Thursday, June 24, 2010

this and that...

I feel like I have not blogged in ages! Every now and then I like to go back to my New Year's resolutions list to make sure I am actually working towards the goals I set for myself. I can't tell you how many times I make a goal and fail! This is the year I will accomplish all of those goals! I have made a few lifestyle changes in the last couple of months. I feel that these are changes that will make me a healthier person. I went to the doctor last month to try and pin point why I have been exhausted for the last 7 years of my life! Yep 7 YEARS. Well as of May, I have lost 25 lbs since August 2009 just from making better food choices. Now I am adding in the exercise on a daily basis and hope that I will continue on my goal to drop the remaining 40 lbs and keep it off. After all of the blood tests I got NOTHING! Healthy other than high cholesterol. Blood pressure was great. So I have decided to cut down my meat intake to a tiny piece (bite) to nothing daily. Call me crazy but I have noticed a BIG change in the way I feel. I no longer feel exhausted or run down. I am no doctor but I think my body requires little to no meat to function. By god that is what it is going to get! I have lots to update on here but I am running out of time. I have to get ready for my new temporary job!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's day to my lovely mommy....

I entered a contest a few months ago to write about something that is close to you heart. I chose to write about my mom! See my essay below.

Children and mothers never truly part - Bound in the beating of each other's heart.
Charlotte Gray

She is my mother, the greatest influence in my life. Not only as a mom but also as a best friend and sister I never had. She has taught me to always try my best, to treat everyone equally, to not give up when things get hard. She tells me to at all times be honest because in the end, lies always hurt more. When I make decisions and she doesn't always agree with them, she makes sure that I know that she is behind me all the way because she wants me to always be happy. She has taught me right from wrong and the significance of self-respect. Cancer is an illusive illness that has amazing ways of surprising the people that it afflicts and their families. You will see my family was no different. In May 2009, I heard six words I never wanted to hear from my dad “Ashley, your mom has breast cancer.“ As that moment in time stood still and I was numb with fear. I had no idea how much our lives would be changed forever. At a moments time, my world came crashing down. The thought that this spiteful disease could take away someone so close to my heart was sickening. I knew my mom would be strong because she was already successful at disguising this diagnosis during my wedding. I knew in my heart there was something on my mom’s mind during my wedding but I brushed it off by thinking this is her only daughter getting married and she is grown up and on her own now. Hopefully this will be an end to one tough journey in her life and the beginning of the next chapter. You should never take your parents for granted. My mom instilled this in me as a child. But as I grow with age I realize the numerous sacrifices my parents made. At the time I may not have always been appreciative. In the last year especially understand this and I am very appreciative. At a moments time this can be taken away from you. I hope that when I am a mother I can instill the things I learned from my mom. I will close with one last thought about my mother. My mother is more than what a mother is supposed to be - she is what every mother should aspire to be. My mother is who I hope to be one day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Undercurrent Restaurant - Downtown GSO 4/24/2010

We decided for our anniversary dinner we would go to Undercurrent to celebrate! We have been here several times in the past and it has always been really good! Saturday night was no different. We had reservations at 8:00 for dinner for two! We started out at the bar for a glass of champagne. Some may know that I like to have things planned out and I often decide on what I am going to eat at a restaurant before we sit down at the table! Strange I know but I guess I get it from my mother because she does the same. As I read through the entire menu, I decided I was going to have one of everything. The bartender suggested the Morel Mushroom Dusted Sea Scallops. If it has morel mushroom in it this gal is going to order it. Morel mushrooms are by far my most favorite thing! In the meantime, Mark is just shaking his head because once again I have decided on my meal before hitting the table. So we got to the table and it was Mark's turn to decide what he wanted. While he was deliberating I decided I was going to start out with the Lobster and Shrimp Spring Rolls. Mark said I must try them as these are a staple on their menu! We had the best server - Allison. We discovered that we remembered that she had been our server before at Undercurrent as well as Muse.

Here is the final dinner choice -


Starter: Organic Greens - Chive Vinaigrette, Goat Cheese, Toasted Pine Nuts and
Sun Dried Tomatoes

Entree: Coriander Rubbed Red Snapper - Fennel-Sesame Polenta Hash, Grilled Asparagus, Cilantro-Mint Emulsion and Raisin Molasses


Starter: Lobster and Shrimp Spring Rolls - Soy-Ginger dipping sauce and Shoyu Reduction

Entree: Morel Mushroom Dusted Sea Scallops - Tarragon Whipped Potatoes, Sweet Peas, Baby Carrots and Sweet Cream Butter Sherry Reduction

We shared dessert: White Chocolate-Blueberry Bread Pudding
Caramel Sauce

Everything was FANTASTIC and cannot wait to back!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ready to shed some more lb's!

