Thursday, December 29, 2016

Safety Harbor, Florida

December 29, 2016

We just got back from a very relaxing week in Safety Harbor, Florida.    My husband loves to travel so I am used to wheeling and dealing and getting great deals.

Airfare --- since it was a last minute flight, I didn't have time to shop around and get super deals - I ended up flying Spirit, basic airfare was $700, but after bags and seats and government taxes, I ended up paying $1,056   not great for 4 people.

Car - I've found time and time again that Costco Travel has the best rates for rental cars.   For the week, I spent $370 for a standard size sport utility. 

Hotel - I found an all inclusive deal in Tampa, Florida -- more on that later.  But for the first night we stayed at a Fairfield, Marriott I've used before - nothing special - especially since our flight took off  2 1/2 hours late and we didn't get into Tampa International until 11ish.  We just needed a place to sleep that first night, so $90.

Now - The Hotel -- We stayed at Safety Harbor Resort and Spa -- I found it when I was searching for an all-inclusive in Florida.  I called first think Friday morning, and my room was already ready.  That was nice.  I booked a package that included the room, breakfast and dinner, as well as drinks for both the kids (water, juice and soda) and adults (free "drink of the day" plus more) I thought with included meals I'd save some $$$.  Maybe, but I don't know if it was worth it.  First night - they had a pasta bar so instead of ordering off the all-inclusive menu, we went for the pasta bar - cost me a couple extra dollars per person, but worth it - fresh shrimp and pasta - yum.  The next morning there was an egg station set up, so breakfast was good, as it was Sunday, but every day after that was kinda borning and the same.  Dinners .... after that first pasta night ... yuck.  We tried the shrimp and rissiotto -- 5 nice size shrimp, and about a pound of heavy, sticky rissiotto.  No one ate it.  Nadia had salmon and cous cous ... better, the asparagus was still crisp, but the cous cous ... tasted leftover not fresh.  That was the last time we tried dinner there.  So my recommendation - don't do the food package.  They do have great spa services, so a package with included spa treatments would be my next choice.  The rate for the room with breakfast, dinner and drinks plus unlimited use of the spa pools and hot tubs, steam room, sauna, ect was $251 per night, but the added "fees" like Occupany Tax of $9 per night, and 4 different state taxes combined $18 night, plus $16 night hotel service fee, and then another $2 tax on that --- brings the total per night to nearly $300 per night.  Total bill was nearly $1500 for 5 nights for 4 people.  If we had eaten every meal there it would have been a decent deal ... I did find out that you could apply the coupons toward menu items - we may do that next time.  But the part that was worth it ..... the spas and pools.  Amazing.  Had my first ever facial.  Relaxing.  Went to differernt water classes (free and included in package)  and outdoor pool, the only places under 16yos were welcome, an outdoor lap pool, and indoor spa pool and 2 hot tubs, in the ladies locker room - a sauna, steam room and plunge pool (men had the same but no plunge pool)  Amazing and clean.  They give you robes and flip flops upon request.  Plenty of locker rooms to store your stuff.   There is a bar right next to the one outside pool - plus a tiki grill.  They had the best food that we enjoyed while we were there.  Overall, a very enjoyable vacation, and I will visit the Resort again ---- but maybe next time without the kids.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rio Swim Schedule

