Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Latin Twist

Over the past few months, Mr. Willoughby and I have tried to expand our culinary horizons and experiment with some new dishes that we can make together.   On weeknights, I usually start dinner before he gets home, but on weekends, when time isn't an issue, we can leisurely prepare a meal together.  There isn't much criteria for choosing a recipe.  It's generally just a matter of finding something that sounds good and doesn't require a major shopping trip.   We also try to choose something the kids will be likely to enjoy.

One of our most popular dishes has been paella.  It's a great dish for two people to prepare because it involves quite a bit of prep work.  There are onions and peppers to chop, chicken and sausage to be sliced and shrimp to be cleaned.  It gives us a lot of time to talk, laugh and enjoy a glass of wine while we work.  The end result is pretty fantastic, too.  Paella is delicious.

We've had empanadas on the "must make" list for a while.  We weren't looking to make a truly authentic filling for ours because we had some leftover spicy pork I had made for tacos and burritos.  Thanksgiving leftovers would make some tasty empanadas, too.   For the dough, we used a simple, traditional recipe (below).  It went together in minutes and was extremely easy to work with.

Basic Empanada Dough

  • 3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, shortening or lard 

In a small bowl, beat the water, egg, egg white and vinegar together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt.

Cut the butter (or shortening or lard) into the flour mix using a pastry blender or two knives. Make a well in the center and pour in the liquid ingredients.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until a stiff dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but no more than 24 hours.

When you are ready to prepare your empanadas, divide dough into 10 pieces.  Form each piece into a ball and then, on a floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll ball out into a six inch circle.  Place several tablespoons of filling in the center of the circle.  Using a wet fingertip, moisten the edges of the circle.  Fold dough over filling and crimp edges with the tines of a fork.  Set aside on baking sheet that has been dusted flour (if you will be frying them) or lined with parchment paper (if you will be baking them).

We fried our empanadas in the deep fryer at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  If you would prefer, you can bake them in a 400° degree oven for 25 minutes.

Enjoy your empanadas!

*A quick note about fillings - because of the short cooking time involved, you should choose a filling that is already cooked.  Meats, especially, would not have enough time to cook through.

Do you and your spouse like to work in the kitchen together?  If you do, what are your favorite recipes to make?


Monday, November 23, 2009

A Holiday Project And Food For Thought

I love this project because it's so versatile.  You can use them for a variety of different occasions and personalize them any way you want.  You can also make them in nearly any size you like.  I'm talking about pillowboxes.

I learned to make these years ago, long before I had the convenience of computer software and a printer.  You can make them out of any heavy, sturdy paper.  I prefer to use cardstock because it scores easily and holds it's shape well.  Heavy scrapbooking and decorative papers (even wallpaper) work well, too.

To begin, you need a template.  You could easily make your own with a piece of paper, a ruler and something to trace for the curves.  If you want to skip that part, I've scanned one of the templates that I used.  It is for a pair of pillowboxes. 

Be sure to click on the image before saving to get the largest size.

You can use this template as a guide to create your boxes with your photo software.  With the software I use, I add this template as my background.  After placing my photos and text, I delete the template so that the cut and score lines won't be printed on the finished product.  The next step is to print your sheets.

Before cutting and scoring

Now, place the template over your printed sheet.  Using a ball point pen and ruler, trace over all the straight lines of the template being sure to press very hard.  I usually go over each line twice.

Trace the curved lines next.  It is helpful to use something with the same curved edge as a guide to keep your lines clean.  I use a saucer.

After you have traced the entire sheet, you can cut your boxes out.  I use scissors, but you could use a mat knife if you prefer.

Next, fold along your straight score lines.  Then, secure the flap by using glue or double sided tape.  I used a glue stick that is purple when wet and clear when dry.  Be sure to let the glue dry before moving on to the next step.

Using gentle pressure on the straight sides, squeeze the box open.  Carefully fold in the end flaps along the score lines.  The flaps should stay closed.  That's it, you're done!  

You can fill your boxes with small items like candy, individual serving packets of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, photos or lottery tickets.   You can also wrap the boxes in ribbon and tie them up with a bow or add a loop of string for hanging on the Christmas tree.

I made some tiny boxes to use as placecards for Thanksgiving. 

Each little box is the perfect size for a single mint.

Here are some larger placecards made with the template I used for this demonstration. 