I have to admit I am a little slack when it comes to keeping up with my weight loss tracker. I decided that I would go on today and log my progress. I feel like I have lost more weight since the last time I updated it. The scale confirmed it for me! Since I signed up in late December, I have lost a total of 11 pounds! Since August 2010, I have lost a little over 20 pounds! This is great but it just gives me the strength I need to keep on trucking. I have a long way to go to get back into a healthy range. I hope I can kick the blood pressure/high cholesterol cocktail every morning. The only way to do this is to get back to working out. I know this is no excuse, but my life has been flipped upside down in the last month or two. I have allowed myself to get out of the exercise routine. I did cancel my gym membership because it was so hard to get there with all of the things I am doing for Mark. So, my solution to this is to get back to walking/running outside! When the checkbook permits, we will invest in an elliptical for the house since Mark will not be running anytime in the near future or not at all.

Getting ready to take Jackie Chan on a walk and pick up Mark for his weekly physical therapy. I hope everyone is enjoying Earth Day!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mad Hatter Tea at O.Henry Hotel

I was invited to a Mad Hatter Tea Party this afternoon. I joined Diane, Caroline, & Ella for a belated birthday celebration. It was so much fun. The food and all of the decorations were out of this world!

O. Henry hotel brought the story of Alice in Wonderland to life today. We started with story time in the lobby of the hotel, made our way through the rabbit hole for a tea party in Wonderland with Alice, the Queen of Hearts, and the Mad Hatter. We enjoyed special treats, crafts ,and seating at Tweedledee's whimsically decorated table surrounded by flowers and giant mushrooms.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Don't Quit" - inspiration needed to make it through tough times!

When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.

Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit-
It's when things go wrong that you must not quit

"Don't Quit," Author Unknown

This really hit home for me today. In general, my life, especially in the last year has been very tough. It seems I have been faced with many challenges and heartache. Recently, it feels like my world has come crashing down. Monday was the breaking point for me. It started with an unexpected trip to the vet for Jackie Chan and ended with a flooded kitchen! I need to step back and take a look at what I have and where I am going. I found this quote on the Internet and it will be something that I will keep in the back of my mind to help push me through these tough times. I think it is human nature to give up when it seems like everything is going wrong. When I wake up in the morning I thank God for my husband, Jackie Chan, Miss Kitty, my family,friends, and strangers. If you ever are in this position just remember the quote above!

I am taking Mark to Durham tomorrow so he can get settled and prep for his epidural steroid injection he is getting in his neck on Friday AM. I hope this will help him in his recovery and keep him far far away from neck surgery. It just makes me nervous to think about a big needle being inserted in his neck. I am a chicken when it comes to a needle or anything medical!

I hope everyone has a wonderful week/weekend!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Always know your independence........

The meaning of wedding vows is to be committed with your partner. Looking back on our wedding vows, to me it is a sacred promise between me and Mark in front of God, that we love each other and be committed to each other, in ALL THICK AND THIN. With this in mind, things that have happened in the last couple of weeks have really reminded me of our wedding vows! Let me just tell you I have done more things on my own in the last three weeks than I have in a lifetime! As you may know, my husband has a herniated C6/C7 disc in his neck. Friday I put together a collapsible hammock, cleaned the entire house, cleaned the garage, & detailed my car. On Saturday I could not stand looking at the jungle in our yard so I mowed the front yard and edged it with garden scissors! Mark stood out there while I was mowing to make sure I didn't mess anything up or take a body part off! Sunday after lunch with my parents I finished the back yard. Much larger than the front but it is done. I must say I am very proud of myself. Kind of forgot that I am capable of doing things on my own but it is nice to have help! Mark has definitely helped me so I do not mind doing this. We go to another specialist on Wednesday and really hoping we do not get another surgery solution!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MerleFest countdown.....................

The countdown is on! I am super excited to start my second year of marriage to my wonderful husband listening to bluegrass! I am really excited to see Sam Bush (pictured above), Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Zac Brown Band, The Avett Brothers, Donna the Buffalo, The Waybacks, & Steve Martin. Those are just a few off the top of my head! I know he is not going to be at Merle Fest, but Ben Harper, is coming to Wake Forest University the week before and we are going! I am definitely going to fulfill one of my New Year's resolutions to see more live music in 2010!!! Hip Hip Hooray!

