Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Harvest

Ah, yes. The garden is really coming along. We have been blessed with an abundance of summer squash, cucumbers, and finally, tomatoes. There's been some green beans, hot and mild peppers, bell peppers, okra, and a few strawberries as well. There's abundant fresh basil, mint and oregano, and a bit of rosemary, thyme, and catnip! We have three cantaloupes and three watermelons, but not sure they will ever be edible. They are softball to football sized now, so not quite ready to sample.

Over the warm weather holidays, Chuck really loves to grill. He'll load up on ribs, chicken, and pork tenderloin and become "Grill Master Moe", as his brother Mike called him. So on the fourth of July we had some neighbors over to share the feast, and we've (mostly he!) enjoyed the leftovers the rest of this week.

Unfortunately the chicken came out very dry. He normally grills it with the skin on, but this time bought chicken breasts with the skin already off. I hate to waste, so came up with this simple recipe last night and it was pretty good! It looked pretty too, but I forgot to take a pic! Thought I'd share.

Leftover Chicken Italian Style

2 boneless chicken breasts (if pre-cooked, slice thin)
1 medium summer squash, halved and sliced thin
1/4 cup sweet onion
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced green and red bell pepper
1 jar Ragu (or your favorite Italian sauce)
Fresh Italian style cheese mix, shredded
Chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the thin sliced chicken in a bit of olive oil to moisten, along with the onions. Add in the squash and bell pepper until lightly cooked, about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add in sauce and simmer. Add cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, and then top with cheese. Turn off heat and allow flavors to steam together and cheese to melt.

I served this over multi-grain angel hair pasta and topped with Parmesan cheese with a side of garlic bread.

Quick and easy, even if you're cooking with fresh chicken. Enjoy!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Squash It

This year’s garden so far has produced an overabundance of summer squash. With the freezer full, I went searching for another idea.

I love zucchini bread so I thought, why not use squash? I wanted something with a little less oil and sugar than some of the recipes on Pinterest, so here’s what I did:

Lemon Squash Bread

½ cup canola oil
6 oz unsweetened applesauce
6 oz lemon Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 eggs
3 tsp lemon zest

1 cup Stevia (or your favorite sugar substitute)
1 cup sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

2 ½ cups grated yellow squash (about three mid sized squash)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp lemon zest


1.       Preheat oven to 350 and coat two loaf pans with Crisco or baking spray. (I use Crisco.)
2.       In a large bowl cream together oil, applesauce, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, stevia and sugar. Once combined, add in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in lemon zest.
3.       In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4.       Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined.
5.       Add in squash and vanilla extract, stir.
6.       Divide batter evenly between loaf pans.
7.       Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
8.       Allow to cool 10-20 minutes in pan and then place on a cooling rack.

Mix lemon juice and powdered sugar together until combined. Pour glaze over the bread while on cooling rack. Sprinkle zest over the top of the glaze.

I was pleasantly surprised how good this came out. The sweetness and lemon flavor is just right, and the squash and applesauce give the bread the perfect amount of moistness. I could eat the whole loaf! ENJOY!

Monday, September 7, 2015


Sigh. I said before that I didn't know if the career change a few months ago would be a short term experience or long-term success. As it turns out it was just short term, but ending it was my choice.

I never thought I would have to choose between peace in my heart (and gut) and the unlimited potential for income. In this case, the lure of a financially prosperous career just wasn't worth the lack of sleep and emotional and physical pain it was causing.

Red flags were raised the first week, but I pushed past them. The first conversation about my concerns came after the first month. After convincing me to hang in there, there were several doctors visits over the next month and half due to stress-related issues. We were quickly coming up on the three-month mark, the time I was told we could lock in the partnership or decide to end it. I don't think my partners ever thought I would opt for the latter. They thought if anyone ended it, it would be one of them.

It's only been a week, and my mind and stomach are so much more at ease. 

I struggled with giving it up not only because of the potential income, but because I didn't want to give up on something that I felt had been brought into my life to help me grow, and maybe I wasn't giving it enough time. But then I started to think - if this was indeed brought to me as a learning experience, did I learn anything - and the answer is yes.

