66 days

It takes awhile for me to buy into things.  I hear them, I process them, I’m pretty sure I know better.  And usually, when all is said and done, there’s a 50/50 blend of old and new in my life.

I love when people tell me what works, what I must do.  Aaaand that’s sarcastic.

But a couple months ago our company brought in a consultant.  (Cue initial eye roll).  And I was surprised because the things I learned from him were fascinating, and stimulated my brain.  Little tidbits ~ things I’d never thought of before.  Perspective.

For example, did you know that multiple studies have been done and it takes 66 days for something to become a habit?  It takes 66 days of repeated actions for it to become embedded in your brain as natural.  Sixty-six days is no joke.

I mean that sincerely.  Because after the hubs and I got back from Italy (both an amazing and excruciating trip) I decided that I needed to make some changes.  And I needed to stick to them.  I’m really *really* good at trying new things — but I don’t always tough it out.  It’s been a four-year journey for me ~ going from someone who never thought about a thing she ate to a person who thinks about everything she eats.  And when she eats it.  And how much of it she eats.  A person who drinks green juice and green smoothies and organic raw kombucha.  But once I began tuning into my body, I couldn’t turn the awareness off.  So every day is a new beginning of choices, of decisions.  Of picking what works for me.  (And sidenote, those things have changed and evolved over time).

When I was diagnosed with MS, I decided that nothing was going to change.  But that was unrealistic.  Like new parents saying that having a child wouldn’t change them.  It does.  It’s inevitable.  Some of the changes are necessary.  And some happen without even acknowledging they happened. And some things you fight to keep the same.

But the flip side of the coin is that if you DO decide you want to make a change, you actually have to make the change.  You can’t talk about it and then make exceptions every other day.  You have to choose to change, and then stick with it.

That’s always been hard for me.  I’m an excellent complainer.

It started small.  All my ‘healthy’ eating turned out to be not that healthy after all.  And then I discovered, that the better you take care of your body & your insides, the more you feel it, and want to stick with it.  When you are eating crap and drinking all the time, you aren’t really in touch with how shitty you feel.  But when you start to gain perspective, everything begins to shift.  Drink water.  Get sleep.  Eat green veggies.  The result is feeling better, having more energy, and generally having less health issues.  Good stuff, right?

But the other thing that happened when I was diagnosed was that I went ahead and broke my foot.  And it threw my body into a tailspin.  And all the healthy things that I’d worked hard to include in my life (running, yoga, hiking, etc) became infinitely harder.  I had weakness in my legs, my feet both hurt and were numb all the time …. It was frustrating, depressing, and didn’t inspire much hope for movement.

I sporadically went to the gym and swam laps.  But that takes SO MUCH WORK.  And it was hard to get into a rhythm with it.  When we moved to our new house, I once again joined the gym. I have yet to go.  It’s a pretty big money suck.  And then, in October, John found out he needed surgery.  Big surgery.  And he decided to buy a stationary bike.

It sat in our spare room and then our basement, for probably six weeks.  It became what all home exercise equipment seems to become — a collector of dust.  As our Italy trip approached, I hopped on it once or twice (because clearly, that’s all that is necessary to lose weight and look like a super model).  And then we went to Italy.  And we did a lot of walking.  And I could actually do the walking.  Which was a crazy realization.  And I started to check my steps on my phone and become aware of how much exercise I was getting daily.

So even though my eating in Italy was terrible, and I paid for it, it also showed me that I was capable of more movement than I knew.  So we came home, and I decided (armed with the new knowledge about 66 days) that I would start riding the bike.

I didn’t ride it every day at the beginning.  I don’t ride it every day now.  But I ride it most days.  And I have built up my time and my resistance.  (My insanely competitive nature has come in handy!) The other thing I started was tracking my food intake.  The first couple weeks were more informational that anything — I logged what I ate.  I didn’t change much.  I didn’t care if I went over my calorie goal.  But then it started to niggle in my brain — if you want a burger, ride the bike.  You get 500 more calories!  If you want wine, ride the bike.  If you don’t want to ride the bike, eat zucchini spirals and drink water.

