The Grand Finale

If you’ve ever participated in a long distance race, you know all about the need for endurance, vision, and goals to see you through to the end of the race. Without them, you might get half way through a marathon, then look in the wrong direction and cast your eyes on an adorable 6-year old selling pink lemonade and shortbread cookies on the corner. If you’re anything like I am, you’d be done for.

Endurance, vision, and goals are the energy that can sustain and push us forward when we feel that we simply can’t run the race of life for another moment. They help us to keep our eyes focused on the finish line of whatever challenge we might be facing, eliminating the distractions that cause us to stumble and fall; assisting us in taking our minds off of any physical pain that we might be feeling.

I used to know diddly squat about endurance. The only kind that I was even remotely familiar with involved making it through the emotional strain of a Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey craving from one paycheck to the next… Then I enrolled in college and I became enlightened to the truest meaning of “EVG”.

Flash back to January 10, 2011. You may not recall what you were doing on that day, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the first of my Monday academic “days from Hell”.  This past school term, every Monday I had classes from 7:30am until 8:30pm. Oh, and I’m not talking about fun classes like Bacon Identification or Baking with Nutella 101 (for the love of all that is good in the world, I TRULY hope that Chef Jeff at Fox Valley Tech decides to add those classes to the culinary program one day!) Nope, for 19 weeks I spent my Mondays sitting through 3 hours each of “Tourism – A Community Approach”, “Hospitality Law”, and “Math with Business Applications”. I suspect that even the finest of academic overachievers would yawn a time or two through those classes. However, ENDURANCE saw me through to the end of Hell day, so that I could focus on my classes for the remainder of the week. I won’t sugar coat the situation…for a month or so, it was looking as though yours truly might throw in the white flag on the whole college experience and walk away in defeat. Then I remembered why I had enrolled…my GOALS and VISION for a better future for Brian and myself. I trudged on, (at times, grunting and groaning), but I made it through each and every week. Then I made it through the first month… and the second….and with EVG along for the ride, I made it all the way through the term.

So here I stand at the GRAND FINALE! I’vemade it through some of my toughest courses to date. The ironic thing about that is, in prior semesters, where my classes were a bit less challenging, I still somehow managed to end up with one or two “B”‘s on my report card. So how is it that I pulled off a 19 credit course load and somehow managed to get straight “A”‘s?! On second thought, who really cares why?!  The point is, I FINALLY got the 4.0 GPA I’ve been working so hard for and so desperately wanting.

On occasion, I actually rock my own world… YAY ME!

Because summer break is the time for college students to relax and enjoy the finer things in life, I plan to kick it off right.  I’m going to make a huge batch of Jamie’s orzo salad, grill some flank steak, serve it up with INCREDIBLY awesome mango salsa from Todd and Diane, and finish off the meal with Jessica’s Better Than Crack brownies.

LIFE IS GOOD…LET THE SUMMER BREAK COMMENCE!

They’re Off!

As my spoiled fur babies, Cojack and Fergie or any of the other cats or dogs I’ve had throughout my lifetime will attest, I’m an animal lover. Wait, maybe I should clarify…

“Animals” are defined as anything that is larger than a breadbox, but smaller than me. It also must be fluffy/furry or cuddly, and it may NOT resemble a rodent, slither on the ground, squeal, squawk, or howl at the moon. An animal is also not defined as anything bigger than I am. I’m quite sure that horses, cows, tigers, bears, and moose (or is that meese?) are perfectly wonderful creatures, but if they’re big enough to eat me for dinner and/or throw me across a room or woodland trail (as that freakin’ gigantic horse did to me when I was 12 years old), I would much rather admire them from afar, thank you very much. Yes, I’m a wuss… Please don’t judge.

However, it’s Kentucky Derby weekend. That means I must put my fear of Mr. Ed aside for a few hours so that I can focus on the adorable jockeys atop of the horses. I will also become a lover of all of the big, beautiful hats atop the heads of the ladies, and of course, I will become a participant in feasting on all foods Derby related!

A number of the food bloggers that I follow have been posting their Derby dishes for the past few days. I’ve been making the mistake of allowing their RSS feeds to go straight into my Blackberry. That has meant my eyes have locked their gaze upon drool-worthy recipes at the most inopportune times…like in the middle of Hospitality Law class. Go ahead… I’ll wait while you silently scold me for checking my email during class.

In an attempt to seek forgiveness for my lack of respect for Mr. Zarbano’s class, I offer up to you a recipe for Kentucky Hot Browns! Don’t know what those are? No worries, you are not alone. Until my friend Sarah gave me a yumalicious description of them, I had never heard of them either. Then I was given a link to the recipe for them and I was done for. I HAVE to make these now. I think it should be an obligation. Or penance. Or both!

All I have to say is RUN like the horses at Churchill Downs, straight into your kitchen, and make yourself up a few of these. They’ll be the hit of your Kentucky Derby festivities!

KENTUCKY HOT BROWNS

Incidentally, have I mentioned that there are a mere THIRTEEN days left until the end of my spring term at the Tech?! You don’t think I’m excited about summer break, do you?

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