Christmas themed boxes. 

I'll be making plenty of these between now and Christmas!

Here are some boxes used as invitations to a holiday gathering. 

I printed the invitation on the front side and the address on the back side of each box.  They would have to be delivered by hand to keep their shape, of course.  You could tuck a map or a menu inside.

All of the lovely vintage graphics I used can be found (as well as lots of other great pictures and project ideas) at The Graphics Fairy.  Please visit her lovely website and check out her fabulous Brag Monday feature.

Food For Thought

I don't make as many homemade food gifts as I used to. I love to bake, so every year I made dozens of cakes, cookies, candies and pies to give as holidays gifts. It got to be pretty time consuming and, therefore, stressful to get it all done, so I've cut back over the last few years. Last year, Mr. Willoughby and I made batches of hot buttered rum batter, packaged them in attractive freezer containers (the batter is to be kept frozen) and paired them each with a bottle of spiced rum to give to friends and neighbors. We adorned each rum bottle with a silver Christmas ball on silver string and included the instructions for using the batter to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. They were simple to make and very well received.

I've been thinking about what to make for this year's gift, and I'm wondering how "homemade" I want to go. I read a survey where people were asked if they enjoyed homemade food gifts, and, while many said that it depended on who made the food, a large number of people admitted to throwing it away without taking a single taste. They appreciated the thought and the effort, of course, but didn't want to eat food prepared in someone else's kitchen. With all of the flu viruses going around, I'm guessing people will be more wary than ever, this year.

How do you feel about homemade food gifts (other than those from immediate family members)? If you were to be completely honest, have you ever received something that you threw away without tasting? What are your plans for homemade food gifts?


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Small Town Is Small Town?

I grew up in the suburbs.  From the house I lived in, you never had to travel more than a mile to get to  shopping malls, restaurants, drug stores or gas stations.  We had multiple movie theaters, bowling alleys, golf courses and a water park.

After Mr. Willoughby and I got married, we lived in an apartment in that same suburb for a few years. From there we moved to another suburban area, and then the city.  It was while we were living in the city that we started spending our weekends on country drives and shopping at flea markets and farm stands.   We found ourselves charmed by the small towns with their farmhouses and quaint shops. When it was time to get out of our house in the city, we decided that we wanted to live in the country.

It was an adjustment at first.  The closest place to shop (other than Kmart or the supermarket) is 20 miles away.  We have no movie theaters and only a handful of restaurants.  If you're in a hurry to get someplace, you better hope you don't get stuck at the railroad crossing when a train is coming through.  On the plus side, there are only five traffic lights in the whole town.

So how small town is small town?  Have a look and judge for yourself.  All of these pictures were taken between my house and the supermarket.

This is the view across the street behind the supermarket.

The Lutheran Church.

A local convenience store.

Local chicken farmers.

Up the road about a mile.

The weathered sign on top of a building in town.

Silos next to the railroad tracks in the middle of town.

The tractor dealership.

More silos.

The local produce store, all decked out for the holidays.

Abandoned railroad tracks.

You know you're in a small town when the local dealership advertises "Hit a deer, fix it here".

A local restaurant.  I haven't been there since it changed ownership (forgive the quality of this picture, I leaned out the window at an intersection to take it).  It used to be painted hot pink.

Looking down Main Street.

This mural is painted on the side of the fire station.

Some of the businesses on Main Street.

The Wednesday Farmer's Market is a local tradition. 

An antique shop (which is currently for sale).

Outside the local tack and saddlery shop.

Part of the walking/biking trail that runs for miles through the county.  This used to be more railroad tracks.

Where do you live?  Small town, suburbs, big city?

~I'd like to thank everyone for the get well wishes.  After taking a week to relax and recover, I'm feeling much better!~


Friday, November 13, 2009

Sick And Tired

This is just a short post to let you know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.  I'm behind in posting, behind in commenting and behind in passing on the thoughtful awards I've been given.  I'm also behind in everything else.  I've been sick for a little over a week and I just can't seem to get my energy back. 

On Halloween, I broke a toe.  A few days later my right ear drum ruptured.  Since then I've had a bad cold (or possibly the flu, I'm not really sure), laryngitis, and insomnia.  I'm trying my best to get healthy again, but in the mean time, I'm exhausted. 

I hope to get back on track over the next few days.  I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired!!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Would Pa Say?