Monday, March 15, 2010

2nd attempt at running

On Saturday my husband, Mark, decided he was going to go for a run. So instead of being lazy I decided I was going to take a stab at it. Just a little scary if you ask me because this is officially the second time I have run in my life and the second time with Mark. Any good runner stretches. Right? We stretched our muscles in the driveway. Probably pretty funny if you were one of our neighbors. We started out walking and picked up the pace once we headed down the road. Suddenly I felt like I was being tortured. I thought to myself how could anyone possible get pleasure out of this! I didn't want to over do it so I switched between a fast paced walk and run. Of course, Mark left me in the dust! That is okay because I am still in my training wheel phase! I ended up running/walking 1.5 miles. It is a start but I am definitely not the track star my Wii Fit tells me during a workout! I was a little tired after this because before the run we had done a bunch of spring cleaning/organizing! Yesterday I woke up and every muscle (and I mean EVERY) in my body so sore! Yep definitely worked muscles I never knew existed in my body. I woke up this morning milking the sore muscles and Mark just told me to get my rear back out there and RUN! I will attempt it again this week! Happy Monday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Who knew I would fall in love with tofu! I was always a little scared of it but I knew that it was in some foods I love. The turning point was at Mellow Mushroom on Friday evening. We usually get two small pizzas to split and this leaves just enough for leftovers! Mark picked out the pizza. I think the first one was a mighty meaty. He knows I love veggies so he chose the mega veggie. Veg out on a pizza covered with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, broccoli, feta, banana peppers, artichoke hearts, and TOFU!!!!!!! It was delectable! The light bulb went off while I was enjoying this semi-new ingredient. On Sunday, while doing my weekly shopping, I decided to purchase a block of tofu. Last night we made our weekly veggie stir fry and added tofu to the mix! It was really good. I encourage all to try it. It seems to be a very versatile food because it takes on the flavor of what you are cooking. One last perk of tofu is that it is very healthy - low sodium, low calorie, low fat, and high in protein!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Praying today my mom will receive the best news of her life!

In a few short hours I am meeting my mom to get her mammogram. This is a year after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I hope my prayers have been answered!

I hope everyone gets out and enjoys this beautiful weather!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pesticides in produce, hormones in milk, antibiotics in meat -- what are all these extra ingredients doing in our food?

Have you ever thought about what the producers of your food are adding to their products? In my opinion, I think it is a little scary and could be the cause of so many cancers today. Hormones have been used for decades in the meat and dairy industries. Synthetic estrogen and testosterone are the most common. So I decided to do a little research. I stumbled across some interesting information. Initial concerns about estrogen-injected cows centered on a compound called diethylstilbestrol (DES). Nearly all beef cattle were treated with DES in the 1950s and 1960s. DES was also used as medicine, given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages. It was also discovered that DES caused a higher risk of vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who received the medicine. By the 1970's diethylstilbestrol was phased out from use in medicine and agriculture. Another interesting fact their is a link between breast cancer and exposure to estrogen. Your chances of breast cancer increase with higher lifetime exposure to estrogen. WHY do people think the use of synthetic estrogen in livestock is safe????? Another controversy that continues to brew is the use of Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Many argue that it causes cancer but yet to be ruled out. No one really knows if these hurt the body but if you ask me it is not natural that we consume these in our produce, meat, and dairy.

Mark and I always buy fresh veggies(not always organic) and organic meat. We are incorporating more organic produce than before. My experience thus far has been very positive. Not only does it taste better but you have the satisfaction of not ingesting a ton of pesticides. People argue that it costs too much but not really. I spend the same as I did before at the grocery store. When it comes down to it you have to decide what is important in your life. Eating safe and fresh food is for me so I cut other things that I don't need out of my weekly budget. Not to mention you really only need to buy just the right amount. Before I met Mark, I didn't realize how much I wasted. Mark is very keen on getting just what we need so we use all of the fresh produce we purchased that week. Not much goes to waste in our household. Usually once a week we will make a stir fry with all of the leftover veggies. I feel extremely blessed to be able to go to the store and get fresh produce and not eat it out of a can! Let's face it..... I would like to live a long healthy life with my husband and family.

