Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Just a quick post as I know some of ya'll are waiting to hear.

We survived Sandy with the only damage being to our garage roof.  We need to replace it anyway but Mr. Helen spent all day yesterday fixing it back up until we can actually have it replaced.

We never lost power, though there are lots who did and still are without.  It  paid off in spades that we live 4 miles from the ocean.  The areas of my little city that are on the water have no power and lots and lots of cleanup to do, although nothing like what the poor folks in New Jersey are dealing with.

I won't post any photos because if you've seen the Weather Channel or national news you know what it looks like.  Keep folks in your thoughts and prayers please.

After being cocooned for the last few days, it actually feels good to get back to work and life and routine!

Thank you to all of you who checked in while the storm raged, you're the best!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Riders on the Storm

There's a little storm called Sandy that is wreaking havoc up in these parts.  My small coastal city is under partial evacuation orders due to the fear of flooding from the storm surge Monday and Tuesday.  There are some other areas of town that tend to flood and Mr. Helen's father lives in that area so he has had to leave.  He went over to the next town to stay with Mr. Helen's sister because she lives in a town where the utility operators are known to get the electricity back on fast. Mr. Helen and I live nearby that area but are on a hill so we are able to stay home for the time being.  There's also a bridge that goes over the Thames River that is going to be closed if the winds get sustained at 40 mph.  I don't remember that happening in all the years I've lived here but Mr. Helen doesn't remember that ever happening since the bridge was built.  Maybe it has and we were young and carefree and just didn't pay attention. There's also a Weather Channel guy in Mystic, which is the town Mama Helen and my sister live in.  At least it's not Jim Cantore!  In any case, we've done all we can so now, we're just gonna sit here, hope no trees fall on our house or on the homes of people we love, that the flood waters just don't rise, and ride it out.

Now, to happier things: Em's wedding!  I don't know too many men who have very much to say about any weddings, except maybe if it's their own.  Mr. Helen has been talking non-stop (and telling everyone who asked) about this wedding.  He actually declared it the best wedding he's ever been to.  And, let me tell you it was spectacular.  I think he summed it up perfectly when he said, "It had everything a wedding and a reception should have without all the pomp and circumstance."  It really was a celebration of Em and Steve and their personalities.  Though I can't bring the party ambiance to you, I can try to show you.

First off, I hoped to not wear the boot, but we prepped it just in case.  The hotel we were staying at was right across the street from where the ceremony was being held so Mr. Helen said he'd run back and get it if I needed it.


Here's my outfit.  Mr. Helen actually took this photo - I am so proud of him!  I love, love LOVED this dress.  It was super comfortable and I felt pretty in it. As we all know feeling pretty is just as important as actually looking pretty.


The wedding was held at the Connecticut Science Center.  Yes, a museum.  The ceremony was set up on the first floor and then we went up to the fourth floor for the reception.  We were allowed to play with any of the exhibits that we wanted to.  It was quite unique and so much fun!

Her color scheme was such that each of the attendants wore black and then had a particular color as their accent.  So one man and one woman each wore, orange, yellow, pink, or red.  All the wedding accents, i.e., the napkins on the table, the program, etc. brought the theme together and Em's bouquet had all the colors.  So beautiful and seasonally appropriate.


 This was their card box


Em was a beautiful bride. I loved her dress too.  It was so flattering and she looked like the queen she was.  Gorgeous. The first photo was taken by one of her bridesmaids prior to the wedding.  She wore orange shoes!

Coming down the aisle with her mom and dad


Steve is on the left.  That's his face when he saw her coming.


Vows and rings were exchanged and then, "You may take your first kiss as husband and wife!"


I think what impressed Mr. Helen the most and maybe why he thinks it was the best wedding ever was the length.  Em probably came down the aisle around 6:10.  I took this photo just at the end of the wedding.

Time to party!  And what would a reception be without fabulous food?  They had food stations  and tables set up throughout the fourth floor party area.  The food truly was some of the best I've had at a wedding - gotta love it when the caterer keeps the cold food cold, the hot food hot, and the tables full.