When I was in elementary school, my mom was a volunteer at the school library. Every week she would bring home a few books for us to read together. Our favorites, by far, were the books in the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think we read each one of them at least twice. We even checked out several biographies of Laura Ingalls Wilder so we could learn more about her and see what she and her family looked like.  When we heard the books were being made into a television series, we were ecstatic.

On September 11, 1974, we watched the pilot episode of Little House On The Prairie.  It instantly became my favorite show on television.  I loved the way it brought the stories and the characters to life.  Everything about it was quaint and charming.  I remember wishing I could spend an afternoon in Walnut Grove with Laura and Mary and taste the homemade bread Ma baked.

I was watching television a few days ago when I happened to see a commercial for Little House On The Prairie, The Musical. I did a double take. Did I hear that right? Ma, Pa, Laura and Mary singing? My first thought was 'I wonder what the actors from the series think of that?'. My question was immediately answered when I saw Melissa Gilbert singing and dancing a jig. Apparently, she plays Ma in the musical adaptation.

I'm not a purist about too many things.  When it comes to food, I'm all for eating it any way you like.  You want ketchup on your steak?  That's fine by me.  Fusion cuisine?  Go for it!  The same goes for fashion.  Rock those legwarmers if you've got them!  You can even wear white after Labor Day without bothering me in the least.  But some things just shouldn't be messed with, and Little House On The Prairie is one of them.

I was perplexed when Hallmark made a new Little House On The Prairie movie.  Why, I wondered, would you want to see anyone other than Michael Landon in the role of Charles Ingalls?  Could they have found another spitfire child actor to play Halfpint?  It wasn't a movie that I had any interest in seeing, but I thought if they had found a new way to share the wonderful stories written by Laura Ingalls Wilder with a new generation, that was worthwhile.

I can't say I feel that way about a musical version.  I don't understand setting the trials and hardships of the Ingalls family to music.   Do they have a catchy tune to belt out when Pa's crops fail or Mary loses her sight?   Will Nellie dance and sing while she taunts Laura?

I just don't get it.  If it comes to my town, I think I'll pass.  I'll wait for Little House On The Prairie on Ice.  I wonder if Melissa Gilbert can skate?


Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Last Wish

A five year old local boy will be celebrating his last Christmas this weekend.  Noah Biorkman is dying of Neuroblastoma and his parents don't think he will make it to Christmas (click here to read the article on MLive).  People all over the world are sending cards to him and you can, too.

Cards can be sent to:

Noah Biorkman
1141 Fountain View Circle
South Lyon, MI 48178

May Noah and his family enjoy a wonderful Christmas together. 

I would like to thank  Rook No. 17 for posting Noah's story.  Even though the Biorkman family live an hour from my home, I hadn't been aware of their story until I read it on her blog.  My daughter and I will be making a card for Noah tomorrow. 


A Little Reminder From George And Weezie

When I get up in the morning, I have the mental capacity of a slug.  On weekdays, I get up around 5:00 a.m., but I don't start processing information until at least 5:45.   I have only partial hearing in one ear and I sleep like the dead, so my husband has to wake me when the alarm goes off.

While he heads to the kitchen to start the coffee, I stagger into the bathroom to brush my teeth and take a shower.  I have to stick to autopilot at this point.  I always shampoo and then condition my hair, but if I start thinking about it, I get confused and can't remember if I've completed both steps.  I'll remember putting something in my hair, I just can't remember which one it was.  The water temperature can be an issue, too.  At 5:00 a.m., I just can't seem to remember whether to turn the lever to the left or the right if the water is too cold.  As long as I remain only semi conscious, autopilot knows to turn it to the left.

Things were less confusing when we had a single shower head, but when I melted that one with grout cleaner (true story), we replaced it with a dual head system.  One shower head is fixed to the wall and the other is a removable hand held unit.  There is a lever to adjust the water to spray from either of the single heads or both heads at once.   In my barely awake state of mind, I could never remember if I wanted to turn it up or down.  Recently, though, I came up with the habit of singing the theme song to The Jeffersons to remind me to "move it on up". 

Jeffersons Opening TV Theme - The top video clips of the week are here

Now if Florence would just stop by and clean the bathroom for me.  Of course, she probably wouldn't have melted the other shower head.


Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Friday, Welcome Back To The Cocktail Party!

