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Simple Holiday Pleasures

What do you like most about the holiday season?

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It seems like so many of us get stressed out.

We have so many things going on this time of year … so much to DO.

If you could strip all the material stuff away –

If you could take everything money-related out of the season –

If you had no work to do for the holidays –

What part of the season would give you a sense of comfort or a smile?

Maybe it would be something like sitting by a warm fire ….

Or, listening to Christmas music,

Or lighting menorah candles.

Some of you might love baking, while for others baking is a chore.

Everyone is different, which is why this is so interesting to me.

What simple things make you happiest this time of year?

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Odds and Ends

•  It turns out, if you’re friends with a (really NICE) famous photographer …

And he happens to publicly link to your blog,

Causing zillions of people to come pay you a visit ….

It will probably be on the same day you publish a post using inappropriate humor and sexual innuendos.

(Because that is how my life works!)

Hello, my name is Suzanne.  

My outspoken, immature, sense of humor offends mature grown-ups on a regular basis.  

I’m also pretty handy with a camera.

•  My friends tend to be immature people too.

•  Newport Beach now has the second priciest housing market in the United States according to this article.

No, I do not live in Newport Beach.  Yes, I’m IN Newport Beach several times each week.

For some reason, I felt validated by reading a news article stating life is not “normal” here.

I really am surrounded by a warped reality and the article is my PROOF.

•  I have ripe limes on my lime tree.

Did you know the limes you see in the grocery store probably aren’t ripe?

A ripe lime begins turning yellow.

Limes freshly picked from my lime tree.

When limes are allowed to ripen on the tree, they’re much juicier than the limes we see in grocery stores.

(And no, they don’t continue to ripen after being picked.)

Last night, I made a spicy black bean soup.  The recipe called for lime juice.  It made me so happy to use a lime from my own tree.

•  I’m easy to make happy, aren’t I?

•  The oranges on my orange tree are beginning to ripen, but they aren’t ready to be picked yet.

•  It isn’t even December 1st, so please stop telling me you’re “done” with your holiday decorating, gift buying, baking, gift wrapping, blah, blah, blah.

Your efficiency and admirable organization skills are stressing me out.

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And Just Like THAT The Honeymoon Is Over

Yesterday, before I went to physical therapy,

I was thinking about Paul Newman.

“He’s SO gentle,” I thought to myself for the last time EVER.

No one has ever been so soft to my injured parts.

“Maybe all this time I just needed someone to  massage me with warm lube  be gentle with me,” I thought.

When I arrived at PT, Paul Newman sent me to The Sex Room.

It was my second time having a session in The Sex Room.

I call it The Sex Room because one entire (long) wall is covered with floor to ceiling mirrors.

There are always hand prints on the mirrors in odd sex-like places.

I’m pretty sure every employee at physical therapy has sneaked into The Sex Room (multiple times) to have wild kinky, upside down, mirror-reflected, sex.

(They also have a big BED out in “the common area” of PT.  I’ll save my thoughts about THAT for another day.)

Anyway, I said, “Oh I get The Sex Room again?”

Paul Newman just nodded.

(He’s already used to how my brain works and I don’t think it even fazes him.  Also?  I bet every PT employee secretly calls it The Sex Room too.)

As usual, Paul Newman started off tenderly poking around.  (???)

Our conversation was pretty animated because Paul Newman’s long-time best friend was also at PT yesterday.

(I’ll call Paul Newman’s best friend Sundance.)

Paul Newman told me lots of stories about his teen years with Sundance, and the trouble they got in together.

Listening to his (and later, Sundance’s) stories made me realize two things:

•  For the most part, I’ve led a very “good girl” life.  Well, at least compared to the females Paul Newman has hung out with.  (I’m sure he thought they were great good girls too …. but!)

•  Paul Newman likes to distract me with entertaining stories when he’s doing unspeakable things to me.  (They’re unspeakable because I don’t really know what it is he’s doing, so I’m not qualified to speak of them.)  At one point, I’m pretty sure his finger went in one side of my body and out the other.  That sounds like a lot more fun than it was.

Also, in case I couldn’t figure it out, Paul Newman announced he’s done being nice.

I had already realized we were in a new stage of our relationship.

I realized it just moments before when he twisted my arm behind my head (into some type of pretzel configuration), and then stomped up and down on it.

All of this commotion was followed by me looking him in the eye and saying, “Fuck!”

I misspoke, of course.

What I meant to say was, “FUCK, what did you just do to my arm???

In any case, Paul Newman is learning to speak “Twenty Four” and I think he understood what I meant, perfectly.

He promptly informed me of the following:

•  It’s okay for me to swear.  (Holy shit that’s good news!)

•  He “has to” do unspeakable things to me.

•  My arm bone (humerus?) isn’t where it’s supposed to be so, of course, it doesn’t fit in my shoulder socket.  (Or something like that ….)  Do shoulders have sockets?  Just add “boner” to the list of everything that’s wrong with the upper right quadrant of my body.