There was a cheese table with grissini and toasts and crackers, along with passed hot hors d'oeuvres.

There was a short rib table with delicious beef short ribs and all the vegetable fixings to go with. 


 Mr. Helen's favorite table was the Asian Chop Chop.  It was like a giant salad bar with all sorts of fruits and vegetables.  The salad dressing were Asian inspired:  Citrus, Ginger and Sesame.  You picked what you wanted, they tossed it in a bowl and then you had a choice of grilled flank steak, chicken or salmon to top. Delicious!

 My salad

Finally, instead of a traditional wedding cake, there were cupcake stations!  Yay!  I'm not even going to deny it, I had one vanilla and one chocolate.

 There were also these little raspberry cups, with a vanilla cream in the bottom.  I ate a couple of these too.

The DJ was fantastic and kept the dancing going and the party went on all night.  So much more I could show you but I think you get the idea that a fabulous time was had by all!  At the end of the night, we were allowed to take a bouquet of flowers with us.  Since I didn't have to do anything but sleep in the hotel and then drive home on Sunday, I took one.  It's going to be a lovely remind of this celebration all week long.



Thank you Em and Steve for allowing us to be a small part of your new beginning.  We look forward to sharing many more years of love and laughter with you!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Love is in the Air

Em's wedding is tomorrow.  My biggest hope is that Hurricane Sandy holds off from this area until after her wedding is over.  Simply for the sake of people who are traveling.  Looking like it's going to but the meteoroligists around here are just beside themselves with frantic anticipation.

Here's the dress I got.  She kept saying she wished I would wear something sort of retro and I think this fits the bill.  Reminds me of a 1950's cocktail dress.

I had spied it in the late spring at Macy's but didn't want to pay the price they were asking. By the time Macy's put it on sale, they had a size 2 and a size 16 left, neither of which are sizes that would fit me.  A couple weeks ago while looking around online at dresses, I saw a similar dress and that made me google the brand.  Lo and behold, the exact dress popped up on Ebay in my size!  I paid 50% of what Macy's had been asking.

While I wish I looked like that photo up there, I don't, but I think I will look very nice.  Besides as Mr. Helen said to me, "Who cares what you look like, Em is queen for the day, not you!"  Ha!  So romantic that man.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stewing

I am sure many of us have heard that one of the best ways to combat mild depression is exercise. Some years ago I took an anti-depressant for a period of around one year.  When I felt like I no longer needed it my therapist stressed how important exercise was to continued well being.  It's the endorphins you know.  Whether you realize it or not, when you exercise endorphins are released and even though your brain might be saying "this sucks!" afterward your body will heave a big of sigh of happy relief.

Going now into my third week of no cardio activity, I'm feeling the lack of endorphins.  I grasped it fully over the last couple of days as we had overcast grey skies and I started feeling almost the same way I do once winter fully sets in even though our temperatures have been milder than normal. Additionally, we have some extended family stressors going on right now that almost make me feel jumpy.  Yesterday morning I woke up and thought, "I feel stressed and sad."  That's when I had to admit I'm feeling mildly depressed.

I'm not really sure what to do about it and I have a full two weeks more in this boot before I see the doctor for a follow-up.  Even if he won't allow me to quite take the boot off I'm hoping to be cleared to maybe try the elliptical at the gym, which I will rejoin if he gives that OK.  In the meantime, I feel stressed and sad.

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If you like to cook at all and you don't read Nutmeg Notebook you are really missing out.  Tami does a great job of finding excellent recipes and adapting them into a lighter form.  With every recipe she posts she also includes the nutritional information and WW points.  I've never been disappointed with anything I've tried.  A couple weeks ago, she posted a recipe for a shrimp stew that I immediately pinned.  This week I had the opportunity to make it and can vouch that it is delicious!  Not only that but it perfectly fits into Paleo, Pescetarian and dairy free diets.  

