Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Simple but Special

I love reasons to do special things. Valentine's used to be a hallmark holiday for me, that is before Que. It's his birthday, so as a couple it has always been special. This year I was prepared to make special things happen (and unlike previous years) on a strict budget. Previously, we celebrated the day as proud and hungry consumers. Proving our love with store bought tokens. Though lovely and yummy, we just aren't those kind of people anymore. Don't misunderstand, we still give presents and buy things, just not like before.

In the past, our consumption would include all sorts of stuff like a new dress that I'd never wear again with accessories to match, flowers with chocolates, dinner out, plus gifts. Don't get me wrong, those memories make me happy. It's just not us anymore and that's okay. These days its being together that makes something special.

Valentines breakfastArmed with Pinterest, I planned the menu for the day and ordered his secret present from Amazon.  For breakfast I made heart shaped pancakes, heart shaped turkey bacon and heart shaped cinnamon rolls. Yes, I know that pancakes and cinnamon rolls are redundant but they are his favorite breakfast items. I didn't reinvent the wheel, pancakes were from a mix and rolls from the tube. I cut fresh strawberries instead of syrup for the pancakes to ease the massive sugar load. 

Dad was too full but Kaeden had a puppy love lunch. It was a pb and j. I made a heart shaped with the same cookie cutter from breakfast. I used some oreos as the puppy's ears with raisins for eyes and nose. He spent about 30 seconds looking at the puppy face before devouring it. I didn't get a chance to snap a pic, so here is the inspiration.

Dinner was Que's favorite, a baked ziti. It's a recipe that I learned as a child. Ziti is one of my most requested dishes. So to express my appreciation for you, my readers, I am going to share this recipe below. Thank you for sharing this journey with us!

 For desert we made variation of lemon pound cake. We used our favorite recipe and topped with strawberries, a simple strawberry syrup and the lemon icing that is in the original recipe. It was a moist, light, fluffy cake with just the right balance of sweet and sour. It was like strawberry lemonade in a cake. YUM! 

Que waited patiently until after dinner for his gift. I ordered a good starter telescope on Amazon. We love star gazing. He especially loves to just sit and watch the sky for hours on end with his naked eyes, but Kaeden gets bored.  Kaeden likes meteor showers and eclipses because he can see something other than twinkling little lights. Enter telescope. Now, regardless of the (lack of) celestial activity, star gazing is a definite boy (bonding) activity. Mom will wait until spring/summer. 

The day turned out to be a success. A lot of people are thinking, "Is that all?'. Yes, it is all. We ate well, enjoyed each other's company and every one was happy. That's the point of days like this. Special can be simple. Hopefully this simple but happy memory will linger in our thoughts for a long time.

Stay posted for our lives as the golden gypsies!

Baked Ziti
1 package of mild Italian style turkey sausage*
1/2 lb to 1 lb ground beef
1 lb ziti noodles
2 jars of pasta(tomato) sauce 
large container of Ricotta cheese*
4 -5 cups of shredded cheese*
Italian seasoning ( basil, oregano, thyme)
mince garlic
1 cup diced onion
large lasagna pan/roaster tin*

*Notes: First, I am not a measuring cook. I eyeball everything. I have been making this particular recipe for 18 or so years from memory. I am going to try my best to give measurements so you can duplicate what I make, but feel free to lessen quantities as this is very meaty and cheesy. (It's a two meat and five cheese pasta!) I have even tried this with gluten free pasta and it adapts well. 
Pork sausage works well, we just don't eat it. Most turkey sausages are in swine casings so I use the insides only, but sliced link sausage is good too.  For the Ricotta, I use about 2/3s of a 32 oz container but I love cheese, a 24 oz package is plenty. When you mix the ricotta with the sauce, it will be an orange color with a thick consistency. If it is really light orange too much ricotta, too red not enough. I usually buy large 4 cups mozzarella and 2 cups small Italian cheese blend and use nearly all but a cup or so. A 9x11 would be too shallow for this recipe. It will yield 8-10 man adult sized servings so needs a lasagna worthy pan or roaster. 

Brown sausage and beef with onions and garlic. Season meat with salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Once the meats are cooked through with no pink, drain. 

Boil pasta al dente, drain. It's crucial that the pasta is not fully cooked, it will finish in the oven. 

Combine ziti, meat mixture, sauce and half the ricotta in roaster pan. Once ingredients are mixed well, begin to add ricotta in small quantities until sauce is thick and orange. 

Mix in a cup (or two) of shredded cheese. Mix together until ziti, meat, sauce and cheese are throughout. Cover top with remainder of cheese. 