I have not hit 66 days yet.  I’m at 50 (I know this, because My Fitness Pal sends me notifications with exclamation points which means it’s a good thing!).  But just like green juice and green smoothies began to change my life four years ago, making exercise a priority — even for 50 days, after such a long break — has changed my life.

I know that sounds pretty intense.  But I have started to take better care of myself because I feel the difference. I’m actually watching what I’m eating, and I’m moving my body & muscles.  I’m getting a healthy sweat in nearly every day (which has done wonders for my stress levels, I have to say!).  It feels good to be focused, and to also see results.  Do I look like Christy Turlington?  No.  I am certain that will never happen.  But my body feels tighter, I am sleeping better, and I’ve lost a couple of pounds.  So my clothing fits better, my eyes are brighter and I don’t have such dark under-eye circles.

About two weeks in, I really thought I’d see something.  And I saw nothing.  I weighed MORE, I was tired all the time (this is nothing new — MS takes care of that on the regular). But I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall.  I took a day off here and there, and curled up on the couch, drank wine and ate sushi.  And then I got up the next day and tried again.  And the longer I pushed myself to ride the bike, hit the bag, the better I began to feel.

I am proud of myself for making the commitment to do this for 66 days.  Because even 50 in, I know I’ll stick with it. I am finally feeling the benefits and the difference in myself.  I’ve seen all the memes about life being short, and enjoying the cake.  I enjoy the cake.  But I also enjoy the kombucha, and the spiralized zucchini, and the green smoothies.  And those things make my whole body and my mind feel good, too.  So that’s a huge plus.

 

 

 

 

paths of least resistance

Sometimes, on this crazy journey, I get more caught up in what I can no longer do, instead of focusing on what I can do.  I think that’s inevitable ~ life felt established, with routines and traditions and then all of a sudden, those things were taken away, like a rug being pulled out from under my feet.

Every time I see someone posting on social media about running, I feel deflated and frustrated.  I drive past the trails that Lucy and I used to run three or four mornings a week, and I am sad.  I’d like to believe I will be able to run again, but the truth is, I don’t know.  I feel so angry and defeated.  I am full of regrets ~ regrets for not running Broad Street earlier this year before everything started with my legs … disappointed in myself for not running the Half Marathon last October in Atlantic City ~ something I may never have the opportunity to do again.  It calls to mind the saying “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”  Had I not delayed, failed to train sufficiently last fall, at least now I would have the satisfaction of having run a half marathon, instead of the sadness that I got close and failed to get it done.

And then I think of all the things I am still able to do, and remind myself to be grateful for those things ~ yoga, swimming, walking.  And I try to talk myself up and remind myself to focus on the positives.  I know that what is most essential right now is action ~ creating a new routine, finding new ways to stay healthy and get exercise.  But it’s harder than that  … loading Lucy in the trunk of the car and heading to the trails was a matter of getting up and doing it.  Swimming or yoga requires scheduling and can’t include my pupster, who deserves to stretch her legs even more than I do.

On a different, and more positive note, the start of this week was a busy one for me work-wise.  Our third project hit full speed with a Tasting and Happy Hour for potential investors on Tuesday evening which had been preceded by a preliminary Panini tasting on Monday.  Which has meant take-out three nights in a row at home.  On Monday, I cheated and brought home treats from work (who can honestly say no to prosciutto, kunik and pizza?  seriously). Tuesday was a visit to our favorite local sushi place (where they do actually know our names… and our order.  As a small sidenote, there is something indefinably comforting about walking into a place of business and being recognized.  I believe that is a legit part of Starbucks training … and not a bad idea.  I know how important it was and what great relationships were built when I worked in restaurants every day instead of the office ~ a great part of real social interaction versus social media).  We have been enjoying some choice selections from Pennsylvania’s Chairman Select collection.  On Tuesday, we cracked open a bottle of Duckhorn Decoy Zinfandel.  I happen to deeply love the thick headiness of a good Zin ~ the husby isn’t quite as big a fan (he prefers more dry, minerally juice) but we both enjoyed the bottle, and our movie pic, The Great Gatsby (directed by Baz Luhrmann).  Totally didn’t expect the movie to be what it was but we were both completely drawn into the overly stylized telling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.

