully to frost them because they are so moist that they are delicate to the touch. I’ve made the recipe twice and they were equally good the second time. This recipe is a keeper.

Since you are all technologically competent, I’m just going to share the link from allrecipes.com for the best Carrot Pineapple Cupcakes ever.

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Day 114: What Am I Thinking?

I just posted a link on Got My Reservations that commits me to posting every day in October. Apparently, I should be committed.

Yet I’m hopeful about this project. I have a lot of material in my photo archives to use and I’m working at making my posts shorter, although you’d never know it from the Sunday Review posts or the self-examination posts I’ve been doing here at Retirement 365.

Short and sweet. That’s my motto for October. I’ll hope you’ll join me this month on the “other side.”

Day 113: Five Minute Friday — Grasp

This week’s theme at Gypsy Mama’s Five Minute Friday is grasp. It’s perfect for me as I finish up this week — I’m grasping and gasping for fresh air and deliverance from the chains of working in an office.

I’ve been interning at a travel agency for about a month. For the last two days, I have been on my own in the office while my friend took a well-earned vacation.

Now I know that I never want to work in an office again.

After 100-ish days of being “retired” and working from home, I now know that it is my preferred style. Even when busy with customers and paperwork, I feel confined and less productive in the office. I can’t multi-task like I do at home. I can’t throw in a load of laundry and let it wash itself while I sit on hold on the phone. I can’t sort paperwork while watching a show on my DVR. I can’t work in my pajamas if I feel like it. I can’t step outside and feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair because I’m chained to a landline. In fact, I can’t leave the office at all because I don’t want my friend to lose any business on my account.

I always wondered if I had the self-discipline to work at home, even occasionally, as my son, my daughter, and many of my friends do. This stint of office work has shown me that I do have what it takes to work from home. And I like it.

Bring on the next step toward my new custom travel business. I’m doing it from home!

Day 108: The Sunday Review

The Men I Didn’t Marry (2007) by Janice Kaplan and Lynn Schnurnberger

After being summarily dumped by her husband of 21 years, Hallie first falls into a depression. Then she decides to get back in touch with four former boyfriends to see what she missed when she chose the one who turned out to be a womanizer and a cheat. Although filled with typical chick-lit cliches, the novel moves quickly through Hallie’s soul-searching. It’s your basic beach read, but fun for a quick look at a story about a woman who successfully navigates through a separation and emerges whole. 3/5 Stars

The Lion in Winter (1968) starring Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole

When Terri suggested that I add The Lion in Winter to my English costume drama queue, I put it in the back of my mind, but didn’t rush out to get it from the library, as I had seen it before in an earlier life. Then one day I just felt like some Hepburn/O’Toole melodrama — and oh, was I rewarded! Telling a highly fictionalized version of a 12th century Christmas season when Henry II and his imprisoned queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, get together to decide which of their three sons will succeed Henry as the next king of England (That’s the Cliff Notes version).  Apparently they were the poster children for the ultimate dysfunctional family, since they plot and scheme against each other for two hours. And did I mention that Henry II had a live-in mistress that he wanted to marry? In a tie with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl, Katherine Hepburn received her third Best Actor in a Leading Role award. Although she was fabulous, I had forgotten that this movie had all that 61-year-old Hepburn shakin’ goin’ on — loved her, but it was distracting. A reviewer on Amazon recommends reading Alison Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitaine as a companion piece to this movie, and I will do that. 4/5 Stars for eating up the scenery.

Innocent (2011) by Scott Turow

I’ve been waiting patiently for Melinda to give me this book because I absolutely loved Turow’s first book about Rusty Sabich, Presumed Innocent. In Innocent (the sequel), Rusty is again accused of a murder which the reader is pretty sure he didn’t commit. I love how Scott Turow once again creates a complex and nuanced new plot with visits from old friends Tommy Molto and Sandy Stern and new characters in Rusty’s grown son Nathan and eager young lawyer Anna. Told in a flashback/flashforward narrative style with changes in perspective, Turows also fleshes out Rusty’s wife Barbara and what happened to their marriage after his trial for murder in Presumed. I do think you’d like Innocent better if you also read Presumed Innocent, but there’s enough restatement to live without it — or you could watch the movie. Just to remind myself how wonderful Presumed Innocent was and to refresh my memory, I got the movie from the library and watched it. It was as good as I remembered with Harrison Ford managing to convince us that his bumbling treatment of the murder case proved his innocence.

My only problem with Turow’s portrayal of Rusty Sabich in Innocent is that he should have learned something about the law and about human nature in the twenty years since Presumed Innocent, but he still seems silly and self-destructive. Just for that I give it 4.5/5 Stars.

Like Water for Chocolate (1995) by Laura Esquivel

I went to a presentation at the library about great food scenes in movies, and Like Water for Chocolate (1992) was a recommended movie. I had read the book years ago, but didn’t remember much about it, so I got both the book and the movie out of the library. Now I know why I didn’t remember it — I hated the female character and the sexist cultural traps in which the author puts her. Apparently I’m in the minority, because the book is highly rated and the movie won a whole bunch of international awards. Each chapter begins with a recipe, and the movie uses food-based mysticism to drive the plot. As a debut novel, Like Water for Chocolate was intriguing but not my favorite of the week. 2/5 Stars

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Day 107: Revelations

I’ve been doing the happy dance a lot this week.