Rio Olympics Swimming Schedule

I have Comcast Cable, and will be updating with times to watch it live.
Men’s 400m IM
Women’s 100m Fly
Men’s 400m Free
Women’s 400m IM
Men’s 100m Breast
Women’s 4 x 100m Free Relay
Women’s 100m Back
Men’s 200m Free
Women’s 100m Breast
Men’s 100m Back
Women’s 400m Free
Women’s 200m Free
Men’s 200m Fly
Women’s 200m IM
Men’s 100m Free
Women’s 200m Fly
Men’s 200m Breast
Men’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Men’s 4 x 100m Free Relay
Women’s 100m Free
Men’s 200m Back
Women’s 200m Breast
Men’s 200m IM
Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Men’s 50m Free
Women’s 800m Free
Men’s 100m Fly
Women’s 200m Back
Women’s 50m Free
Men’s 1500m Free
Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Men’s 400m IM – Final
Women’s 100m Fly – Semifinal
Men’s 400m Free – Final
Women’s 400m IM – Final
Men’s 100m Breast – Semifinal
Women’s 4 x 100m Free Relay – Final
Women’s 100m Fly – Final
Men’s 200m Free – Semifinal
Women’s 100m Breast – Semifinal
Men’s 100m Breast – Final
Women’s 400m Free – Final
Men’s 100m Back – Semifinal
Women’s 100m Back – Semifinal
Men’s 4 x 100m Free Relay – Final
Women’s 200m Free – Semifinal
Men’s 200m Free – Final
Women’s 100m Back – Final
Men’s 100m Back – Final
Women’s 100m Breast – Final
Men’s 200m Fly – Semifinal
Women’s 200m IM — Semifinal
Men’s 100m Free – Semifinal
Women’s 200m Free – Final
Men’s 200m Fly – Final
Women’s 200m Fly – Semifinal
Men’s 200m Breast – Semifinal
Women’s 200m IM – Final
Men’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay – Final
Men’s 200m Breast – Final
Women’s 100m Free – Semifinal
Men’s 200m Back – Semifinal
Women’s 200m Fly – Final
Men’s 100m Free – Final
Women’s 200m Breast – Semifinal
Men’s 200m IM – Semifinal
Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay – Final
Men’s 50m Free – Semifinal
Women’s 200m Breast – Final
Men’s 200m Back – Final
Women’s 200m Back – Semifinal
Men’s 200m IM – Final
Women’s 100m Free – Final
Men’s 100m Fly – Semifinal
Women’s 200m Back – Final
Men’s 100m Fly – Final
Women’s 800m Free – Final
Men’s 50m Free – Final
Women’s 50m Free – Semifinal
Women’s 50m Free – Final
Men’s 1500m Free – Final
Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay – Final
Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay – Final
Women - 15th
Men - 16th  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yearly Physical

I try to put off my yearly physicals by at least a year ... making them bi-yearly ??  But, the last time I went to the dentist I was denied ... because my blood pressure was too high.  Part of that was because I WAS at the dentist, but mostly because I had stopped taking my blood pressure medicine.  My favorite doctor had left our practice (she had small kids, so works now in an Urgent Care twice a week) so I didn't want to go through with meeting a new doctor, so I didn't bother.

Anyway, got new scripts for bloodwork, and my meds, and she thought she'd convinced me to get a mammogram (she printed it out.... doubtful I'll go) and I flatly refused a colonoscopy.  But, it's a starting point.  Maybe as I get healthier again, I'll consider doing the mammogram, but the colonoscopy will probably remain a no.  She did say there is a new company that tests your bowel movements (you send them a sample through the mail....) I may consider that, in another 5 years LOL

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


My review -- AMAZING *****  5 stars

Of course, I added chocolate chips, not many, and I used extra grated squash, so that I had enough to fill one 8" pan and one 9" pan.  It was really good and really moist and tasted like a banana cake, you wouldn't have known there was squash in there.  I will be making this again, and often if the squash keep coming like they have been !  The icing is plenty to ice two layers -- even had enough to do the sides had I wanted to stack this into a double layer cake.  


  • For the summer squash and banana cake
  •  Butter, for the pan
  • 2 cups (255 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups (330 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 milliliters) mild vegetable oil, such as grape seed or light olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (100 grams) finely grated yellow squash (from about 1 large summer squash)
  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup or 10 1/2 ounces)
  • For the cream cheese frosting
  • One 8-ounce (226-gram) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/55 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (100 grams) confectioners’ sugar


  • Make the summer squash and banana cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 9- or 10-inch round cake pan.
  • 2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  • 3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the squash and bananas. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  • 4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 60 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely, about 3 hours.
  • Make the cream cheese frosting
  • 5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar and beat to combine.
  • Assemble the cake
  • 6. Spread the frosting on top of the cake and, if desired, also coat the sides.