Last night we checked out a new take-out place, Palace of Asia.  I was worn out (I usually am by Wednesday … how lame is that?)  and the man and I didn’t feel like shopping and then cooking.  So after some menu perusing, we got a variety of vegetarian entrees featured on the Indian cuisine menu.

Whew.  Delish.  Despite the major language barrier encountered when calling in, we got everything we ordered, and enjoyed every bite.  Our first entrée was a selection of nine garden vegetables (squash, potato, peas, etc) cooked in a spicy cream sauce (Korma ~ my favorite!).  The second dish featured tiny potatoes stuffed with cheese in a kashmiri sauce (a super amazing cream sauce with nuts and raisins).  For our first foray into Indian take-out, it was a success.  Although I couldn’t eat that every week ~ much too heavy! I love the flavors and seasoning Indian food employs though ~ so outside of the flavors I grew up with and know.  So decadent.  We caught up on some sitcoms and enjoyed another bottle of Zin (the man is going to boycott soon) which was actually (dare I say it? sacrilege) a little superior to the Duckhorn.

At the end of October, my offices will move downtown again, and when that happens, I hope the husby and I can get into a groove with cooking, and the gym and Miss Lucy.  Until then, I plan on enjoying the waning days of my easy commute and spending as much evening lounge time with my family as possible.  This evening we are headed out to a Mexican “Haute Cuisine” BYOB in Old City (which we have only heard rave reviews about)  … I am very much looking forward to it, and to continuing our streak of not cooking this whole week.  (Hehe!)

Until tomorrow.  xo.

 

recap

So, last week was a pretty crazy and fun week for the man and I ~ and it was only dampened by the fact that, true to form (I have silly bad luck), my nearly brand new MacBook Pro needed not only a new battery, but a new hard drive, at the tender age of 3 months.

So I wasn’t able to blog at all, which was a huge bummer.

Because …. !!!!

Not only did we have The Chef Event last Tuesday ~ which was a ton of fun, despite being completely underwater with the constantly pouring rain (no worries ~ it was held inside!) ~ but, it was the year anniversary of Ambler Symphony’s concert at Hope Lodge.  This year, the man was able to join me, and once again we brought some yummy cheese and charcuterie from the restaurant, and two bottles of really good wine (everyone make note ~ if you haven’t tried a rose yet ~ run to the liquor store and get Charles & Charles Syrah Rose from Washington State ~ you will not be sorry!).

On Thursday ~ and I know you’re not going to believe it ~ but we had our neighbors over for dinner, and I actually cooked.  No cheating involved ~ except for the taco seasoning! 😉

We had antelope burritos with cilantro sour cream and homemade guacamole.  In general, pretty successful, although I was a little bummed out that the sour cream didn’t reflect the cilantro flavor the way I wanted it to ~ I guess there’s always next time.

On Friday (yes, I know, we’re social butterflies! ~ haha) we spent the evening enjoying FriEndsDay (a twist on WeHangsDay when Wednesday’s don’t work out) ~ and excellent grilled Orange Ruffy with mango salsa, and sides of Israeli couscous and summer squash.  We even squeezed in a fire pit ~ niiiice!

Saturday was our first weekend at home in a few weeks, so we reverted to some of our favorite things ~ a long hike with Lucy in Valley Green, and then we headed into the restaurant to do some taste-testing of nightly specials (oh, go on, twist my arm!).  After dinner, we discovered a pretty amazing beer ‘haven’ a few blocks away ~ where our bartender proceeded to instruct me on a variety of brews, and hops in general.  So incredibly knowledgeable ~ I could have sat and learned all night, but I couldn’t keep drinking beer!