I learned that I'm more social and have a better business acumen than I thought. I learned about my ability to start something new at the age of 53 and to be good at it. I know now that I can smell a bad deal a mile away, and I can stand up for myself and not be intimidated. And, unlike with my partners, I learned it's not always about the money.

If it had been about something more than money, we could have continued to work this out because in general, I really loved the job. Our value systems seemed so much alike on the surface but, just like in any relationship, once I dug in, I found out how different we are.

So, where does this leave me? Not completely without work (or income) at least for now. There are residuals still to be paid from a couple of projects, and I'm also being retained to write blogs for at least one client on a monthly basis. The blogs don't add up to a lot of money, but right now the experience is worth more. I could market myself to other companies as a freelance writer, but my confidence level isn't quite there. I still have a lot to learn. Right now, I believe my future lies in writing rather than going back to transcription. My hub is still on a job search, so the possibility of a move is still on the horizon. There's just a lot of uncertainty right now, but as I said, I am at peace with it.

What started as a business connection for my husband and turned into a job for me eight months later, has now come full circle within the year and is an answer to a prayer whispered last October. God heard me, allowed me to discover the answer through my experience, and now will continue to lead me where He wants me. This I know for sure.

So, I'm moving forward into this next week with hope and a plan to swim for the first time in weeks. YES! And giving thanks continuously for the opportunities, failures and successes alike.

Jesus promised us in John 16:13, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come" (NIV).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It's Hot

How hot is it?

It's so hot, we have no cold water. Really. I even have to add ice to the kitty water bowl.

And my outdoor plants? Forget it. I water them (evidently with warm water) and they rebound for a bit, but then by the next day they've given up. By August, the yard will be brown.

Can we move to Maine, or even upstate New York? If it gets hot there, it only lasts a short spell.

I find myself in situations like this where I just want to escape. My hub is on a job search, and I've put no limits on the geography. I wonder if a new place is on the horizon.

If you've ever watched House Hunters, you've seen these families that just pick up -little kids and all-  and run off to a different country or to an island, for a job or just a slower pace of life. How glorious. But, how do you do it? How do you leave mothers, children, and in my case, a grandchild?

If you had asked me years ago where I would be when my daughter finally had a baby, I would have told you at least within an hour's drive. And I would keep the baby during the day and work when I could. Those were MY plans. But that hasn't turned out to be the case. I actually only see that precious face in person on average about once a month, and I experience milestones through Instagram and email.

There have been questions over and over, "Why am I here?" If I acted on my impulses, I wouldn't be.

So, why not go? Why not do what I want to do. Life is short, right?

This is where trusting God with my future comes in. Hub and I trusted Him with our move here four years ago and, despite being away from family, it's been the best thing that could have ever happened to us. We know where He leads is for our GOOD.

But still lately, every day when I wake up I don't know exactly where I belong or what I should be doing. I find myself struggling to trust Him with every moment in order for those impulses to not take over, and to not allow the circumstances of whatever He brings to control how I will react. Because if I run off willy-nilly (as I've done before), it only leads to heartache. I'm old enough to know.

And even with trusting Him, I make mistakes. I'm not perfect and never will be. I sometimes say and do things that don't come out right, but my heart is in the right place. I hope the people closest to me know this.

So for today, the focus is just staying on path. Looking forward and not behind. Maintaining joy in the midst of confusion and pain.

And it's still hot. It's early, but the humidity is already 85%. Have mercy. But, I have to remind myself that just like my plants turning brown, it's just a circumstance. It won't be like this forever.

And I won't run. My heart and feet are grounded as I await direction.

“His perspective on what troubles me overshadows my anxiety. Time alone with God prepares me for what I will need throughout the day. He’s equipping me to handle what is ahead with His gentle boldness, quiet strength and loving grace”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slaying the Dragon (aka Facebook)

Many years ago, before it was at its peak in popularity, I created a Facebook page. This was mostly so that I could keep up with what my daughter and sister were doing, share pictures, etc. Like I said, this was before it turned into the monster that overtakes and complicates lives, which (in my opinion) it is now.

