Independence Lost and Found

July 1, 2011. During the years of my early childhood, I ADORED the month of July. What young kid doesn’t love thirty-one days of pure, unadulterated FUN?! No school, no homework, very few chores, and as much play time in the fresh Wisconsin air that my adorable self could take in. Back in the stone ages those days, parents rarely had to worry about their children being abducted by strangers. In fact, I would venture to guess that my mom, busy raising 6 children, may have secretly wished once or twice that a few of her beautiful offspring would be abducted… temporarily, of course…just long enough for her to have an uninterrupted “Calgon take me away” moment.

My favorite day in July was the 4th. The celebration was non-stop fun. The day always started with my dad helping my brother and I to decorate our bikes for the city parade. I would adorn my bicycle with crepe paper streamers, red and white striped plastic straws on the wheel spokes, and I’d fill the basket on the front with wild flowers that I had stolen from found in my neighbor’s back yard. Riding with pride of patriotism, I’d pedal my way down Main Street with my brother Ted and the other kids in town. My mom would stand on the sidewalk, smiling and waving proudly as we pedaled past her.

After the parade, I’d go home and find my daddy starting off his favorite holiday with one of his favorite past times…being the master of his outdoor domain…the grill. I’m pretty sure it’s a cave man instinct that causes grown men to want to cook meat over hot coals, and let me tell you, Ed Heflin took that job seriously! He would stand over the Weber, a basting brush in one hand, a dry martini in the other. He’d bath pieces of chicken in barbeque sauce and let them grill until the sugar in the sauce caramelized to a blackened char. Then we’d invite the neighbors over to picnic with our family. My dad would spend hours delighting our guests with his exuberant hospitality. Incidentally, how is it possible that a burned piece of chicken is a perfectly acceptable and edible menu item to serve to guests, but a burned piece of toast isn’t? If you have thoughts, ideas, or answers to this (or any of life’s other burning questions), please share them with me!

When our stomachs had been filled with delicious food and the neighbors had gone home, our family would pile into our aquamarine Vista Cruiser and head over to the other side of town to watch the fireworks display. If there was ever a time when I felt that our family was a solid, functional, all-American unit, the 4th of July was it.  No fighting, no shouting… just smiles and fun.

Independence Day celebrations went along smoothly at our house until I reached my early teen years. Then, after the fireworks display on July 4th, 1979, my world was flipped upside down. I was awakened at 3:20am on July 5th and given the news that my beloved daddy had suffered a fatal heart attack. How was this possible?!  He was only 48 years old! I felt as though my insides had been ripped out.

I was born on my father’s birthday, and he was taken from me on our favorite holiday. Let me tell you, nothing hurts quite as much as losing your hero when you’re 15 years old.

This 4th of July will mark 32 years since my dad’s untimely death, and although I always celebrate the holiday, I’ve never quite been able to fully enjoy the 4th of July celebrations as much as I did in my youth. Independence Days as I knew them were lost forever… and yet, I was gaining independence as well. By being forced to grow up quickly, I was given the gift of an expedited jump into adulthood.

I still miss him deeply…

In memory of Daddy, we’ll be firing up the grill this weekend. I’m willing to wager that you already know what the main course will be… J

Photo from IvoryHut.com

I HOPE THAT YOU HAVE A SAFE & HAPPY 4TH OF JULY HOLIDAY!

Fail Proof?

Sometimes I wish that I could go back in time and discover the roots of perfection. I’d really like to understand why human kind has a burning desire to do everything perfectly. I know that doing a job well is important for a sense of self-achievement and an overall positive self esteem, but for crying out loud…is it necessary to make such a large fuss when things aren’t done perfectly?! I did a Google search for “fail proof” and “fool proof”. Care to guess how many millions of hits the search returned?

  • How to “Fail Proof” Your Day and Your Life – I suppose this one could be renamed, “How to become an overachieving perfectionist”
  • 9 Fail Proof Tips for Eating Healthy at Social Gatherings – Please don’t get me started on the mass hysteria surrounding perfect weight loss!

The need to be fail-proof kicks in very early in life. Personally, I remember the panic over art class in the 4th grade. I just knew that my origami wouldn’t look as perfect as Heather’s did. She was the preteen equivalent of Ansel Adams…gifted beyond extraordinary. I think the need for perfection continues throughout our late adolescence and early adulthood because of blog posts like this one: Fail Proof Your 20’s; One Simple Step to a Freaking Fail-Proof Life

Good grief, Charlie Brown! What’s wrong with a little failure?