I finished my first eight sessions of personal training and signed up for forty more. I have never worked out this well and this hard. It’s true what they say about exercise-based euphoria, because I experience it every Tuesday and Friday. It’s a revelation.

I’ve completed four weeks of eating like a thin person and have lost eight pounds. I’m right on target at two pounds a week. I’ve also found that having protein shakes made with fruit helps me to get through the witching hours of 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. I no longer feel as though I could eat my arm, and a result, I’m not snacking on bad stuff while driving home or preparing dinner. I feel victorious over a demon that has ruled my life for many years.

I went through all of my clothing and separated out the “fits” from the “doesn’t fits.” I made a stack of “I never wear this” stuff to give to Amvets next week, and then I put only those pieces of clothing that actually fit back into my closet. I’ll save the “doesn’t fits” for later this fall and winter as I reduce back into them. Or I’ll give them away when I find that they don’t fit my new lifestyle or outlook on life!

I’ve made some positive steps forward toward a new career in travel. I’m feeling (almost) capable of reserving and ticketing an airline ticket and I’m signed up for the Incentive Travel Show in October, where I’ll make some connections with people who want me to use their services or book their hotels in England. With the exception of the current issues with American Airlines, which worry me, I’m feeling really pumped about my future as a custom tours travel agent.

There’s also something I’m happy about that’s not such as clear-cut as losing weight and learning a new trade.

It all started at happy hour last week with my former colleagues when I found out that my work nemesis not only “quit,” she was escorted out of the building. Although I’m not usually one to dwell on the past, lingering resentment over unfair treatment and a tarnishing of what was previously a good reputation has followed me for six years. I have to admit it made me happy to know that there is karma in the world.

I’ve been listening to a good book in the car, and yesterday, the climax of the book was really relatable to my situation. The main character finds that the anger she’s been carrying around for twenty years is corrosive and it is time to let it go. Even though I’m retired and no longer in the toxic situation, I’ve continued to carry my own resentment about my former boss and it hasn’t been good for me. Since I’m not with my work friends every day, the resentment has been under the surface, but it was still there, eating away at my soul. Just the act of writing this down is freeing — I’m done with all that and I don’t need to think about it again.

And now it’s time for me to move on too. I’m a blank slate and a clean book ready for a new story.

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Got My Reservations

I put another notch in my retirement bedpost today.

No, not that kind of notch. I actually turned my new DSLR camera off of the automatic setting and tried to take some pictures on manual. I thought that before I go to camera club with the other retirees, I should actually learn how to use my camera. 🙂  I was inspired by Nan’s post on Silver Magpies — and she photographed some cherry tomatoes in a silver bowl for Facebook, so I thought I would try it too.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as successful on my first try, so I tried again.

And again.

I was still unhappy with what I was getting, so I took it in the “flower” mode on the pre-programmed settings. It may have even flashed, but I don’t think so.

According to the book I got from the library, an ISO of 2000 is crazy…

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Day 102: Basil Pesto

If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what to do with all of that basil in your garden.

Make pesto!

First you need to gather together your ingredients — you probably already have them in your house.

Put in all in the food processor and chop till smoothish.

Note: If you are freezing some of it, don’t put the cheese in. Small deli tubs or small plastic bags hold the perfect amount — I fill the ziploc bag, flatten it, label it, and put it on a tray to freeze flat for easy storage. Add the cheese when you defrost the pesto.

Boil up some whole wheat pasta, put the fresh pesto on top and garnish with fresh tomato, more cheese, and basil leaves. It’s an easy, healthy, and yummy meal.

There are many recipes for basil pesto on the internet. Here’s Food Network’s version, which I use often.

This version from And Then She Snapped does not use olive oil, which is what I did in the these photos. If you’re trying to save a few fat calories in your day, you can do pesto without the oil, but it’s better with it.

To me, basil pesto is addictive.

Once I crack open the fresh container, I use it in everything — try it on your scrambled eggs or omelette, on your sandwich as a seasoning, or on your steamed veggies. You can season fish with it, and even use it as a base for a pizza.

P.S. I used to own this cookbook and it’s missing. Did I lend it to you?

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Got My Reservations

Cadillac Records  (2008) directed by Darnell Martin, starring Adrian Brody, Jeffrey Wright, and Beyonce Knowles

Where I Got It: Music Man picked it out at the library.

Genre: Musical biopic, DVD

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Amazon gives it four stars and so do I, but if you’re interested in the stories of early recording artists, this is a good movie for you. Cadillac Records tells the story of Chess Records and its importance to the growth of rock and roll. I’ve always wanted to go to the museum, and this movie reminded me to put it on my list. I gave it four stars because there’s some important history either left out or reworked to make the story have more box office appeal. The actors are compelling and it was fun to see Adrian Brody when he wasn’t being The Pianist or Salvador Dali.

The Dressmaker

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Day 99: Contentment

They say it takes three weeks to break a habit and apparently I’m living proof of that.