Sunday was a day for us ~ I was a little under the weather, and spent most of the day cuddled on the couch with my puppy, who was very accommodating and smelling deliciously of puppy.  Have you ever seen “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”?  If you haven’t, you should.  Really enjoyable piece of cinema.

And that brings us back to Monday.  Today was comfortingly ‘boring’ in it’s normalcy.  Lucy and I did four miles this morning, and this evening, the man and I grocery shopped and did a strength-training workout before sitting down to watch Master Chef .  Ah, suburban life!

Before I sign off and climb into bed ~ I just want to send a very Happy Birthday message out to Minda.  She’s a birthday diva like me, so I hope today was a great kickstart to her summer of freedom (#teacherenvy!).  Happiest of happy, my friend.

I DID IT!

Team green #runrunrun!  Broad Street Run 2012!

After one hour and fifty-eight minutes, my team and I crossed the finish line.

It wasn’t all easy!

We got to the finish line just before 7am to catch the subway to the start.  It was craziness how many people were EVERYWHERE!  The race kicked off at 8.30am, but we didn’t cross the start until 9.05a.  We set out at an easy pace (about eleven minutes/mile).  The first mile flew by.  The second (for me) was rough.  But that’s pretty typical for me during a run.  I knew once I got over the 2 mile hump, I would hit a groove.  The three mile marker came up pretty fast, and then you could clearly see City Hall and Ben Franklin looming in the distance.

It was completely bananas looking up and seeing the sea of people jogging ahead of us.  It was a whole lot of dry fit, lycra and neon trim!

Some friends of mine were at the seven mile-marker, and from seven to eight was the toughest part of the run for me.  I am fairly certain that it was extra-long! 😉

Once we got to the nine mile-marker, it felt like we were almost done.  The excitement was palpable.  And just as I started to feel as though we were gonna do it, the man appeared on the sidelines and caught this snap (I was in the middle of saying ‘BABE!’). I have to admit, I nearly cried from joy for nearly being done, and for seeing him so surprisingly.  It was incredible.

Of our team (of three, because Minda wasn’t able to run), Noelle & I both had never run any sort of organized race in our lives.  Dave did a great job of helping us keep on pace and stay motivated.  We laughed from the minute we got into the car to drive down until the race started.  We were a bundle of nerves, and then it started, and even though it was scary and intimidating, we just put one foot in front of the other.

I had three goals.  To finish, to run the whole time, and to do it under two hours.  We accomplished all three.  It was such an overwhelming exciting feeling.

We’re going to do a half marathon in September.  Training starts … um, in a few days!  My legs need a little bit of a recovery.  But I know that when training does start, Lucy will be ready to help her mama train.  And the man, who has been so incredibly supportive and helpful through all of it, will be there with me again.  I have a great family ~ I’m a lucky girl.

 

countdown to the Broad Street Run

In less than two weeks, I will be running my very first race ever.

A sane, or more organized person might have chosen a 5K to start, but not this girl.  I’d been toying with the idea of running Philadelphia’s most popular race for years, but I’d never bitten the bullet and done it.  This year, I was determined.  And with the help of my friends, I managed to get a spot in the race during the five hours that registration was open (last year, it filled up in 4 days … this year, 5 hours… clearly, a very popular race!).

Now, as the date nears, my panic has reached a fever pitch.

The Broad Street Run is ten miles, and -I’ve been told- is mostly downhill.  Now, people say, don’t be fooled.  It doesn’t really seem downhill, but it is.  Until the end.  But by then, you’re almost done.

Yeah, I’m super stoked.

I started out strong in January.  With my new puppy in tow, I was out jogging every day, wondering if I would ever have the stamina to make it past two miles.