Welcome to Willoughby's Blog Style Cocktail Party. I hope you will find some new blogs to follow and expand your circle of blog friends. I know you're all anxious to mingle, so I'll get right to it.

I'd like to introduce Elvira from Magical Places On Tuscany's Coast.  I know you'll enjoy her blog as much as I do.


Tuscany's hill towns and countryside have enthralled inhabitants and visitors for centuries:  The golden light in the afternoon, the grape arbors and the rolling hillsides dotted with rustic farmhouses and villas.

The sea, the very heart of this part of Tuscany, the Etruscan Coast; it is always with you.  It lives in it's history and in its landscape. It lights up the sunset; it pervades the air and offers wonderful views from the hills and villages.

Living in this beautiful place with my Tuscan husband and my two boys and writing now about :  Beach-Style-Hideaways-Countryliving-Lifestyle

......who knows ... maybe I can bring the magic of Tuscany to your corner of the world.!

I am so glad to be here today
at Willoughby's
Cocktail Party!

I just love to be your guest and I hope so
much to WELCOME all of
you very soon in my

The Coffee is hot, the table is set,
just come over..!

AUTUMN MORNING like in a Fairytale:
Once upon a time.....
far, far away, ....on top of a hill....
behind "seven soft rolling hills"....
lookin out on a

...Waking up in a FAIRYTALE .......
In a romantic room of a dream of a
B&B, elegant and unique ...
in the Tuscan Hills..

...The open beams, the vaulted ceilings...
the Pastel Colours of the walls
so pleasantly beautiful....

.....The Houses Magnificient
Buffet surprises with most
delicious specialities....

......One Day....!


Thank you, Elvira, for being a guest on my blog.

The cocktail party has finally come to an end.  I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have, and that you've made some new friends in the process.  Thank you all for coming!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Special Gift

Today's post is quite long. It's practically a mini novel. However, it is a subject that is close to my heart and I couldn't bring myself to cut it short.


Ten years ago today I received a very tiny, fragile gift. On November 5, 1999 my daughter was born.

I didn't know until well into my second trimester that I was pregnant. Before this experience happened to me, I would have thought it impossible to be pregnant and not know it, but it isn't. My monthly cycle continued through all those weeks, so I had no reason to even suspect anything. It wasn't until I laid on my stomach one day and felt like I was laying on a lump that I became concerned. I was terrified I had a tumor.

I got the soonest appointment available with my doctor. It was his feeling that we shouldn't jump to conclusions about anything and that I might be panicked over nothing. After a quick exam, though, he said "There's definitely something going on". Then he asked the nurse to get a fetal heart monitor. Had I heard that right? Why did he need a fetal heart monitor? After some initial static, it came through loud and clear. I heard the whoosh-whoosh that was my daughter's heart beat.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I was elated that we would be having another baby, but concerned because my monthly cycle hadn't stopped. When I asked my doctor if I should be worried, he said we were going to take things one step at a time. "We're going to monitor you very closely and send you for some tests. That's a good strong heart beat, I don't think we should assume anything", he said. Then he went on to explain several conditions that could cause bleeding without being harmful to the baby. He wanted to finish our discussion in his office instead of the exam room, so I asked him if he would please have someone send Mr. Willoughby in. I knew he was agonizing in the waiting room.

I was already sitting in a chair in his office when my doctor escorted Mr. Willoughby in. "I thought I would let you tell him", he said. Mr. Willoughby's eyes were as big as saucers. He didn't know if he was going to get good news or bad news. When I told him we were expecting a baby, he nearly collapsed.

I was sent for blood work and an ultrasound and non-stress test were scheduled. I was advised to stay off my feet as much as possible and avoid any lifting or strenuous activity. My due date was determined to be early March, 2000.

I followed doctor's orders, but still I wasn't feeling well. The morning of my ultrasound, just as we were getting ready to leave, I had some bleeding. It wasn't severe, but it scared me. All the way to the hospital I kept trying to prepare myself for the possibility that there would be no movement and no heartbeat. Mr. Willoughby was more optimistic. He suggested the "wait and see" approach since there was nothing we could do in the mean time.

My fears were put to rest during the ultrasound. The baby was a little small for the estimated gestational age, but everything else looked good. There wasn't any cause for alarm. We spent the drive home picking out names.