Before I moved to Greenville, SC in 2011, I deactivated my account. By then, I was growing weary of it anyway and just didn't want to be distracted by it anymore. But once we were settled in our new place and there were pictures to share, I reluctantly created a new page. This was my first mistake.

At the time I deactivated the old account, I didn't know there was the choice to either deactivate or delete a Facebook profile. I just assumed that it would disappear after deactivating. WRONG. It stays out there forever, giving you the chance to reactivate it years later if you so choose, and also giving hackers the modus operandi they need to steal your info. I now know I should have just reactivated this account rather than creating a new one after we moved.

So last fall, in an attempt to simplify my life, I deleted my Facebook account. It was an unnecessary distraction in my life and I was and am glad that it's gone.

But then, a few months ago my sister texted me, asking if I had reactivated my account. When I said no, she said someone must have "hacked" an old account, because ads for products such as electronics and sunglasses were being sent with my name and an old picture. What? How?

That's when I knew the original account had never just disappeared and it was back to haunt me.

So the first thing I needed to do was get the old account deleted. I didn't have the password, and the email attached to the account was closed so I couldn't receive the email from Facebook in order to change the password. I even went as far as contacting the company that provided the old email account, requesting the account be reopened temporarily so that I could get access, but they said it was gone and there was nothing to access.

Wouldn't you think that with all the technology that Facebook must possess, that their system could figure out when an email is being sent to a closed email account?

After many tries to guess the password (the hacker must have changed it), many attempts to contact Facebook online (they make it very difficult if not impossible to do so), and messages on Twitter, I resorted to sending a certified letter "snail mail" and requested a signature upon delivery. Yes folks, I was willing to take this to the nth degree, if necessary.

But lo and behold, about a week after the letter was received by them, I received an email from Facebook Community Operations. They wanted me to reiterate the problem (assuming because they wanted to ensure it was me who sent the letter) and then in a second message asked for a picture of a government issued document, such as my driver's license. Once this was done and verified, they said they would delete the account.

What they did was change my email address on the account and the password, which allowed me to go in and deactivate, then delete the account. Strangely enough, Facebook makes it very difficult for you to delete your profile. I had to Google it to find out how to do it.

And it worked. I'm so relieved.

This might not seem like a big deal, but it was to me. The thought of someone using my name, and all the info and pictures associated with the page, just really bothered me. There were tons of people I didn't know on my friends' list, and all kinds of junk had been sent out in my name. I did get a lot of pleasure thinking about the hacker trying to log in to the account and finding out that it was gone!

Maybe it just comes with getting older, but I'm going to be so much more careful going forward where and with whom I share my personal info.

So, let this be a lesson. In this day and time, there are so many smart people out there using their time to do bad instead of good and it's too easy to have your identity stolen. Close and delete any unused open accounts be it credit or otherwise, and don't use your debit card online (another lesson learned previously). And if you have a Facebook page, add a second source of access to retrieve your password, such as by text on your cell phone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Smart Moves

When I was 14, I got braces on my teeth for the first time. And they weren't the tiny ones that glue onto the front of your teeth; they were the big ugly ones that wrapped all the way around each tooth and literally had to be hammered on. And I had to wear those things for over three years. (They are even in my senior picture!) My teeth were in pretty bad shape, but by the time the braces came off I had a great smile I was proud of.

So now, some 35 40 years later, I've noticed how much my teeth have moved, especially in the front. One of my two front teeth has moved forward, and through the years has continued to protrude farther out. My bottom teeth have also crowded up and protrude out, which is pushing the top front tooth out. My husband is not much into details, but even he has even noticed how much my smile has changed.

I usually don't think twice about doing things for myself such as hair appointments, massages, and pedicures, but having my teeth done again was not something I'd thought seriously about until a couple of months ago. Since we don't have orthodontic insurance, it would be an out-of-pocket expense. So I started adding up the cost of those pedicures and massages (!) and thought, since it's an issue that's only going to get worse, that money would be better spent investing in my teeth.