Today, after doing a 5-mile run and a 6-mile run two weeks ago, and another five miles last Friday, I suited up, and headed determinedly to the gym.  I was going to do a long run if I crippled myself.  I needed the knowledge ~ mentally, I needed the confidence to know I could do it.

Eighty-one minutes later, after eight miles, and my right foot feeling as though the bones were fracturing apart, I slowed my pace and smiled (probably painfully, but I couldn’t feel much of anything besides my right foot and shin).  I could keep going for another two miles.  I was certain.  And all of a sudden, I felt okay.

Yeah, I’m going to be a nervous wreck a week from Sunday.  I have anxiety issues.  I panic, and I’m not very good in unfamiliar situations. But I took on this challenge to prove something to myself.  That I could do it, I could push myself physically, undertake the challenge and triumph at the end.

Now, I can’t say how I’ll do on race day.  But I can say that I’m 99% sure I can jog 10 miles.  And that is a victory for me.

training

This morning, Lucy and I got back in the saddle, and did a run as part of my training for the Broad Street Race.  Last week, because I was feeling mostly like a Mac Truck brutally sidelined me, we didn’t get in much running (I use this term loosely, because when it references what I do, it mostly means shuffling along and trying to remember to lift my knees and use proper form at a speed that slightly outpaces a fast walk).

We had a nice pace going (once Lucy has ceremoniously evacuated her bowels not once, but three times, resulting in equal hand weights for the first mile of lilac-smelling potty bags filled with  … potty) and nearly hit four miles in forty minutes (which would have been excellent).  When we crossed the 12 mile marker on the Wissahickon Ribbon trail, we slowed to a walk for cool-down purposes, as well as the fact that there was a quite a monstrous dog approaching, and the big guy didn’t look friendly.

And here I make my **Public Service Announcement** to the dog world.

Yes, I understand that you want to take your pup for a nice walk/job/amble through the woods on a beautiful morning such as today.

Yes, all dogs deserve to stretch their legs in the great outdoors.

Yes, I am sure that deep down, your growling, hair-raised, poised-for-attack dog is really a softy.

But when my over-eager puppy of nearly nine months begins to cower and her back-end starts to uncontrollably shake, it means she’s scared, and your brute of a dog is probably a little overwhelming.

Therefore, dog-owners.   Rather than move to the side of the path and allow your dog to jump viciously toward mine with the mere restriction of  what I can only imagine MUST be a leash with superpower (otherwise why would you have your attack dog on a public path with no other method of restraint?), perhaps you should err on the side of caution.

Either don’t bring your dog to a public path where he is bound to encounter other dogs, OR take precautionary measures to train, restrain and socialize your pup.

I know you love him.  I love my baby girl, too.  But you didn’t reprimand or attempt to control your dog as mine walked meekly by, ears flat and body quivering.  Considering she’s full of kisses, love and excited wiggles, and despite my extreme bias, I have a hard time believing that her reaction wasn’t at least partially due to your dog’s … erm, enthusiastic? … greeting?

We’re safely home, and the Luce is curled up next her dad and I on the couch.  She’s clearly not forever damaged.  But I haven’t forgotten our encounter, and I will be on guard the next time we approach the snarling dog of this morning’s walk.

Until then, I’ll focus on my #broadstreet training.  #runrunrun!

 

a day late, $40 short

On Sunday, as I sunk into my sofa to enjoy two hours of Downton Abbey, I was feeling quite pleased with myself.  I’d blogged twice, I’d made dinner and cookies, Lucy was fed, bags were packed and ready for work, laundry was done … you get the jist.

Then Monday came.

And it was not what I expected.  Roofers arrived bright and early with a dumpster the size of China, which they thoughtfully placed across my garage and right next to my front door, in front of which they positioned their ladder, and power cords running to the roof.

The man’s truck, which has been inoperable for a few weeks (I was waiting for the man to come home, because who could have anticipated telepathically that my whole world and apartment would be turned upside down?) had to be moved, as did the Mini.  Lucy and I, after realizing what a huge inconvenience it all was, packed our bags and headed south to stay with my parents.