Recipe from

Nadia's Surgery

Nadia injured her knee in gym class back in April.  It was a pretty severe injury, a broken tibia, a completely torn PCL as well as other torn ligaments.  They tried a couple months of Physical Therapy, but without a PCL, there was little chance of it healing enough so she could get back on the tennis courts, much less walk, so the Doctor said surgery was our only option.  We weren't sure if they would use a piece of her own hamstring or a donated piece to fix her PCL, but she was in good spirits when we got there.
She was worried about the IV needle - smart nurse put it in her arm instead of on the back of her hand seeing as she'd be on crutches and if it were on the back of her hand, it'd be pretty painful.  She got it first shot, so the smile remained.   

She was a little worried about what they called nerve blockers -- more needles going directly into her nerves, one shot near her hip and the other near her knee.  Since they needed her to remain calm and not move, they gave her a bit of Valium in her IV ... hysterical.   Now I see why people video their kids on laughing gas in the dentist office.  Anyway, after singing a few rounds of "itsy, bitsy spider" the nerve blocks were in and she was good to go.  The surgery itself took about 2 1/2 hours, but since we'd already been at the hospital 5 hours, it made for a long, long day.
 Finished, with ice water tubing running under her bandages so no ice packs required.  I rented a little fridge so that the ice water could continue to keep her knee cool.   Bad news though -- no shower for a week.  Guess I better stop at the drugstore and buy her some shower wipes !
And on our way home, still smiling.  Of course that may have something to do with the nerve blocks and good pain relief drugs.  We filled up her pain relief drugs the minute we got home.  She goes back to the Doctor in a week to remove the bandages.  He said she should be off the crutches within 10 days or so, and on her way to recovery.  We leave for Florida the second week of August ... so I hope she's on the mend !

Yellow Squash Sandwiches

Step by Step

1 yellow squash
4 slices of provolone cheese, or any other cheese
4 slices of deli turkey (or whatever you like)
2 eggs
canola oil or other veggie oil
flour -- seasoned however you like, I used
            pepper and onion powder, no salt, there
            will be enough salt when you sweat the
            squash and also after they are cooked.

1.  I peeled the squash, then slices it.  Figured it'd help the flour stick better.  Not sure if you have to peel it ... if you make this without peeling, let me know how it turned out.  Slices should be thick enough to not see through, but thin enough to cook - maybe 1/4" ?

2.  Salt both sides of the squash - and lay on paper towels or clean kitchen towels and let sit for about 30 minutes.  This draws a lot of the water out from the squash and it'll help it not splatter so much when cooking.

3.  Take another clean towel and dry off the tops of the squash.  Prepare 3 deep dishes/plates ... 1 with the seasoned flour, one with the 2 eggs which have been beaten with some water, maybe 1/4 cup for 2 eggs giver or take, and one with the panko.

4.  Heat your oil ... I used my trusty cast iron pot, you want something with sides high enough so you don't get spattered.  I filled mine about 1/2" deep, but I was doing more than one squash worth.  I heated mine on medium, and it was the perfect heat.

5.  Once your oil is heated (about 5 minutes) take two squash slices that are about the same size, and make a sandwich.  On each sandwich I put 1/2 slice of cheese and 1/2 slice of turkey.  I also added some shredded mexican mixed cheese because I had it in my fridge and I wanted to see if it would stay inside (it did)  Cover your sandwich with the second squash slice, dredge in the seasoned flour, make sure to not only get the top and bottom, but also roll once to get all the way around the outside.
After flour, dip in egg wash, both sides, and then into the panko, where I used a clean fork to cover the squash sandwich with panko and pressed in firmly.

6.  Carefully lower into the hot oil, it should begin to bubble but not so hot it splatters.  If it starts to splatter it's too hot, if it doesn't immediately start to bubble, it's too cold.  Let cook while you make a 2nd and 3rd sandwich.  I had time to get the 4th sandwich in before I had to flip the first one.  I thought that it would fall apart, but again, I used salad tongs to flip and they stayed together perfectly.  I flipped mine a few times because I wanted an even brownness and I wanted to make sure all the cheese was melted.