Here’s another example:

I eavesdropped on overheard a conversation between two food bloggers on Twitter a few days ago. One was telling the other that she had spent 3 days perfecting her cake so that it would be perfect for her blog. I’m sorry, but if it takes you three days to get a dish “perfect” enough for presentation, you are trying WAY too hard. Never mind the fact that a perfectionist will never make it in the food industry where everything is about speed of production. So your fondant had a dimple… big deal… I happen to love dimples! Look how cute they are:

Besides, failure can actually be healthy. If we didn’t fail now and then, we’d never learn from our misteaks umm…. Misstakes… oh crap…

“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.”

~ Henry Ford

In perfect culinary form, here are a couple of incredibly easy recipes, which I hope you make and enjoy. When you’re finished, please go out and have a perfectly wonderful weekend!

FAIL-PROOF Pot Roast

Photo and recipe courtesy of 10 Buck Dinners


NO-FAIL Fudge

Photo and recipe courtesy of Taste of Home


Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

I follow a lot of people on Twitter.  When I say a lot, I mean in comparison to the people I know personally in the physical sense.  I’m following nearly a thousand.  The fact that nearly half of them are celebrities or brands who could care less that I’m their 35,005th follower is beside the point.  They accepted me as their follower and I am therefore part of their entourage….that’s good enough for me!

Anyway, where was I going with this thought….ah yes…One of those celebrities is Dr. Wayne Dyer (a/k/a “The Father of Motivation”), and he shared something yesterday that I think bears repeating:

“Refuse to ever use the term ‘failure’ again about yourself or anyone else. Remind yourself that when things didn’t go as planned, you didn’t fail, you only produced a result. Then ask yourself this powerfully life-enhancing question, ‘What am I going to do with the results I’ve produced?’ and proceed to act in such a way as to be grateful rather than resentful for those less than glorious results.

What a brilliant thought!  In his awesome way, I think Dr. Dyer is telling us to be this little guy…

Be persistent!  Be resilient!  Be a fighter!  Be all that you can be… JUST NEVER GIVE UP!

Another great thought I had today was in regard to a game of sorts that we sometimes play with ourselves. I call the game the “Coulda-Woulda-Shouldas”.  For those of you that aren’t verbose in the definition of an inner guilt trip, let me enlighten you.  Here are some shining examples of how the game is played:

I overslept, missing the bus (and the opportunity to sit next to that really good looking guy who always rides the #15)  = I shoulda rolled my butt out of bed when the alarm went off instead of hitting the snooze button 10 times.  Now I have to walk to school, but at least I’ll get exercise!

I woulda met you for lunch but… = I was otherwise engaged in the art of a working lunch at my desk (because I planned to fail by failing to plan?)  But hey, maybe now I’ll get that raise I’ve been trying so hard for!

I coulda been a rock star but… = I chose to take home economics in middle school instead of participating in the glee choir and taking guitar lessons.  However, I know how to make a freakishly delicious pan of caramel brownies and sew a hem in my pants!

What is important to note in any of that?  I believe, plenty!  Life is about choices.  Sometimes the choices we make are good ones and other times not, but I don’t think we should ever resent the decisions we make.  Why? Well, because they are uniquely ours, and there is a reason and purpose for everything that happens to us.  What’s more exciting is that at the end of the day, we have an opportunity to look back and do a play-by-play.  If we care to, we can take mental notes of the highs and lows, the good, the bad (and especially the ugly).  When I reflect and take those mental notes, my planning includes trying to repeat the good outcomes at least once more before I die…and planning to avoid the bad outcomes like I’d avoid an encounter with a rattlesnake!

I coulda spent hours writing about the purpose of taking financial accounting and business law classes, but… = I’d rather give you a yummy recipe to try! 

 

Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

From Eating Well:  January/February 2010

Yield: 20 truffles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped salted pretzels
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, melted (see Tip)

Preparation

  • Combine peanut butter and pretzels in a small bowl. Chill in the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes. Roll the peanut butter mixture into 20 balls (about 1 teaspoon each). Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and freeze until very firm, about 1 hour. Roll the frozen balls in melted chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Nutrition

Per truffle : 64 Calories; 4 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 2 g Mono; 1 mg Cholesterol; 5 g Carbohydrates; 2 g Protein; 1 g Fiber; 53 mg Sodium; 65 mg Potassium

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  • Tip: To melt chocolate, microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir and then continue microwaving on medium power, stirring every 20 seconds, until melted. Or place chocolate in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.

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