My anger has not get dissipated at what I consider to be a highly inconsiderate occurence.

Yesterday, after getting Lucy settled with my dad (it took all of zero seconds, because Dad loves Lucy and Lucy loves my Dad), I headed downtown.  I thought it odd that there was a line out the door of the tiny cupcake bakery I walk past every day on my way to work.  Normally, it looks empty, and the counter worker slightly forlorn and deflated.

What was causing this mad rush for cupcakes, I wondered?  Was someone trying to boost her spirits?

Upon arriving at work, I noticed that the office manager had flowers on her desk.  Was it her birthday?  I knew she had recently lost a family member.  But pink roses?  Odd.

Since I was running really behind, I threw my bag down, and started doing about nine things at once.  I felt a little flustered and just wanted to get things in order.

My office mate (he of the cookie requests) poked his head in the door and smiled a big smile.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Ah!  It all came together … cupcakes, pink roses … a lot of people wearing red and pink.

So I’m a day late today, but to those who celebrate, Happy Valentine’s Day!

This morning, I arrived at work much less flustered (no line at the cupcake shop ~ all felt much more normal!) but anxious to register for my first ever race.  And after two hours and 45 minutes, multiple windows, several failed attempts, and one successful one (by Minda’s hubby, not by me), I am officially registered to run Broad Street 2012.  I’m excited and terrified. And as Josh pointed out, it took longer to register than they allow you to finish the 10 miler (you’re capped at 2 hours and 30 minutes by the police, emergency services, etc etc, so that roads can be re-opened in a timely fashion).  The pressure is on.

Wish me luck!

new year’s resolutions and the best mac & cheese ever

Last night, as the man and I sat in the Indianapolis airport and the daylight waned and the snow swirled, I realized that I was not one, but two days into the New Year, and it didn’t really feel any different.

I know that nothing really changes when the calendar flips from one year to the next.  But for most of my life, the new year felt like a clean slate; a chance to start over and really get it right.

Recently, I’ve just felt tired ~ a little overwhelmed and worn out; as though exhaustion has set up residence in my very being.  Sitting and waiting and trying to get home yesterday was a moment of calm in the otherwise hectic existence my life has somehow become.  Maybe it’s just me, but snow storms allow you to just be; in one place, at one time.  Yes, I was mildly worried about getting home, but mostly I was enjoying the peace that the snow provided ~ the quiet that it seemed to imply.

For one small moment, I wasn’t rushing to get anywhere, and there was nothing I could do to change my situation.  It was such a relief.

We spent four days in Indy with one of my close friends, her hubby, and their absolutely precious little man of eighteen months.  It was great to see them, and it also allowed the man to get to know them a little better ~ they’ve been in Indy a little longer than I’ve been with the man, so he’s only met them briefly a few times.  We made, and ate, far too much food.  I mean, far too much food.  It’s completely possible that I gained ten pounds.  Seriously.

We had jalepeno poppers, cheesecake stuffed strawberries, fondu, stuffed mushrooms, jumbo shrimp cocktail, baked brie, filet mignon, brussel sprout hash, and homemade baked mac & cheese.  And that list doesn’t include breakfast!  Luckily, my clothing still fit for the ride back!

I have also been working my way through “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  I’m still getting used to reading on the nook ~ one weird, quirky frustration of mine is that I can’t page back and refresh my memory about something I read earlier without it being somewhat of a pain in the behind.  I know there are controls to do it, but it’s a little harder doing it electronically than physically ~ usually I can remember where on a page something was, or if it was the left or right side ~ that doesn’t really exist on a nook.  However, I will say that I love having different reading options at the touch a finger, so I will get over my obsession with flipping through a book and reading out of sequence.  It’s really only a problem because I have been reading “Dragon Tattoo” in bits and pieces over such a long period of time … I’m sure with something that I read consistently, I won’t feel the urge to flip back and refresh my memory as often.