7.  After cook, drain on a papertowel and sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt.  Make sure to let cool a couple minutes - the insides will be HOT HOT HOT !  Enjoy :)

Yellow Squash Overload

The Garden is doing amazing so far this year.  The herbs I planted all did well, although now it's getting a little hot and they are going to seed.  Lettuce and spinach ... also amazing.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are just now coming in.  The hubster is especially pleased with that long light green cucumber in the middle ... in Egypt it's called Atta, according to him it is sweeter than cucumber with larger seeds.  The seed packet called them Armenian cucumbers - haven't sliced into it yet to see if he's right.  The yellow squash pictured is only a small amount of what I've already picked.  DH has shredded some and cooked it with eggs, but I know that'll get old quickly - so I'm trying new things.  

  This was my first new concoction.  Not sure of a name for it - yellow squash fried sandwiches perhaps ?  These are filled with cheese and turkey - and they ended up amazing.  I was really worried that they would lose their filling but they didn't and when you bit into them, the cheese was stringy just like mozzarella sticks, which meant the kids actually loved them.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Not the Results She Wanted - P2Life, Cytosport Muscle Milk

After training 6 days a week, 3 hours a day, my dd #2 was sick days before they were to leave for their Championship Meet.  Sick like never before.  Sinuses clogged, ear infection so bad she couldn't hear out of one ear, constantly blowing her nose, and generally just feeling like crap.  Even though I took her to Urgent care and got her on Meds - it didn't help much.  It got so bad she blew her nose one day in the locker room and nearly passed out --- luckily for her, her teammates were right behind her to catch her and guide her to a bench so she could sit down and ride out the blackness and dizziness.  She said although it hurt like hell - she could hear again.  I'm hoping she blew out the infection - but I'll be taking her to the Doctors today to make sure she didn't blow out her eardrum.

Anyway - it was a good life lesson --- you don't always get what you think you deserve, even though I do think she did deserve a great meet - there will be more meets down the road.

Now - off to order her some more Protein Powder.  We originally started with P2Life because it didn't contain anything that would ever disqualify her from a higher meet if she was ever drug tested.  We switched because we weren't at that level yet, and the P2Life was a bit more expensive than other stuff.  Well - that being said, we are going back to P2Life protein powder - the others are either sickly sweet, or don't disolve well .... I'd rather spend the extra money and have something she doesn't have to gulp down simply because it tastes like crap !!


Update --- well, I went to P2Life... and they no longer make Vanilla.  She's not a big fan of Chocolate or Strawberry --- so I was in search of something new.  Problem with her that it has to be NCAA approved when she gets to college - so we might as well start that now.  Settled on this - lots of different Division 1 colleges recommend this, so we'll give it a shot.  Good news is it comes in many different flavors -

  UPDATE --- too sweet !!  If you like a sweet milkshake like drink than this might work for you, but it's not for us. 

Also ordered myself some new liquid vitamins.  Now that I'm back to the gym and working out - I need the extra vitamins.  These were originally recommended to me by a nutritionist...I stopped using them because they were expensive ($80) but they did make me feel great with lots of extra energy - so ordered them from Amazon

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Recipe taken from Whole Foods -

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Stir together paprika, salt, allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cayenne, fenugreek (if using) and ginger in a small bowl; set spice mixture aside. 

Toss chickpeas with a tablespoon of the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Roast chickpeas, stirring occasionally, until somewhat dried out and just golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and chopped ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in reserved spice mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until spices are toasted and very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes more.

Stir in broth, potatoes, carrots and reserved chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are just tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover pot and simmer until stew is thickened and potatoes and carrots are very tender, about 25 minutes more. Ladle stew into bowls.
Nutritional Info: 
Per Serving: 400 calories (80 from fat), 9g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 710mg sodium, 66gcarbohydrates, (10 g dietary fiber, 8g sugar), 13g protein.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Homemade Yogurt using the Instant Pot

Happy New Year !