I’ve lost the I’m-crabby-about-work mentality that has driven my every waking moment for years. I’m not angry anymore — and unless provoked by someone who wants to disrespect the teaching profession,  I’m ready to move on to something that interests me more. I’m cured, and apparently it shows in my face. Several people this week have commented on the fact that my whole demeanor is less stressed and more calm. I’ve broken my crabby habit.

On the surface life now seems pretty boring.

As I’m sitting down to write and eat my leftover squash casserole from last night, I’m realizing that my days are starting to have a pattern. I get up at a reasonable 7:00 ish, check my social media sources, make a healthy breakfast, and then embark on the project of the day. I market almost daily for fresh food and household essentials, go to various appointments, and exercise. Two days a week I train at the travel agency for a few hours. I watch some tube and read for a while every day. I cook and make protein shakes. I go out with my friends. I listen to Music Man’s stories of work and share the need-to-know pieces of my day. I attend rehearsals of my musical groups and go to club meetings in the evenings. I’ve become a stay-at-home-wife and I like it.

 Change seems to have become the new normal, at least where it comes to food.

I’ve also broken the unhealthy food chain. I’ve been able to go out to restaurants and only order one glass of wine and yes, even decaf coffee. I didn’t order the chips with the fabulous fish and chips at Duke of Perth, and yesterday I didn’t have raisin toast or hash browns with my omelette at Buffalo. I haven’t cracked open a bottle of wine at my house for two weeks — what will the recycling men think today when my bin is not full of empty wine bottles? I’ve been having fun trying new recipes, and I don’t think that either Music Man or I have felt deprived in any way. And I’m continuing to lose weight, bit by bit, which is all I’m trying to do. It took me a long time to put this weight on, and it will take a long time to take it off as well. I’m okay with that.

Yet the essential me is still in there.

I’m devouring books and movies. I’m researching the city tote bag that I am going to create to carry camera equipment, one that won’t scream “I’m carrying thousands of dollars of camera equipment!” to pickpockets. I’m thinking about how I can turn my love of travel into a custom travel service for busy people who don’t have time to do the research themselves. The agile mind that has served me well as an academic is now enjoying the opportunity to be creative in a different way.

Friday, Friday has a new meaning to me now.

When we played Rebecca Black’s anthem to the weekend in my homeroom, it was as heartfelt for me as it was for the students (unless, of course, I had papers to grade over the weekend). But then, the weekend meant errands, projects, craziness around the house trying to catch up with the things we didn’t get done during the week. My being at home has taken some of the stress off of our household and we have the freedom to choose whether or not we can take the time to spend a day playing in the city.

There’s still a lot to be done, but progress is also habit-forming.

Every day I take a step toward establishing order in my home and my personal life. I’m breaking some life-long habits of ignoring what’s in front of me and hoping that somehow the hard stuff will just go away. I know that I’ve made the right decision for Music Man and for me, and we’re happy. I get some flack from people who question my choice to retire at age sixty, but thank goodness we live in a world where I have that choice.

Have a wonderful weekend. You deserve it!

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Day 92: Eating Organic(ally)*

A friend of mine told me that I’d spend more money in the first year of retirement than I did while teaching.

If this summer has been any indication of that, I am thinking he’s right. Every day I have a list of stuff — little stuff, mind you — to pick up. Most of these things are pent-up items that just needed to be done, but there are also some big-ticket items on my lists. And since I started entering the purchases on Quicken instead of Music Man doing it, I can see the daily totals with clarity. Scary.

That being said, I’m really happy with this week’s purchases.

I’ve been unsure about whether I wanted to talk about this on the blog, but here goes. In my retirement plan to get healthy, I included a 21 day purification program. It’s not a fast and there’s nothing unsafe about it, but the requirements are somewhat stringent. First on the list is that all fruits and veggies must be organic. Did you know that organics spoil rapidly? I guess I knew that intellectually; it makes sense, of course. I didn’t quite get it in practice, though. The first time I let a box of organic raspberries mold, it was soul-wrenching, not to mention a waste of good money.

So I’m at the grocery store pretty often. I think I’ve been there every day this week.

Image Credit

The good news is that after five days, I’m getting a handle on how to manage the fruit and veg issue. I’ve also come up with some new recipes — the beet and carrot slaw was quite tasty. The bad news is that I found out my store doesn’t stock its organic shelves as often as I am at the store, so there were days that I saw entire shelves of wiped out stock. And then there was the day that I bought arugula instead of spinach. It was on the spinach shelf and I didn’t look at the tag. It kind of looks like spinach, doesn’t it? We’re eating arugula and kale in our salads, scrambled eggs, and I even put some in last night’s meatloaf. Hopefully these greens will become an acquired taste, because they’re very good for us!

The other side effect of eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, and lean meat is weight loss.

I’m down four pounds at the end of five days. Since I put on two pounds over Labor Day weekend, that’s a net of two pounds for the week so far, and that’s all I’m aiming for. I’m trying to do the turtle weight loss program; slow and steady will win this race.

* Even though the title would be more catchy without the adverb ending, I just couldn’t do it.