On Halloween night, I had started to feel sick. My stomach was churning and I was tired. I felt like I was coming down with the flu. Over the next few days, it got worse. It was a chore just to eat a small meal. On the night of November 4th, I couldn't even touch my dinner. A few hours later, I started vomiting. I felt so awful that I told Mr. Willoughby I wanted to spend the night on the couch. I just wanted to be left alone in my misery.

About 4:00 am, I woke up feeling the need to throw up again. There was nothing left in my stomach so I had painful dry heaves. But something else was wrong, too. I felt the sort of downward abdominal pressure you feel when you're in labor. To my horror, I discovered that the umbilical cord had prolapsed (slipped out).

I woke Mr. Willoughby and told him he needed to take me to the hospital. Looking back, I'm not sure why I didn't think to call an ambulance, but I think my mind was set on seeing my own doctor. I guess I thought he could make everything okay. We called my dad to come and get our son and then headed to the hospital.

When we got there, the first thing they wanted to do was get me on a fetal monitor. The heartbeat looked strong and regular, so they thought I might have been wrong about the prolapsed cord. I knew I hadn't been wrong, but I was so hoping it was possible. I just wanted to hear that my baby was healthy and head back home.

The obstetrician on call came in to examine me. He talked to me for a few minutes first. He said if the cord was prolapsed, they would admit me and I would spend the next several months flat on my back. It was an unlikely scenario, he said, as it's not common to have such a strong heart beat in those circumstances. After a quick exam, however, he confirmed what I already knew. The cord was prolapsed. Moments later, the heartbeat dipped dangerously low and all hell broke loose. I was rushed to the operating room.

As naive as it sounds now, I had no idea what they were going to do. I remember ceiling tiles rushing by overhead as the team ran down the hallway with me, but no one had told me that the only option was to deliver the baby right away. I had heard of women having stitches in their cervix to halt an early delivery. I didn't know if that was an option. Orders were being shouted and I was surrounded by doctors and nurses, but no one was talking to me. The last memory I have before surgery is seeing the anesthesiologist opening the package the held the instrument they use to intubate you.

I woke up in a recovery room with no idea what had happened. I have a foggy memory of my doctor, who happened to have been in the hospital, talking to me. A nurse later told me that I had been drifting in and out and repeating "Baby?" over and over. The next thing I remember is my husband standing next to my bed and asking me which of several names I wanted to give the baby. "It's a girl", he said. She was alive and breathing on a ventilator. Born at just 23 weeks gestation and weighing 14 ounces. She was 11 inches long.

The hospital had a special care nursery, but not an NICU. They could keep her stable for a short time, but they had already arranged to take her by ambulance to their sister hospital 30 miles away. I was allowed to see her briefly before the crew was ready to move her. She was tiny, but perfect. She was in an infant warming bed and I reached in to touch her gently. I noticed immediately that my hand was larger than her head.

A neighbor of my parents had offered to take our son for the afternoon so they could be at the hospital with us. My dad stayed with me while my mom went to the other hospital with Mr. Willoughby. Family members called on the phone to offer kind words and hope, but I was exhausted and overwhelmed by all that had happened.

The next morning, while I was waiting to be released, a nurse came in to talk to me. She wanted to know if I was being realistic or selfish to consent to treat my daughter. Was there any reason to put myself, my family or the baby through all that, she inquired? I told her that I was going to rely on the neonatalogists expertise in the matter, and not that of an obstetrical nurse. To this day, it makes my blood boil.

A few hours later, the doctor released me and Mr. Willoughby and I headed to the NICU of the other hospital. Although I had seen her the day before, I was unprepared. She was so small and fragile looking. One of the doctors took us aside to tell us that they were giving her the maximum amount of oxygen that they could give. Beyond that, he said, they could do no more. He gave her a 10% chance of survival. We excused ourselves to the family area where I sobbed.

She's nine days old, here. The night nurse took this picture for us.

The next day, when we returned to the hospital, a different doctor was on shift. She came over and introduced herself and we discussed our daughter's condition. When I asked about odds of survival, she was surprised to hear what we had been told. She said that babies born in that hospital at 23 weeks gestation had an 80% survival rate. She told us that it was okay to hope, no matter what the odds, but that they were in our favor.