Bake @ 325 until cheese is melted and slightly browning on edges. It looks much like a done lasagna. Cut a square and enjoy with a salad. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thanks Kelloggs!

The Kelloggs
Did you watch the national coverage of a nomadic fulltime RV family? I loved the things the Kelloggs had to say, the dynamic between the kids, the parents... the whole segment was refreshing. The problem? The responses I read (both in the article comments and  on boards with other Fulltime Rvers). It was awful to read the venomous reactions of the public! Watch the Today Show segment here before you decide.

What is our society's obsession with forcing a specific set of values, beliefs or way of life upon everyone else? The belief that if one doesn't follow the blue print for traditional success, the only alternative is desperation andestitution. As if deviating from traditional societal structure is a sure recipe for failure and unhappiness. If you are reading this blog, you know I believe and live differently and don't won't apologize.
“You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too. No, I think there was too rigid a pattern. You came out of an education and are supposed to know your vocation. Your vocation is fixed, and maybe ten years later you find you are not a teacher anymore or you're not a painter anymore. It may happen. It has happened. I mean Gauguin decided at a certain point he wasn't a banker anymore; he was a painter. And so he walked away from banking. I think we have a right to change course. But society is the one that keeps demanding that we fit in and not disturb things. ” ― Ana├»s Nin

I am not saying abandon what works for you because my life is better. I am saying that we all know traditional society has flaws. Instead of criticizing people who are attempting something new or different, applaud the effort, courage and sacrifice it takes to choose an alternative route. With all the turmoil we have been through, it would have been easier to just go back to our old way of life. To take our bad experience and apply it to the world of Rvers and fulltimers. We were advised to abandon the unknown for the known. I can't say I didn't have any temptation or desire to take the easy route, the familiar route. I can't say preschools, soccer, and on demand hot water aren't tempting. But how long before the temporary happiness of comfort and familiarity wears off? How long before I become lost in appearances and begin putting all my energy into people pleasing again? Is the trade off worth it?

It made me think of a documentary I have recently viewed, Happy.<spoiler alert> People are so quick to judge others with different life choices without examining their own quality of life. "The American dream", "The rat race", whatever you call our society's way of life, America and countries that live an "American" lifestyle are among the unhappiest people in the world, despite having majority of the world's wealth. In fact, once basic needs are met(food, shelter) there is absolutely no correlation between money and happiness. The things our society values such as status and appearance have all been linked to depression. Yet, we don't put enough value on things that do contribute to happiness like human relationships, community, charity and kindness.

Society needs more people brave enough to be authentically happy, authentically themselves. Thank you Kelloggs for showing the world this lifestyle can be done, that nomadic children are healthy and intelligent and that your family is better because of (not despite) the lifestyle and small living space. You can find more on the Kelloggs in the links below.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Picking Up the Pieces

So much has happened since I last posted. I promised the last time that I'd update you on our misfit Thanksgiving and Kaeden's Birthday. I wrote the post but craziness kept me from being able to publish it. In short after enduring repeated verbal and emotional turmoil due to being brown our ethnicity, the situation escalated and a member of our family was physically attacked. After all we have been through, you (especially if you are family) would think us defeated or at least reconsidering our nomadic lifestyle.  WRONG!!!! Instead, we are stronger, wiser and more determined to live our dream!

When you dare to live a dream everything doesn't just fall into place.Your dream gets bent, bruised and even broken. The most important thing to remember is regardless of how many pieces your dream has shattered into, defeat is a choice...You can choose whether to sweep the pieces away or pick them back up again. We choose this life, this dream and right now it is time to pick up the pieces, regardless of how hard it may be.

The highlight of our final Georgia days was that we purchased a new (to us) travel trailer! This purchase doubled our living space. We still need to update the decor but the bones are spacious and her working parts are in good condition. Our plan was to sell the Winnie to help fund the purchase of a truck capable of towing the new trailer cross country. Unfortunately, crazy intervened and instead the sale funded our escape from the twilight zone of 1962.

Since our exodus we''ve moved near family and are working on saving for a truck so we can hit the road again. I find it slightly humorous that we fled racial violence by moving to Alabama. I guess the Heart of Dixie has come a long way, at least near Birmingham. Take that Bull Connor! We spent a broke humble Christmas with Gma and New Years at home with cocoa. Hopefully, February will bring me a budget to paint the trailer, celebrate Que's birthday(he REALLY deserves it) and repair/replace my laptop so I can get back to sharing with you.

There are those of you who know what an ordeal this has been. Thank you for all your support and sticking with us especially through the recent disappearances  Stay posted as we gather the pieces, put them back together and return to the journey of our lives.