While doing some research, I found some interesting information on Earth Fare's website regarding what to and not to buy organic:


The following produce items are the “dirty dozen” because they have the most pesticide residues. Buy these organic and reduce pesticide consumption by 80%!

3.Bell Pepper
10.Grapes (Imported)

Buy all-natural or organic meat to avoid antibiotics and hormones. All-natural and organic also means the animal feed is free of pesticides.

Organic dairy means antibiotic and hormone free. Organic is a must, especially for kids.


The produce below has the lowest pesticide residue. It is okay to buy these conventional:

3.Sweet Corn
7.Sweet Peas
15.Sweet Potato

Whatever you decide works for you and your family, it is most important to consume at least 5 fruits and vegetables per day! How do you and your family make sure to get enough fruits & vegetables?

Well at any rate, this is my opinion and I hope everyone considers what they are putting in their mouth out their next meal!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I am sure that my husband is biased but he said this was the best roast he has ever had. This means a lot coming from my husband who is a "foodie". Also, I chose to use a half of a london broil from out freezer since we already had it and it is leaner than the traditional roast. Try it out and let me know what you think! In addition to being very yummy, it is easy and convenient and ideal for the busy mom/dad!


•1 (3 to 4-pound) boneless chuck roast - I used a small piece of London Broil
•Bicentennial Rub Seasoning
•Mignonette Pepper
•olive oil
•1 cup thinly sliced onion wedges
•3 cloves garlic, crushed
•2 bay leaves
•1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup - I used reduced sodium
•1/4 cup red wine - I used 14 Hands from Washington State
•2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
•Beef stock - reduced sodium

In addition to these ingredients added more fresh vegetables. I added sliced mushrooms, baby carrots, diced red potatoes, and 2 stalks of celery diced. My husband suggested that I should add beets!

Get your crock pot out and plug that bad boy in! (Note - you can cook in the oven @ 350 degrees).

Rub bicentennial rub and mignonette pepper into the roast on both sides. Heat oil in a large skillet and brown the roast, searing it on all sides. Place the meat in a the crock pot (or roaster pan if using the oven). Add onions and garlic to skillet for 1 to 2 minutes to absorb leftover roast juice. Place into crock pot (or roaster pan with meat and bay leaves. If you choose to add the additional vegetables add these to the pot!

Combine the mushroom soup, wine, Worcestershire sauce and beef stock into a bowl. Pour over the roast. Note - if you don't use the beef stock you can us 1 tablespoon of beef bouillon granules and 3/4 of water.

Cook in crock pot covered on low during the day. Voila - dinner is served! If you are using the over - cover pan with foil and bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until tender.

Remove and discard the bay leaves.

*Cook's Note: If the gravy is not thick enough, remove the meat from the pan and pour the gravy into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and thicken it by adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water, stirring constantly

I modified the recipe that I found on the food network courtesy of Paula Deen, 2008. See

The bicentennial rub and mignonette pepper is from Penzeys Spices. You can substitute with anything you like!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Penzeys Spices

Just taking a break from studying and thought I would share my thoughts on the best place to get spices. My Aunt Kathy first introduced us to this AMAZING place. You can go online and request a catalog or order online ( You will not be disappointed. My husband and I both love the selection and the prices. You cannot beat it. They have some really good gift ideas as well. For instance my aunt has given us the Steak Seasonings and the Kitchen of Province Gift Crate (both pictured above). We both love to cook and use these spices daily! The Steak Seasonings gift set is not just for steaks as you can use most of the seasonings on any meat as well as most vegetables. I encourage all to try it out. This place is the best. I never purchase spices in the store anymore unless it is an emergency.

Happy shopping!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta

I found this recipe on cooking light and just love it. I read through the comments before I made it. A lot of the comments said it was bland and not easy to make as a weeknight meal. After making this recipe I have to disagree. You will see below why I disagree. I will give you some time saving tips! See the original recipe for at (

The recipe below is modified to my specifications!

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided ( I use no salt since I am on a sodium restricted diet)
teaspoon or more of dried rosemary
freshly ground black pepper
dash of french four spice
dash of allspice
dash of crushed red pepper
2 cloves of fresh minced garlic
olive oil
3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (**see note below**)
Cooking spray
6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices
1 shallot thinly sliced
8 ounces uncooked penne pasta (tube-shaped pasta)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups organic 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced fat provolone cheese
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

**Note: if you go to Harris Teeter and look in the produce section you will discover a time saver! They sell a 2 pound package of peeled and cubed butternut squash. This will save lots of time. Just as good. It is more than you need for this recipe but you can have the remainder another night b/c you can never have too many fresh vegetables in your diet!**

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine salt, rosemary,french four spice, allspice, olive oil, and black pepper in a bowl. Toss squash in spice and oil mixture. Bake at 350° for approximately 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.