For the next six months my routine consisted of taking my son to school in the morning, making the 60 minute drive to the hospital and sitting with my daughter. I would leave at 1:30 every afternoon and drive another 60 minutes to go home and spend time with my son. My husband would stop at the hospital on his way home from work and stay with our daughter for the evening. We were also trying desperately to maintain a sense of normality for our son, who was six at the time. Still, I was plagued by constant guilt. I never felt I was spending enough time with my daughter or my son.

There were bad days. An inattentive nurse had neglected to check her feeding tube one day. Instead of the liquid going into her stomach, it ended up in her lungs. She developed pneumonia because of it. It was a setback we didn't need. But there were good days, too.

We had a number of incredible doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists to help us through the lowest points and celebrate the highest points. The hospital staff, along with some of the other parents, became our social circle and a major part of our support system. I missed them when we were finally able to take our daughter home.

Fast forward to today, and I'm happy to say that my daughter is a normal, healthy ten year old. Thankfully, she has no memory of the six months she spent in the hospital.

A special note to the nurse who wondered if I was making a selfish choice to chose to save my daughter's life. Take a look at that face and tell me what you think?!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

It's Wednesday, Welcome Back To The Cocktail Party!

Welcome to Willoughby's Blog Style Cocktail Party. I hope you will find some new blogs to follow and expand your circle of blog friends. I know you're all anxious to mingle, so I'll get right to it.

I'd like to introduce Deidra from Jumping Tandem.  I know you'll enjoy her blog as much as I do.

Keeping It Real....


I'm an East Coast girl living in the midwest because I love my husband (I call him "H" around here) and his work brought us here. We have been blessed with two amazing children (currently in college) and an empty nest that I absolutely love! Don't get me wrong, I love my kids but they're destined to change the world and they can't do that living under my roof (although they're welcome back anytime for love, prayers, support, encouragement, and of course homecooked meals and clean laundry). Did I mention that H is a pastor? So that makes me the pastor's wife - but don't let that blur your vision. H is my very favorite person. He has been married to me for twenty-three years, and I keep telling him he should add that to his resume as an acquired skill. If you stick around for awhile, you'll probably start to agree.

Left Holding The Bag

This is my purse. I admit it's no beauty but it serves its purpose.

Last weekend, H and I took a drive out of town. Along the way we stopped to get something to eat. I needed to make a visit to the, um, porcelain facilities and, for the very first time in the entire 27 years that I've known H, I turned to him and handed him my purse. The very same purse in the photo above.

Now, this man that I've married is a man among men. There's nothing I like more than a man who acts like a man. I don't want a wimpy man who turns tail and runs at the slightest hint of conflict, struggle, or spiders climbing on the ceiling. But he also needs to be strong enough to show some emotion, give up some love, and share in a little PDA from time to time. H is that man. Not once has he balked when the shopping list in his hand required him to purchase tampons. He didn't turn away when I found out I was terribly allergic to the wax they used that one time I got my lip waxed. And he'll sit and watch a movie on the Hallmark Channel, letting me wipe my snotty face on his sleeve at the end. He is invincible, this man!

Back to my story:
I turned to H and handed him my purse, and he took it. But what was that? Did I sense just the slightest bit of hesitation? A slight turn of the head? A furrow in the brow? Surely not. H took my purse and stood there as I walked away. I took my time in the Ladies' Room. They had wonderful soaps and lotions to try, and women at the sink that I had never met before. I exchanged pleasantries while washing my hands, checked my lipstick, and tried both types of lotions there on the vanity. Then I sighed and went out to join H who handed me my purse and said - without the slightest bit of hesitation - that he would never again hold my purse for me.

I'm not complaining. It took 27 years for me to find out the one thing that H absolutely will not do for me. Maybe he's not invincible, but he is incredible.

How about you? Would your guy hold your purse for you?

Thank you, Deidra, for being a guest on my blog.

The cocktail party will continue on Friday with a new guest blogger. It's not too late to RSVP if you haven't already. You can send your submission to me at (If you're not already a follower, you must become one to be a guest blogger at the cocktail party.) I would appreciate it if you could send me your post in html format. If you are submitting a new post, create it on Blogger as you would any post. Save, but don't publish it. From there you can click "edit html" and copy and paste your blog into the body of an email. If you are submitting a previously published post, go into "edit" and follow the same instructions. This makes it much easier for me to display your blog post the way you have written it and saves me a lot of editing.If you have any questions, feel free to email me.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Your Participation Is Requested

I'm a little under the weather today, so instead of snuggling up on the couch with a blanket and watching television (I'd surely fall asleep), I'm sitting in front of the computer. I've been nosing around the information in my Google Analytics report and now I'm wondering about a few things and I'd like your input.

