Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Hello everyone and happy New Year! Best wishes to everyone for a great 2008.

Yes, after a LOOOOOOOONG hiatus, I am back. I'm sure a lot of you are probably in shock from actually seeing the little icon by my blog on your blog list that I've posted an update.

The major reason for me being gone for so long is quite simply this: P and I are divorcing. I don't really feel like going into the details over what has happened, so please don't ask. Just know that I am fine, I am surviving, and that I was the one that wanted out. Let's just leave it at that. There is no need to post any "I'm sorry" comments or "Let me know if you need anything" or "I'll keep you in my prayers". It is what it is and that's it. End of story.

However, the last year has sucked really bad. I haven't really felt like blogging or emailing or posting. I haven't stitched or scrapbooked in probably eight months. With the exception of the last six weeks, I have barely cooked this year, have not slept well, and have made myself extremely run down and sick. Depression is lousy, what can I say? Thank God for antidepressants, or I probably would have died from lack of sleep.

However, it's not all bad. There have been some good things in the last year. McKenna is doing great...she is two now and into everything. She's just a doll and talks nonstop. I bought a redfire 2007 Mustang in May which I adore. I am keeping the house all by myself and have redecorated it to my tastes...the kitchen is Cherry Cobbler red, the main areas are Toasted Wheat, and I have the furniture and decorations and furnishings that I like. I am really reconnecting with my kitchen and cooking for myself and McKenna on a regular basis now which is amazing and I feel so good doing it, not to mention it's FUN and it's keeping me busy.

We did take our vacation in Destin and Destin was a paradise. I can't wait to go back again. I am actually contemplating going for a weekend on my own maybe in March and doing nothing but sitting on the beach for a few days.

Work is going really well, although still really busy. My company finally recognized that fires are my forte (well, DUH) and decided finally to give me my dream job...I am now supervising ALL fire referrals for my company between $30,000-$100,000 for THE ENTIRE STATE OF TEXAS. No more roofs. No more water losses. No more regular adjusters. I now have a team of six fire adjusters, three in the DFW area, one in Austin, one in San Antonio and one in Houston. It is something that I have been working on to make happen for the last six months, and now that it is finally here and live, it is wonderful and I couldn't be happier. It was a hard road getting there though...there were several times over the last six months that I contemplated quitting and going somewhere else, but now I am so glad that I did not and hung in there.

So that's me in a nutshell. Glad to be back.

One of the things that I have contemplated doing for quite a while is revitalizing this blog into a food blog of sorts. I've read a lot of food blogs over the last few months and I love them and think they are so neat. I would love to share recipes, tips I have learned for cooking, cool kitchen gadgets, and just how I enjoyed/disliked making the recipe. How long I'll keep it up, I don't know, but I'm sure going to try! Maybe I'll even throw in some pictures if I can find my old digital camera at work.

Tonight, as a special tribute to the new year ahead, I made a special meal just for me. I even went to Central Market to get the ingredients. I made a crab and artichoke bridge casserole with lemon rice pilaf and opened a bottle of champagne just for me which I am proud to say I am finishing as I type this.

I would love to hear what you think of the food blog format. There's always a possibility that I may not do it very long as I tend to phase in and out of stuff as time goes on, but we'll see.

Crab and Artichoke Bridge Casserole

2 Tbsp unsalted butter + 4 Tbsp unsalted butter (seperated)
1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 c milk
1 c half and half
1 lb lump crab meat
8 oz diced mushrooms
8-12 canned or bottled artichoke hearts, diced in a food processor
1/4 c dry sherry wine
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 1 1/2 quart casserole with cooking spray. Melt 4 Tbsp butter in saucepan and add flour. Whisk and cook about three minutes. Remove from heat and add milk and half and half gradually along with a pinch of kosher salt, whisking until smooth. Whisk constantly over medium heat until thickened, about five minutes. Pour cream sauce into a mixing bowl and whisk in sherry, Worcestershire, kosher salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in large skillet and add mushrooms. Cook about eight minutes until mushrooms are tender and liquid is reduced. Layer artichokes, mushrooms and crab meat (in that order) in casserole and pour cream sauce mixture over layers. Sprinkle top with Parmesan and paprika. Bake for twenty minutes or until top is golden.

Lemon Rice Pilaf

1/2 c long-grain white cooking rice, uncooked
1/2 c orzo pasta, uncooked
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 c chicken stock or broth
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat and add rice and pasta. Stir and cook until golden, taking care not to burn rice and pasta. Add chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and parsley. Garnish with lemon slices if desired.