Cut bacon with kitchen shears into pieces and cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside on paper towels to remove excess grease. Reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings or olive oil in pan Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots and garlic to pan; sauté until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallot mixture; set aside.

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well. Pasta can be cooked ahead of time if you would like.

Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add provolone, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Add a dash of crushed red pepper and stir. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Yield: 5 servings

CALORIES 469 (28% from fat); FAT 14.4g (sat 7.3g,mono 4.4g,poly 0.9g); IRON 3.5mg; CHOLESTEROL 40mg; CALCIUM 443mg; CARBOHYDRATE 66.6g; SODIUM 849mg; PROTEIN 22.1g; FIBER 6.8g

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Chicken Tamale Casserole ........

I came across some great recipes on the cooking light website ( I was looking for some new dinner options. This will help cure your craving for Mexican food with fewer calories.


1 cup of reduced fat Mexican blend cheese, divided

1/3 cup 2% milk or fat free

1/4 cup of egg whites or egg substitute

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or ground red pepper

1 can of cream style corn - I used reduced sodium

8.5 ounce of corn muffin mix

4 ounce can of chopped green chiles, drained

1 can red enchilada sauce

2 cups of cooked chicken breast, shredded - I used ground chicken

fat free or reduced fat sour cream for topping

Cooking spray to coat dish

Cooking Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Combine 1/4 cup of cheese and the next 7 ingredients (through the chiles) in a bowl , stirring just until moist. Pour mixture into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Bake for 15 minutes or until set. Pierce entire surface liberally with a fork; pour enchilada sauce over the top. Next top with chicken and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup of cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces and top each with a dollop of sour cream.

Nutrition Information:

Calories - 354

Fat - 14.1 g

Iron - 1.7 mg

Cholesterol - 58mg

Calcium - 179mg

Carbs - 36.3g

Sodium - 620mg

Protein - 18.9g

Fiber - 2.5g


Monday, January 25, 2010

Exercise update....

Well since I started tracking my meals and fitness daily on I have lost a little over 5 pounds and up to at least one hour of cardio at a minimum of 5 days a week. I am starting to add in some strength training. I am tired of being flabby and need to get in shape for my health! I am going to attempt to run with my husband. Those of you who know Mark, he runs 5-6 miles at a time like it was a piece of cake! Me - not so much! I struggle to get a mile in without feeling like death! I don't understand I can go on the elliptical for an hour and feel great. I try and run and I can't breath and cramp up. I am sure there is something I am doing wrong! I missed the gym this evening but will do some crunches instead. It is not much but better than nothing! I will hit the gym for at least an hour of cardio first thing in the morning! Good night!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

14 Hands Merlot - Washington State

Friday evening we went to pick up our monthly wines from WineStyles @ Friendly Center. We are members of their wine club. Benefits include 2 bottles of wine each month, discounts on everything in the store, special events, and 2 weekly wine tastings! It is a great deal for $34.99 per month. We were not able to go to the tasting on Thursday. Bummer! One of the wines they featured was the 14 Hands Merlot. We decided we would try a bottle while we were there. Great choice! You definitely get a lot of bang for your buck! With our discount, the bottle was $10.79 plus tax. I did a little research to find out more about this wine and its winemaker. Usually we do not pick wines from the Washington State region. The website says - crafted from premium grapes in the heart of Washington, 14 Hands is a special find! Indeed it is. I was curious to see how this wine gets its interesting name. While cruising through the website (, I stumbled upon the origin of their name. It is named after the wild horses that once made their home on the land upon which 14 hands grapes are grown, the wine retains the original spirit of its namesake. The website includes tasting notes for each of their wines. I discovered some wonderful information for the winemaker. The wine was aged in a combination of American and French oak barrels for 12 months. It is a blend of - 85% Merlot, 14% Syrah, & 1% other premium red varieties. Another interesting point is that this wine can only be purchased in specialty stores, at the vineyard, & restaurants. This cannot purchased at your local grocery store. So go support you local wine store! Happy Tasting!