If you're not familiar with Google Analytics, it's an information gathering system that gives you detailed reports about how your blog is viewed. You can find out where your viewers are from (though not who they are specifically), what pages are most viewed, how viewers find your blog or link to your blog and a host of other things you never thought of.

I saw that a number of viewers linked to my blog through other blogs I've never heard of. It turns out that I am listed on their blog rolls. That's great, I don't mind a bit, but I'm curious why they aren't on my list of followers. This brings me to question number one; do you have links to blogs you don't follow on your blog roll?

My next question has to do with comments. I have (at this time) 57 followers. On any given post, I average between 12 and 15 comments. I'm curious why some people never leave a comment. I know that a few of my followers don't blog regularly anymore, so those I understand. It's not that I need my ego fed by everyone who stops by, I just like to know who's reading and hear what they have to say. So question number two is; do you regularly leave comments for all the blogs you follow?

For me, blogging is about connecting with other people. I think of it like sitting around in a big room, sharing stories, experiences and knowledge. The numbers don't matter much to me, except that the more blogs I follow and the more blogs that follow me, the more there is to laugh at and learn from. This leads me to my last question; what is blogging about to you?

Whether you've been dropping by for months or you've just stopped by for the first time, I'd like to hear what you have to say!


Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Monday, Welcome Back To The Cocktail Party!

Welcome to Willoughby's Blog Style Cocktail Party. I hope you will find some new blogs to follow and expand your circle of blog friends. I know you're all anxious to mingle, so I'll get right to it.

I'd like to introduce Christine Forest, M.D. from Better Than Cured. I know you'll enjoy her blog as much as I do.

About Me

Christine Forest, M.D.

Los Angeles, California

Working as a psychiatrist for over ten years, last seven in private practice, I have constantly searched for better ways to help my patients. I designed BETTER THAN CURED PROGRAM with this thought in mind. The results exceed my highest expectations. My patients not only heal from anxiety, depression, bipolar or attention deficit, but they go on building successful, fulfilling and much happier lives. I decided to start this blog to share their success stories and help people who are suffering in silence, thinking they are doomed and there is no hope for them. WELCOME TO MY BLOG! I hope to give you all a glimmer of hope. Reading my blog, everyone will know what to do to become BETTER THAN CURED. Here is in brief my journey: after graduating from medical school at the University of Medicine Timisoara, Romania, I specialized for four years in psychiatry at the University of Southern California. I am affiliated with Cedars Sinai hospital and I have my own private practice. For more information about my medical practice, please visit my web site at

"...and I keep trying to understand why we broke up. I just can't understand why we couldn't work it out in the end," Carol, my patient, was saying, while trying to cope with the breaking up of her five years relationship with a boy friend whom she hoped to marry one day.

Listening to her agonizing over "why this didn't work" and "why couldn't he understand" and "why didn't we figure out," I started thinking that "why" was really the wrong question to ask herself in this case. Just like we go to a job interview, we feel it went great and in the end, nobody calls us about that job. We just need to understand and accept we didn't get it. But nobody ever bothers to tells us why. We may never know the reason, we just need to figure out rather quickly that it didn't work out, regroup and look for the next job.

"You know," I said, "just asking yourself why this didn't work it's not going to help you much."

She lifted her head as if awoken from a dream. "Dr. Forest, all the therapy I have been through, thought me I need to understand why things are the way they are so I can fix them."

I told her that there are some things we can't and will never understand. Especially when other people are concerned. I explained to her how useless it is for her to keep asking "why," being unable to find any satisfactory or real answer, and sink deeper and deeper into the victim role.

"I think a better question to ask yourself is HOW rather than WHY."

"What do you mean?"

"Well," I said, "assuming that this relationship is over, and he told you in no uncertain terms that it is, I believe a better question would be: How can I come to terms with this break up and cope with moving forward?"

"I don't know," she sobbed, "I am not ready for that yet. I will see a counselor on Monday, see how that goes."

"You may see a counselor," I said, "but I tell you right now that if you do not learn to ask the 'how to move forward' question and will spend the therapy time in anger and resentment about the past, you will block your own ability to move past this incident. You will not allow yourself to see that, rather than staying a bad relationship, you have a chance to start anew, make better choices and be, eventually, much happier."