Thai-Style Shrimp Stew
  • 2 lb. jumbo (21 to 25 per lb.) shrimp, peeled and deveined (I buy 2 lb. bags, frozen)
  • Sea salt
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced into very thin 1-1/2-inch-long strips
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts kept separate)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 14.5-oz. can petite-diced tomatoes, drained
  • 13.5- or 14-oz. can light coconut milk
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice

In a large bowl, sprinkle the shrimp with 1 tsp. salt; toss to coat, and set aside.
Get all your vegetables chopped and other ingredients ready to go:
Heat the oil in a 12" non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper strips and cook, stirring, until almost tender, about 4 minutes. Add the scallion whites, 1/4 cup of the cilantro, the garlic, and the pepper flakes. Continue to cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer to blend the flavors and thicken the sauce slightly, about 5 minutes.
Add the shrimp and continue to cook, partially covered and stirring frequently, until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Add the lime juice and season to taste with salt. Serve sprinkled with the scallion greens and remaining 1/4 cup cilantro.

6 servings
Nutrition Information:
Per serving: 231 calories, 8g fat, 7g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 32g protein; WWPP 5
I made brown rice for myself and sticky white rice for Mr. Helen to put this over.  I recalculated the calories on this because I used less shrimp and light coconut milk (does not include rice).  Also, the 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes was plenty for Mr. Helen so I'm glad I didn't use the amount in the original recipe.  I would even say if you have small children you might eliminate that all together and put sriracha or something like that on the side for those who want heat. It took me approximately 40 minutes from the start of chopping vegetables to the dish being finished. Finally, I think this recipe would even be good with chicken for those of you who don't care for seafood. This is a winner that will stay in our recipe rotation!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Isn't She Lovely

I had such a good time at my first bachelorette!  I was a bit worried because on one hand I knew I would be the 'old lady' of the group but on the other, Em considered me cool enough to hang out with friends her age, so there's that.  The only mis-step on my part was not contacting either Em or her sister (who is her maid of honor) to ask how everyone was dressing.  I chose what I wore based on where we were going for dinner.  I always forget that around here, the art of dressing for dinner pretty much doesn't exist because we are a tourist town.  I was a smidge overdressed (under statement of the year right there) but I suppose in the end, it didn't matter.

It was an unusually warm day - at least 10 degrees higher than normal which meant the weather was great for vineyard hopping but at times everyone wished they hadn't packed away their summer clothes yet.'

We started at a local orchard that is starting to produce some wines and also a variety of hard cider.  This was the first time I ever tasted hard cider.  I don't know why I didn't think I'd like it but I did.  The bubbles are a lot like champagne.  The bridesmaids in Em's wedding provided us with lots of snacks so that none of us were tasting on an empty stomach. It was so beautiful sitting there that we ended up staying for a couple hours!  What was really nice was that they brought the tasting outside to us. Before I get started showing you photos, you should know that except for the two photos of Em, these were not taken by me but by a very artistic friend of Em's.  Her eye was amazing and I was thrilled at how she caught the spirit and fun of our day.  Warning:  this is photo heavy because I couldn't decide what photos to show, so many of her shots were so good.




We spent so long at the orchard we decided to skip the second winery and go for the third. I was happy about that because it's my favorite winery and where I am a Grape Nuts member.  It was crowded as get out but we managed to squeeze in for a tasting then went outside to enjoy ourselves.















Yes, that's my fancy shoe up there.  I had to do something to balance out the awful boot!  When we left the winery we went to dinner where you know I had to have my Saturday night martini!

Believe me when I say I had to have that to stomach seeing the oysters that Em chose (sorry Em, but I sure was glad you sat on my end of the table).  This restaurant is known for sourcing all their ingredients locally, so these had probably been caught Saturday morning some time. Mr. Helen said they look fantastic. OK, whatever you say.

In the end all that really mattered was that our bride-to-be was happy, even if I didn't enjoy her oysters.  And I think she was.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Testing, Testing 1-2-3

Our foliage is hitting peak.  Mr. Helen is off on Sunday so I'm hoping to get him to take a drive and maybe go get our annual cider donut at the cider mill.  Here's a partial view from a window in the hallway at work.

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I've been feeling antsy and worried all week, simply because of an announcement that was made Tuesday in my Muay Thai class:

Pre-test will be held at 7 am on Saturday, November 3rd.  We're meeting at the track for the run and then will test your material and fitness.