•  The honeymoon is over.

P.S.  To Paul Newman – If you’re reading this today, I DO appreciate you greatly.  (!!!!)  I really do!

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Rabid Holiday Shoppers

It’s gotten crazy in The OC lately – particularly in Newport Beach.

OC Barbies turn into rabid wolves around the holidays.

If you value your life, do not (!!) get in the way of an OC Barbie when she’s driving  shopping.

(You’ll get poked in the eye with a plastic tit, or possibly worse.)

I see rabid OC Barbies everywhere this time of year.

It’s easy to spot the determined, insane, look in their eyes.

They have thousands upon thousands of dollars to spend and you better not get in their way.

Of course, the most important part of the holiday season is to impress other OC Barbies.

To do this, OC Barbie must be properly primped, massaged, botoxed, nipped, tucked, and dressed.

(It’s difficult to find time for all this maintenance, because she also needs to meet with her hawt boy toy personal trainer and yoga instructor!)


She has to, after all, look the part.

You’ll see her driving her expensive car, with a Starbucks holiday cup in her hand.

(She spends more time primping in her car mirror than she does actually driving drinking her peppermint-soy-mocha, however.)

An OC Barbie tries to have The Most Decorated House For The Holidays in the entire neighborhood.

Huge, garish, blow up, waving, holiday float-thingies (on her perfectly manicured front lawn) are especially appealing.

She buys expensive gifts for her kids (which they definitely don’t need, and probably don’t even want) so they can one-up the neighbor kids by at least one price bracket.

If there’s a shortage of a particular hot toy/technology item, she automatically has to have it, whether anyone in her family really wants it or not.

The more expensive the gift wrapping, the more appealing it becomes.

Who doesn’t want a twenty dollar bow on their gift?

It’s also important she mention her family’s donations to charity to everyone she meets.

It’s Orange County, after all ….

It’s all about THINGS and APPEARANCE(S).

Tis the season –

Of the Ho Ho Ho’s!

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Healthy Smoothies

My sons have been addicted to smoothies from the time they were toddlers.

I’m not sure if it’s a California thing, or if the rest of the world consumes a ton of smoothies also?

In any case, I’ve increased my own smoothie consumption recently.

Smoothies are great because you can easily vary the ingredients based on what you have on hand.

I thought I’d share a few tips on how I make smoothies for my family, in case you’d like to give them a try.

If you have a good blender, that’s great.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t afford a fancy one though.

(My college-aged son bought the cheapest blender he could find.  He’s quite happy with its smoothie-making capabilities.)

My smoothies always have the following ingredients in them:

•  1/3 cup of a ground oatmeal/seed mixture I make myself.  (It consists of regular – not instant – rolled oats mixed with ground chia seeds OR flaxseeds.  I use two cups of rolled oats to 1/4 cup seeds, ground together.  I keep the mixture in a sealed container and use as needed.)  My “famous” oatmeal mixture provides a lot of health benefits, and also helps thicken the smoothies.  And no, you can’t even taste it if your smoothie is well blended.  (I grind the oatmeal and seeds in my blender.)

Liquid  –  About 3/4 cup liquid.  Liquid ideas include:  water, milk, various types of juice, unsweetened coconut milk/water, unsweetened almond milk, etc.

•  Yogurt  –  I use between 1/4 and 1/3 cup plain (unsweetened) greek yogurt.  Some people prefer flavored yogurt, but I don’t like the extra sugar in flavored yogurt.

•  Matcha  –  I add a small (1/4 tsp.) of matcha.  Matcha is “green tea powder” and has a lot of health benefits.

•  Fruit  –  The possibilities here are nearly endless, but I frequently include berries and/or a half of an orange for vitamin C.  My boys also love to alternate bananas, apples, mango, cherries, papaya, pears, grapes, pineapple, limes, etc.  Pumpkin is very healthy, and adding a small scoop of it can make for a great tasting smoothie.  Did you know pumpkin is a fruit?

•  Vegetables  –  I always include about half a blender full of greens.  I most often use spinach or kale, but I’ll use any type of “greens” I have on hand.  If I have vegie leftovers (squash, romaine lettuce, brocolli, celery, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, avocado, etc.) I might toss them in also.  Parsley has all sorts of great stuff in it, and my kids don’t even know I include it.  When mixed with fruit, the fruit flavors win.  My sometimes-picky sons don’t even taste the vegies.  In fact, I even sneak in a small tomato sometimes.  (Technically, a tomato is also a fruit – but the truth is, my youngest son hates them whatever they are.  He has no idea he’s been “drinking” them!)

•  Pea Protein  –  I use two tablespoons.  Protein is great for keeping hunger at bay.  I like adding a little bit extra to our smoothies.  (There’s also protein in the oatmeal, chia seeds, and yogurt.)