We made it home safely, albeit after several re-bookings of flights, and we even got in over an hour earlier than we’d originally been scheduled.  In addition to all that, we flew on quite a little plane from DC to Philadelphia, which was a pretty neat experience.  This girl broke down and borrowed some dramamine from the man though ~ the flights were a little bumpy the whole trip, and I was nervous that such a small plane would be too much for my tummy.  Turns out ~ it was the smoothest take-off and landing of the whole trip!  Just goes to show me ~ don’t judge a book by its cover!

I don’t have a lot of resolutions for 2012, but I have a few goals, including saving a certain amount of money over the next twelve months, getting myself into a routine that allows me to de-stress, stay focused and cut out some of this intense fatigue, and run the Broad Street in May (10 miles through Philadelphia).

My resolution? Get up earlier to get ready for work.  Hopefully that will eliminate the stress that begins every morning as we rush to the city to get the man to work on time.

And … for those cold winter nights when all you want is some good, comfort food, here’s my Mama Bear’s Baked Macaroni & Cheese.  You can tell me you’ve had great mac & cheese, but there’s nothing better than this recipe!

What you Need:

1 package thick cut bacon

approx 1 lb sharp cheddar,  coarsely grated

grated Swiss cheese, to taste

Cooper Sharp cheese, to taste (it’s a deli cheese and as I add it during the recipe, I just rip pieces apart, so there’s no grating necessary for this one!)

Milk

1 – 2 medium, yellow onions

Flour

Mustard** (optional)

White Wine (technically optional, but I’d advise against skipping it)

Tomatoes**(optional)

Bread Crumbs

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Hickory Smoked Salt**  (optional)

Large saucepan

Large casserole dish

Prep Work:

1.  Grate your cheese, and mix together.

2.  Coarsely chop your onions ~ as my Mama says, you want the pieces ‘not to big, and not too small.’

3.  I make my own bread crumbs by putting 1 and 1.2 slices of bread in my Mini-Quisinart and chopping it up.  Then I mix in about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, about a teaspoon of Hickory Smoked Salt and that’s the topping.

4.  If  you’re using tomatoes, slice them on the medium-thickness side.

Now, you’re ready to start!

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook macaroni according to box directions, and drain well.

***Some little side-notes ***Pour yourself a nice beverage, because this is a long process, and you have to have a little patience and intuition along the way.  Don’t wear a sweatshirt while making this, because you stand over a hot stove for quite awhile, and it can get uncomfortably warm if you’re overdressed!

1.  Cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces (I’d say about an inch across, give or take).  Using a large saucepan, cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s crispy on the edges, and chewy in the middle (or, however you like bacon!).  When it’s cooked to your liking, scoop out the bacon and put on a few layers of paper towel to drain.

2.  Leave at least three tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan ~ if you have an abundance, drain some of it.  (It’s hit or miss for me ~ but I would say I more often than not don’t drain any bacon fat, but my Mama Bear does, so it’s really up to personal choice and intuition).

3.   Add onions to bacon fat, and cook until they clarify.  Lower the heat.

4.  Sprinkle in flour by the tablespoon, making a roux.  The roux should be fairly stiff.  I would say ~ depending on how much bacon fat you leave in the pan, you can estimate using between 3 and 5 tablespoons of flour.  But add one at at time, and mix thoroughly before adding in more.  The texture, when it’s ‘done,’ will remind you a little of that white paste that used to be used in grade school … is that stuff still around?

*** Mum’s Greatest Piece of Cooking Advice: You can always add, but you can never take away ***

5.  Once the roux is good and stiff, begin adding milk bit by bit, to create a sauce.  I probably went through about a pint of milk, but I just had the container sitting stove side, and added a little at a time.  The consistency you’re going for is on the thin side, but with some substance.  It should definitely be liquidy, rather than creamy, if that makes sense.