It will remain to be seen if Carol will have the strength to move forward or will be stuck regreting the past. It is, ultimately, her choice. But she left me thinking about how easy it is to put the breaks and kill our own future by asking ourselves the wrong questions. For example, rather than asking ourselves "why is this happening to me?" we can say "what is the meaning of this? What do I need to do to make this situation better?" Rather than saying "Where is my happiness?" we should rather say "How can I get to it?" The truth is, I have yet to see a problem without a solution.

My own life experience, and especially my patent's, has thought me that there is no problem without a solution. Sometimes we may just not see it. Blinded by grief, disappointment and fear, the solution we seek is hiding in plain sight and we can't acknowledge it. Sometimes we don't see it because it's not the solution we want. Sometimes it opens a too difficult road ahead and we are too scared to follow. Sometimes the solution is just accepting and making peace with what happened. Sometimes the right solution is doing nothing at all, while our anxiety drives us to action, any action, just to calm the anxiety, taking us further away from solving anything. But if we have the strength to see and follow the right solution, overcoming the storm of our own emotions, eventually we will reach a good conclusion and a good outcome.

Eventually, with courage to face the painful reality, we can walk on a clear path that leads to peace of mind and success.

Thank you, Christine, for being a guest on my blog.

The cocktail party will continue on Wednesday with a new guest blogger. It's not too late to RSVP if you haven't already. You can send your submission to me at (If you're not already a follower, you must become one to be a guest blogger at the cocktail party.) I would appreciate it if you could send me your post in html format. If you are submitting a new post, create it on Blogger as you would any post. Save, but don't publish it. From there you can click "edit html" and copy and paste your blog into the body of an email. If you are submitting a previously published post, go into "edit" and follow the same instructions. This makes it much easier for me to display your blog post the way you have written it and saves me a lot of editing.If you have any questions, feel free to email me.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back On Track And Halloween Happenings

I don't know if you noticed, but the regularly scheduled cocktail party post was never posted yesterday.  I also have some awards to catch up on.   I apologize.  I will get back on track tomorrow.

We had a lot going on around here.  It was Halloween, of course, and we had a lot to do.  We had pumpkins to carve and some decorating to finish.  My daughter is fighting a bad cold, so she was too sick to go trick or treating.  I added some craft projects to the day's agenda so she could still enjoy a little Halloween fun.

Thanks to the Graphics Fairy, we made some great flying bats.  We printed these awesome bats on cardstock, cut them out and glued them back to back on the end of a piece of fishing line.  We then hung them from the hooks where the hanging baskets hang in the summer.  The wind made them flutter and fly.

We also printed these great vintage letters to make a "Boo" sign.  Again, they are glued back to back on fishing line so they could "dance" in the wind.

Then we used some of my collection of little bottles (I ♥ little bottles) to make scary ingredients and potions.   We printed the labels and glued them on with a glue stick.   We had Powdered Brains, Instant Death, Poison and a bunch of other gross things.  The bottles were filled with colored water, or in the case of Powdered Brains, flour.  We printed up a quick sign and framed it and added some jars with candles.  If there had been more time, we were going to print a book cover that said "Magic Spells" or something like it to put over a book and place on the table.  Oh well, we liked it just like this.

Our pumpkins turned out pretty well.  My son carved "Jack Skellington", Bashful Toast carved "Max" from "Where The Wild Things Are", and Mr. Willoughby carved "Frankenstein".

On the other side of the porch steps were "Skull and Crossbones" which I carved, "Jack Sparrow", also carved by me, "Silly Face" carved by my daughter, and a "Coraline" inspired pumpkin carved by Mr. Willoughby.  You'll notice that some of them don't look very well lit.  Those are the ones we tried to illuminate with glow sticks.  It wasn't very successful.

Here's a closer picture of "Jack Sparrow".   You can see the green light sticks.  Not a great idea for next year, I guess.

The crafts and carving were fun, but my daughter still spent trick or treating time on the couch with her favorite pillow, blanket and her DS. 

My son, who is a little too old for trick or treating, celebrated Halloween by seeing how many glow sticks he could fit in his mouth.  Here he is with one glow stick....

....and here he is with two.  Not much of a difference, just a little brighter.  Yep, we're a fun family!

I hope you had a wonderful and safe Halloween at your house.