Since I've already had the metal kind, I thought Invisalign would be the way to go. (I was willing to go for the tiny metal ones if the cost was unreasonable.) After doing some research online, I called my dentist's office before moving forward. I trust them, and wanted their opinion on how I should proceed, and to also get a referral for an orthodontist they recommend.

As it turns out, their office offers a new procedure called Smart Moves. It's like Invisalign, but not as intensive or costly. It's mainly for straightening anterior (front) teeth, and like Invisalign, not appropriate for everyone. Since my issues are mostly in the front, I was hoping I'd be a good candidate. After a consultation and finding out this procedure would work for me, and then finding out that the cost is at least half of what Invisalign would have been, I felt like this was the way to go.

After impressions of my teeth and then a couple of weeks for the lab to make my aligners, I returned to my dentist to be fitted. He had to file some space in between a few teeth to give them room to move, which was mostly pressure and not too bad. After that, they popped right in and here's what they look like:

They do take some getting used to. The first set is called a "hard-soft" material. I slur a little when I talk, and my tongue and sides of mouth are a bit raw in places from some sharp edges. I've been more self conscious about them than I thought I would be. I feel the need to explain, especially when I'm talking directly to someone.

After the first day, I felt my teeth moving. I'll get my next set of aligners in 2 1/2 weeks, which will be made of a harder material. I'll get a new set every two to three weeks after that for six months, and my dentist guarantees my satisfaction, which is reassuring.

An added benefit will hopefully be some weight loss. With these in my mouth I'm less likely to mindlessly snack, and I'm mostly drinking water because I have to take them out to drink anything else or to eat.

I've been getting up in the morning and taking them out and leaving them out until after my coffee, giving my mouth a bit of a break, and then brushing and putting them back in. Overall, I'm wearing them at least 22 hours per day. They are not hard to keep clean. Toothpaste is abrasive, so I'm just using warm water and a toothbrush in the morning and at night, and I take them out several times a day to refresh with cold water and pop back in.

Wish me luck! Stay tuned for updates and more progress photos...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Feast and Famine

As a transcriptionist, I've always been blessed with an abundance of work. I've seen comments on the internet about other transcriptionists who were not as fortunate, so I knew I was lucky. Over the past few months it was to the point to where the hospital system couldn't accommodate the number of transcriptionists needed to finish the work, and, along with the doctors who were constantly dictating, the TAT (turn around time) was suffering. I knew changes were ahead.

A couple of weeks ago we were notified that hospital was changing to voice recognition. This means the doctors are dictating into the new system and, instead of a human (me!) transcribing the reports, a computer is transcribing them. This type of change usually leads to layoffs as transcriptionists are no longer needed, but the hospital instead chose to transition us into voice recognition editors. Editors take the computer reports and proofread and edit them as needed, and then return them to the doctors. It is a different procedure on a newer system and it doesn't require as much typing, so this was good news. After some anxiety about all the changes, I was looking forward jumping in with both feet. it turns out, I haven't had much of a chance, as most of the doctors are now editing their own reports. I know this has come as a huge surprise to the company I contract with, and to the hospital. I'm sure they are currently at a loss as to how to proceed since they don't know if the doctors' enthusiasm for the new system will last.

So, where does this leave me? Right now, I am still working my part-time shift. Most of the time there are "no more files available". A few jobs will trickle in here and there - on the new system and the old. Right now I am still paid an hourly "downtime" when there is no work, so it's just basically staying close by and monitoring the system every 10 minutes. I know this will not last much longer. The hospital will not want to continue to pay us to sit and wait.

But right now, the silence from the powers that be is palpable.

Even before this happened, my husband and I had been praying for direction with both of our careers, and for help in seeing open windows of opportunity. I am starting to think about what I'd like to do going forward if it's not transcription or editing work. At one time I thought about going back into an office setting, and at another I considered a position at our church. But having worked independently at home for almost 13 years has left me lacking in confidence to do anything other than what I'm used to. Starting over at 53 would be daunting, but not impossible with God's help. All the more reason to stay aware of His direction for me.

Just maybe it's the start of something new and better than I could ever imagine...