Even though I already have an Electric Pressure cooker, I took the plunge and purchased an Instant Pot a couple weeks ago when they were on sale at Amazon for $125.   Sounds expensive, but I use my pressure cookers often.  I have one that is used on the stovetop - All-American - that I use for canning as well as cooking larger meals.   I did an entire 17 pound turkey right before Christmas - it took less than 2 hours to cook, and it was amazing !  I'll do another post on that later.  I also have this cheaper Cuisinart electric pressure cooker - which I purchased about a year ago.  When I bought the Cuisinart I didn't think I'd use it that often, so I didn't want to invest the $240 that the Instant Pot was selling for at the time.  A year later, I've seen how often I do pull out the electric pressure cooker - especially with the kids and all their activities - it makes a great meal fast.  Since we are going to slowly go entirely whole foods (no, they don't know yet) I know I'll be cooking more often, so I used that reasoning to allow myself to purchase another electric pressure cooker.  Today's the first time I'll be using it !

For Yogurt I'm using -

A gallon of whole milk - I've heard you can use 1% and 2%, but for my first batch, I'm sticking with
                                         whole milk
Vanilla - I'll use pure vanilla from Penzey's spices, plus I have some vanilla beans to stir in at the end.
Yogurt to use as starter - I picked up a couple individual serving sized Brown Cow yogurts with lots
                                        of live active cultures.
Powdered Milk - I'm using it with this batch, but it's not really necessary.

Step one - if using powdered milk, put a few Tablespoons into your gallon of milk and shake, shake
                 shake.  If there isn't enough room in the gallon jug, pour a little off into the Instant Pot
                 which is not plugged in yet !

Step two - plug in the Instant Pot, hit the yogurt button, then hit the adjust button.  It will display the
                 word boil.

This step will take about an hour - I started exactly at 9 a.m.  After it beeps  - you have to cool it back down.

It's faster to take the insert out and let it cool on the counter.  If you have a thermometer - it's good to get it down to about 120* - this too will take about an hour.  I have this Polder thermometer - it will beep  when the correct temps are reached, which takes about another hour.   One of the things I love about this thermometer is that you can change between Celsius and Fahrenheit - so I don't have to adjust recipes that I find online :)    After it has cooled -  add the yogurt starter - about 1/2 a cup for the entire gallon of milk !  For this batch I used Brown Cow yogurt - I've heard that whatever yogurt you choose has an effect on the final taste - so use a yogurt that you like as long as it has live cultures !
 You can also add vanilla when you add the yogurt starter - if you choose.  Then - back into the Instant Pot - push the yogurt setting button.  The number 8 will flash, and then it'll go to 0 and start counting up 8 hours.  After 8 hours - you'll hear a beep and your Instant Pot will tell you the yogurt is ready !

  I like Greek Yogurt - so I strain mine.  I got this strainer at Amazon as well.  I may end up getting another - because if you do an entire gallon of milk at one time - it'll only hold about 1/2 the pot at a time.  The first whey that comes down I save and use as buttermilk - great for baking !  In the summer you can save the whey to water your tomatoes.  The longer you let it sit, the thicker it will get.  I let mine sit about 1 1/2 hours - and it got really thick.   

After it was thick enough - I pour out all the whey, and I dumped the yogurt into the clear container so I could use a whisk and get rid of any lumps.  I also took the opportunity to add some fresh vanilla beans.   

And the final product !  No, the yogurt is not green, my canning jars are.  I just love all the colored jars - I'm sad that I missed the baby blue ones - but there is no way I'm paying premium for blue ones !  Anyway, I ended up with 5 pints of thick Greek type yogurt, and 2 pints of buttermilk.   I dumped out the rest of the whey.  The verdict - excellent - I'll be making this again.  I'm going to try with goats milk ... a bit more expensive, but since I'm somewhat lactose intolerant, if it works, it might be worth it.  

UPDATED -- I have now made batches of yogurt, trying different milks.  Surprisingly the Lactose Free Skim Milk makes awesome yogurt - nice and thick.