6.  Once you achieve the desired consistency, take a big dollop of mustard, and mix it right in.  You can, in fact, add two, if mustard is something you love.  OR, you can skip adding mustard at all, because you loathe it, or have a deep aversion.

7.  Now!  It’s cheese time!  Stir in cheese by the handful, making sure it’s melting fully. Use about three or four slices of Cooper Sharp, added bit by bit.  Once you have created a superbly cheesy sauce, add a little white wine (to taste) to thin out the cheese a bit. *** Once you add the pasta, it will thicken the sauce, so you want a really cheesy, but not.too.thick sauce, or it will be hard to mix in the pasta completely.   I would say that  I douse my sauce with a few heavy pours of whatever white wine I have in the fridge.

8.  When you’re satisfied with your cheesy, oniony mix, stir in the bacon pieces.

9.  Then, add in the pasta.  Mix fully.

10.  Transfer the whole shebang into the casserole dish.  Lay slices of tomato across the top, and finish by covering the entire top with your breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture.

11.  Bake in the oven for approximately 20 -25 minutes, or until it’s bubbling.

*** Some advice *** Bake it on top of a cookie tray lined with aluminium foil, so that if it bubbles over, you have an easy clean up.

Try and tell me it’s not the best Mac & Cheese you’ve ever made.  🙂

if at first you don’t succeed

Try, try again.

That’s what I told myself on the treadmill tonight when I checked the display and I’d only traveled 1.42 miles. On Saturday, my three miles felt like a breeze ~ not so today, after a long day at work, the threat of a headache (most likely caused by the neckache I kept trying to alleviate all afternoon by stretching … I failed miserably) and a beast of a commute home.

Every Monday I like to “start fresh” (it’s my understanding that I’m not the only person who feels this way …) so I get up on time (aka, after the first snooze button), we get to work ‘early’ (I use that term loosely), we go to the gym at night, and I try my darnest to get totally caught up with work, and blog.

It might sound odd that I linked blog to things that, more or less, can be viewed in the gray area of the fun/not fun Venn Diagram.  I don’t think of blogging as work (well, not all the time, but when I start to panic, everything feels like pressure!) but I do like to keep blogging and make sure that it doesn’t get squeezed out of my routine.

Blogging is stress relief, but I love it best when I’m typing alone, the only sound my fingers tapping on the keyboard.  That doesn’t happen often in our house, because we keep pretty much the same schedule.  So now, while he’s taking a relaxing shower after the gym, I’m sitting here, just me and my bazillion thoughts.

Right now I feel as though I’m sitting on fence.  I’m thirty-one … very soon to be thirty-two.  I’ve finally found a job that I don’t cringe at when I have to tell people what I do ~ in fact, I enjoy it most days (today was not one of them, but ah well, nothing’s perfect!).  As a little person, guided -I must confess- by my brilliant mother’s words on living an independant, self-sufficient life, I dreamed of going to work in well-cut business suits with crisp, white-collared shirts and gorgeous shoes … not so much about a white dress and an aisle.  As an adult, I’ve absolutely had my ‘bride’ moments … when all I can think about is whether or not I’ll be married one day, and have children.  (And a dog. Obviously).  At thirty-one, I’m sitting on a fence, feeling as though I have to make a choice.  And sometimes it’s exhilarating.  And sometimes it feels downright unfair.  And sometimes it feels suffocating.  And overwhelming.

I’ve heard the arguments.  “You won’t understand until you’re a parent,” and “It’s a completely different type of love,” … and I see my friends’ beautiful children, these little miracles that they created and cooked and brought into this world, and I am in awe.

And then I wonder if I’m ready to give up the independance of a career.  The excitement and the challenges and the learning … and the freedom.  And I feel as though men can’t possibly understand this impossible crossroads.  And I’m not sure that all women feel it.  But I am the product of strong women, women who tried and mostly succeeded at doing it all.  It’s a heavy weight on my shoulders to follow in their footsteps.

So, as I said, I’m sitting on a fence.  And it’s quite the conundrum.