What I liked about my dinner: The lemon rice pilaf had a GREAT taste to it...very light, citrusy and flavorful...and I normally don't really care for lemon stuff unless it's loaded with sugar. It was very quick to make, but keep in mind that I do all my prepwork (measuring and chopping) before I start cooking. I like to pretend that I'm Rachel Ray and have all the stuff ready on the counter so I don't have to worry that I've forgotten something. Yup, I'm a dork.
What I disliked about my dinner: When I went to Central Market, all they had was stone crab claws which were expensive and a total pain to clean and shell. My hands are already very dry and cracked from the cold, and working with those things didn't really help.
What I learned: I will probably get a container of loose lump crabmeat rather than the claws as I think it will be MUCH easier and cheaper and I think I will dice my mushrooms in the food processor rather than chopping them by hand.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: microplaner for zesting the lemons, mushroom brush for cleaning the mushrooms and a meat tenderizer mallet for breaking the crab claws
Tastiness factor: The rice pilaf was excellent. It complimented the crab very well and it was really good kind of mixed in with the sauce of the casserole. The casserole was also very good, but it was a lot of work and definitely not something for every day especially given the cost of the ingredients...a pound of lump crab in the carton is about $15 and I spent $18 on a pound of crab claws. But still very good and it will make great leftovers this week.

That's it for now.


Blogger Sharon said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere - it is great to see you blogging again. I'm not doing as well as it sounds like you are, but I couldn't be happier for you that your new team is going well. May the new year bring you all the happiness your heart can hold and all the adventure and excitement it can take!

5:04 AM  
Blogger Concetta said...

Happy New Year! It's so nice to see you back! I think the food blog idea is great, especially if it gets you back into blogging. I personally would love for your blog to be about anything you're interested in - be it recipes, stitching, scrapbooking... I've also always loved reading about your job, home improvements and of course, beautiful McKenna.

Best wishes for 2008. I hope we will hear from you lots more this year. :)

5:07 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

I'm so happy to see you post! I was really starting to worry about you. Sounds like the job is excellent, and I'm sure the house is beautiful. And I say post whatever you feel like posting on your blog. That's why it's yours! LOL Food, fine. McKenna updates, fine. Hobbies, fine. We just want to hear from you!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it's not what you want to hear, but I AM sorry to hear that you and P are divorcing. I divorced my first husband, and even though I KNEW it was the right thing to do, it was also painful because when we married, it was a promise for life. So even though it sounds like you're handling things just fine, let yourself grieve, k? It's an ending, no matter how you look at it, even if it's for the best. (((hugs)))

Have you gotten back into weight lifting at all this past year? Any plans for returning to it in 2008? I hate to cook, so I'd much rather read about McKenna, stitching, scrapping, or exercising, but of course, it's YOUR blog! You should do what makes you happy. :D

11:59 AM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

I'm happy to see an update from you! Pls post a pic of McKenna, I'm sure she has grown so much! Here's to a happy 2008 for you. Blog about whatever, you have cyberfriends that care! Suz

12:36 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

Erica, I am so happy to see you blogging again. I felt so guilty about not emailing you a recipe after you sent me the recipe exchange email (I've been getting more into cooking as well and have started gathering a magnificent pile of them), but I've honestly just been swamped with work and school and neglectful of most of my life.

I'm glad you are back to blogging and that your job has improved - I know you always liked your fire work.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that you are doing well and I look forward to reading more from you :)

12:57 PM  
Blogger Rani said...

I'm glad to see you posting again! Can't wait to read more. I'm really happy to hear your company listened to you and put you in a role that both of you could benefit from. WTG!

2:04 PM  
OpenID sewcreative said...

I'm so glad to see you're still hanging in there. It was so nice to email with you. I can't wait to see what you come up with in your food blog and I bet that kitchen is gorgeous! Congrats on the *new* job.

Hugs, and happy new year to you and McKenna.

7:30 PM  
Anonymous cross2stitch2003 said...

Glad to see you back blogging. I have a new blog and will send you a link. I was beginning to worry and would check your blog every once in a while. It was quite interesting to rea about you and P because I am at that breaking point and may be in the same place as you very shortly. So much to think about.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous cross2stitch2003 said...

Oh....I didn't tell you in the last comment...cross2stitch2003 is Lynn in Alabama...your old stitching friend. If you want to e-mail me....cross2stitch2003@yahoo.com

7:58 PM  
Blogger WhizGidget said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere! Good to have you back with us.

I know it's not what you want to hear either, but I'm surprised to hear that you're divorcing. But then, if this is the right thing for you to do, then who am I to question it?

May 2008 treat you very well, and I look forward to reading more about you and McKenna and the rest of everything you are willing to share.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Abi said...

OMG!!! I am sooo happy to "see" you again! The rice pilaf sounds really yummy. I think I will have to try that soon. I've never had orzo. What is the texture like?

9:57 AM  
Blogger Erica said...

Orzo is just pasta...very small pasta about a half inch long. The original recipe called for vermicelli cut into 1" pieces, but I decided orzo was much less work!

12:35 AM  
Blogger Kari said...

So glad to see you are back! Please do post a photo of McKenna. She must be so big! Glad you are doing well.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Taneya said...

E - I'm glad to see you back too! Life changes for us all and whatever you decide to share with us, we are all just happy to have a way to see what you're up to! I too look forward to seeing more posts from you this year!

5:08 PM  
Blogger Stitcher S said...

I'm glad to see you back, too! You're one of the 1st people I remember when I joined the TWBB in 2002. Wow, time flies.

The food blog is a great idea, and I love trying new ones out.

Take care, Sue

1:48 AM  
Blogger LittleRach said...

I'm really late coming to this, but it's lovely to have you back blogging again. I can't believe McKenna is two already! She sounds gorgeous.

12:35 PM  

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