•  Ice  –  I throw in a handful of ice just prior to blending my smoothies.  It isn’t necessary, but I like drinking them when they’re cold vs. room temperature.  If I’m making a batch of smoothies to leave in the fridge for a few hours, I don’t include ice.  (I sometimes make them ahead of time so my son(s) can have them if/when I’m not home.

My smoothies sometimes include:

•  Spices  —  Cinnamon, vanilla bean/paste, cocoa, etc.

•  Two drops of honey.  (I rarely add this – only if I think I’ve thrown in a few too many vegetables and my kids might not like the taste unsweetened.)

An all-fruit smoothie tastes delicious, but it’s high in “natural” sugar.  I like to make mine with a lot of vegetables, and add just enough fruit to flavor it.

It’s fun to experiment with different flavor combinations.

Do you have a favorite smoothie?

I’d love to hear suggestions and ideas!

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Staying In The Moment

It has been a family-filled week.

I’m ignoring all the Christmas decorations and shopping madness I already see everywhere.

I’ve been focusing on “just” Thanksgiving weekend, and the family members we’ve had here with us.

(Everyone’s leaving today – there’s no need to think about the next holiday while they’re still here, right?)

Yesterday, we went to see Skyfall.

I liked it!

I ate popcorn at the movie, and then I felt BLEH.

I’m going back to my “green shakes” today.  They don’t make me feel BLEH.

It’s been such a gorgeous holiday weekend here.

I’m trying to concentrate on how beautiful it has been.

I keep reminding myself to breathe in the beauty.

I’m in a terrible pain flare-up, of course.

There doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid it this time of year.

Instead, I try to distract myself as much as I can.

Beauty, beauty, beauty everywhere –

Focus on the beauty.

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Thanksgiving Weekend

As I was prepping our turkey for roasting the other day,

I discovered TWO NECKS inside it.

I freaked out.

You do know what two turkey necks mean, don’t you?

A two headed turkey!

I wish I’d seen it before it was sent to our butcher.

I haven’t taken many photos over the weekend.

This time of year is very tough on my arm – cooking, and cooking, and cooking.

And cleaning and cleaning and cleaning.

And decorating and shopping and, and, and!

I try to go light on camera-time to give my arm a rest.

(Have I ever mentioned my arm really hurts if I try to use it at all?)

I did take a few photos over the holiday though.

Some of them involved a drinking game.

(Drinking games happen at your house during the holidays when you have a college-aged kid come home.)

In a weak attempt to counter all the Thanksgiving food and drinking,

I’ve been trying to consume a healthy “green” smoothie as one of my meals each day.

I’m pretty sure even my toes are starting to sprout muscles as a result.

(By the way, I’m really glad I don’t like pie.  Am I the only one?)

I also got some beach time, of course.

The entire family was pretty happy about that!

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Happy Thanksgiving

Whether you live in the United States or not,

I hope you have a wonderful day today.

I have so much to be grateful for –

I hope you do too!

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The Holidays Have Begun …

The cranberries are made.

The potato casserole is made.

The turkey is soaking in brine.

I’ve been at grocery store(s) and in the kitchen cooking almost nonstop the last couple days.

It’s hectic, but I like it.

I love having my family here.

The weather is picture perfect too.

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I’m planning on taking a lot of long walks over the next few days.

It would be a shame to waste the beautiful days by not getting outside.

Besides, I think it takes a lot of trudging through sand to work off all that turkey ….

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Pumpkin Dessert Squares

I stopped into Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago to look at oven thermometers.

(My oven has been misbehaving lately.)

While I was there, they gave me a bite size sample of Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares.

Their sales strategy worked.

I bought a jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter (sold at Williams-Sonoma stores) and made the squares the next time we had friends over.

They were a big hit.

Even nicer, the squares are easy to make and great for a crowd.

(I like easy recipes around the holidays, don’t you?)

The thing is, you could easily substitute a different brand of pumpkin butter, or even use apple butter (or something else entirely) to make variations to this recipe.

The squares are very rich.  As a result, I cut them into very small squares.  The small size seemed perfect when served to guests with a cup of coffee or tea.

I’m sharing the recipe exactly as it was given to me at the store, but feel free to make substitutions and/or experiment with ingredients as you see fit.

(Sorry I didn’t take a photo to share.  I hadn’t planned to blog this recipe at the time I baked them.)

Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares

1 package yellow cake mix; set aside one cup

1/2 cup butter, melted

3 eggs, large

1 jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide yellow cake mix, placing all but one cup in a mixing bowl.  Stir the melted butter and one egg into the cake mix.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Mix the jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter with two eggs and milk.  Pour over the cake mix.  Stir the reserved cup of cake mix with the flour, sugar, softened butter, and cinnamon.  Mix together until crumbly.  Sprinkle over top of the pumpkin layer.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool.  Cut into 2″ squares.  Serves 24.