Normally I would have been excited about that but people, I'm in a boot.  I can't run at least until after I see my doctor on November 9th.  Which means the kyoshi has the right to tell me not to bother to test if I can't get through the pre-test.

I had to wait it out until I could see her last night.  Didn't make for a good week for me.  I was just frustrated and upset all week long.  This is NOT where I thought I'd be right now!!! I'm supposed to be in the best shape of my life and demonstrating mad Muay Thai skillz.

I didn't sleep well, and I already feel tired by the end of most days because of this dumb boot, so not sleeping is making things feel worse than normal.  Plus you know I had some crazy dreams, although I could only remember one.

So last night prior to my class when she asked me how I was doing, I replied, "Feeling very frustrated."  She told me I should hang in there so I felt it was a good time to ask about the pre-test.  She replied, "Helen, I know you can run.  Come to the pretest and then after you go see your doctor we'll go from there to decide what to do about test day itself."  So that means I got the waiver because they are considering the first tested run (which I ran with the 2 fractures and torn tendon, I just didn't know it) as good enough for me to move on!!

Load off my mind. Maybe the crazy dreams will stop now.

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Em's bachelorette is tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to an afternoon of girl time.  We are starting at a local orchard that has hard cider and fruit wines (fruit other than grapes I mean) and will eventually end up at one of her favorite restaurants for dinner.  A week from tomorrow, I'll be at her wedding - such an exciting time for her, and me too since I get to play dress up!

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My feelings exactly.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Portion Control

As all healthy eaters know, portion control is of the utmost importance for both losing weight and maintaining it.  But portion control has also come to mean cooking a bit differently around the Helen household.  We just don't eat as much as we used to and as I am loathe to throw anything away, there are actually some dishes that I don't make anymore, unless we're having company, as the recipe just makes too much.  I feel that way about a lot of our dessert recipes, yet I prefer to make our desserts when we do have them as I know each ingredient that goes into it and don't have to worry about unhealthy fats, chemicals, and preservatives.

I was given a huge bag of freshly picked apples last week and naturally my mind went to apple pie.  It's something that we have as treat only about once a year or so.  The problem is that a whole apple pie is just too much for the two of us. That got me thinking of how I could make individual apple pies.  As I looked in my cupboard, I saw my  5 oz. ramekins and thought that would be the perfect size.  I figured someone else had already done this so why reinvent the wheel and I went to Googling.  Sure enough I found a recipe that I adapted a bit and we had delicious dessert in a portion controlled size!

Individual Apple Pies for Two

Pie Dough:  use your favorite recipe or buy the refrigerated type.  You'll need dough for 1 crust ( and you will have leftover).

Apple Filling:
2 medium apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tablespoon flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
dash of salt
1/4 cup sugar (Adjust according to type of apples being used.  Sweeter apples would need less.)

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll your pie crust out to a 10" circle.  Using a 5 oz. ramekin, press it 4 times into the dough leaving space around each circle.

Cut out 2 of the circles exactly as sized and put into bottom of ramekin.  The dough will come up the side a bit creating a little cup.

Put ramekins on a cookie sheet and place in the preheated oven.  Cook for 10 minutes then take out of oven to cool  The crust will not be golden, you're just pre-cooking it a bit. Set aside to cool.

In the meantime, prep your filling.  Chop apples and put into large bowl, toss with lemon juice.  In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.  Sprinkle over apples and mix well.  Put apple mixture into ramekins on top of crust.  It will be heaping.

Cut out your other two dough circles but this time go about a half inch outside the circle shape.  Put dough on top of apple mixture and crimp around the edges to make a top crust.  Cut a slit in the top to allow steam to escape.

Put back in oven and bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until top crust is lovely and golden.  Serve warm with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or a slice of sharp cheddar. Delicious!


I enjoyed this method so much that I will use it again next time we want pie.  There was actually enough dough left to make one more pie so next time I'll probably do that.  While 8 pieces of pie might be too much, Mr. Helen wouldn't have minded if one of these little pies was left over.